If rising energy costs find you beating the bushes for more energy efficient appliances or if you are simply looking to replace aging models, you can save some money knowing when and where to purchase what.

But first, a caveat to shopping for bargains for the who -- you.

Certain appliances (and a host of other household items) typically go on sale at certain of the year, but unless you do your home work, you won't know if it's really a sale or you are just being taken by a retailer who marks up to mark down.

As a home owner who will eventually have to replace major appliances it's a good idea to comparison shop prices of identical models of a given item, at as many stores as possible, from time to time, before you need to actually buy the item.

If you know the going price of an item when the retailer announces a sale you'll really know a bargain when you see one.

This brings us to one more caveat.

Comparison shopping for appliances can get dicey, because manufacturers frequently change models. You'll have to begin your comparison shopping as near as possible to your actual buy time, but before the sale.

Luckily, Consumer Reports helps takes some of the guess work out of when to shop. It recently revealed that certain appliances typically hit the sale floor at times you can pretty much count on.

When your fridge dies, a sale isn't going to help, but if you've done your home work you can still shop for a bargain.

Here's the deal.

  • New air conditioners hit the shelves in March and start to move in May. When the weather heats up, so do air conditioner purchases and that causes the deals to wither.

    When the temperature falls in autumn, so do prices for air conditioners, CR reports.

  • Likewise, CR says, gas grill sales warm up in the spring, sizzle through May and June, but by August everyone is sick of charred meat. Just at the end of summer, retailers are serving up deals, with relish.
  • Large appliances, big-ticket items -- ranges and washing machines -- typically hit the sales floor in September and October when the kids are back in school making a mess and eating anything that's not moving. The previous year's models will go on sale at about the same time to vacate floor space for the new models. In the fall, it's tough not to find a bargain for these babies.
  • With no particular rhyme or reason to its sale season, a vacuum cleaner is available for a song in April or May to sweep away new models that arrive in June.

CR also examined a survey from 6,000 readers and found that where you buy your appliances can also make a difference to your bottom line.

CR found that none of the major retailers (Best Buy, Costco, Home Depot, Lowe's, Sears) could beat local independents for prices on ranges, refrigerators, and other large appliances, and only Costco and Sears beat smaller retailers' prices for smaller appliances such as grills and vacuums.

Mom-and-pop store prices even won out over mighty Wal-Mart and Target, both of which only sell smaller appliances.

As well as putting a grimace on Wal-Mart's "Always low prices. Always." happy face, independents also took it to the chains in other shopping categories.

  • Nearly 90 percent of small-appliance buyers found service very good or excellent for the independents; fewer than 30 percent of those buyers said the same for large retailers.
  • Some 75 percent of small-appliance buyers thought independent-store staffers were pleasant, informed, or helpful. Only 5 percent or fewer felt that way about Costco, Target, or Wal-Mart workers.
  • More than 80 percent of buyers were satisfied with the service provided from independents selling large appliances. Fewer than 60 percent could say the same about the nationwide chains.
  • For delivery and set up, independents got the gold again -- nearly 70 percent of those surveyed said they were very satisfied with Mom-and-Pop stores, compared to 53 percent for larger stores.
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