The eco-point program is now officially underway with the government accepting applications:
Under the Eco-point system, those who buy designated energy-saving appliances between May 15 and March 31 will be eligible for the points, with one Eco-point worth roughly ¥1.
Points given vary between 6,000 and 9,000 for air conditioners, depending on cooling power, 3,000 and 10,000 for refrigerators depending on capacity and 7,000 and 36,000 for televisions for terrestrial broadcasting depending on the size of screen.
Starting Wednesday, purchasers of these appliances may register Eco-points by mailing applications along with documents such as receipts and copies of product warranties to the Eco-point secretariat. These points may be exchanged for merchandise coupons, electronic money and other items of choice.
For instance, 13,500 Eco-points may be exchanged for ¥12,000 stored in a Suica electronic money card issued by East Japan Railway Co., while 5,000 points are exchangeable for ¥5,000 worth of department store coupons.
So, how can I help the environment by purchasing newer appliances? This is how the points are awarded for refrigerators and TVs:
Note: The links to the lists of eligible appliances seem to have died. They were working a few days ago, but somebody seems to have removed them from this page on the eco-point website.
I currently own a 28-inch Sony TV that is rated at 125W and a 401L Hitachi refrigerator rated at 140W, or 260kWhr/year. Both are 6 years old and in good working order. I want to maximize my points, so that means buying a larger TV and fridge.
Let's go for a Sony 52-inch KDL-52X5050. According to Sony, it consumes 315W, more than double the consumption of my current TV. How about a 46-inch Sharp LC-46AE6? 150 watts. A 40-inch Sharp LC-40AE6? 120W, so I'm better off in terms of consumption, plus I end up with a larger screen although I'm going to have to pay over 100,000 yen for it.
The same goes for refrigerators. The one I have has consumes 260kWhr/year. Let's look at the Hitachi R-SF50YM, which has a capacity of 501L. It consumes approximately 400 kWh/year. How about Panasonic's 470L NR-F473TM? It consumes roughly 390kWh/year. A quick look at the offerings from Panasonic and Hitachi shows that I need to buy a significantly smaller refrigerator if I'm to reduce my energy consumption.
Can you reduce your energy consumption by upgrading to newer appliances? Yes, but only if you pay attention. But when was the last time you thought about power consumption when shopping for an appliance? Sadly, the way the eco-point scheme is structured, consumers are "rewarded" for purchasing larger and more expensive appliances, which also consume more electricity. If you fall into the trap of maximizing your eco-points, you will likely increase your overall electricity consumption instead of reduce it. As I said before, like the 12,000 yen kickback, it's a ploy to boost consumption in the short term under the guise of "being green."