Teresa McUsic

Save energy — and tax dollars — on new appliances this weekend

State and local taxes will be waived on appliances with the Energy Star logo purchased through Monday.
State and local taxes will be waived on appliances with the Energy Star logo purchased through Monday. STAR-TELEGRAM/KELLEY CHINN

Texans who want to save extra when buying energy-efficient appliances can do so with the state’s annual Energy Star sales tax holiday starting today.

But the savings don’t end there. For certain appliances, like air conditioners and clothes dryers, the local utilities Oncor and Atmos Energy also have rebate programs to cut costs by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

A breakdown of the ways to save:

Tax-free holiday. State and local taxes will be waived on appliances with the Energy Star logo bought through Monday. The Texas comptroller estimates the total tax savings at $3.8 million.

The sales tax break applies to Energy Star air conditioners priced at $6,000 or less and refrigerators priced at $2,000 or less. Other products that can receive the tax waiver include ceiling fans, incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs, dishwashers, dehumidifiers and clothes washers.

By now, most Americans recognize the blue-and-white logo of Energy Star, a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Department. The label means a product meets strict energy-efficiency guidelines set by those agencies.

As with other sales tax holidays, online and catalog sales can also be tax-free if they happen during the three-day Memorial Day weekend. Delivery, shipping, transportation and handling charges may also be exempt, along with installation charges. Labor charges in the state are already untaxed.

And new Energy Star products can offer big savings on electric bills compared with conventional appliances:

▪ 15 percent on central and window air conditioners and dehumidifiers.

▪ 10 percent on refrigerators.

▪ 60 percent on ceiling fans.

▪ 80 percent on compact fluorescent bulbs.

▪ 25 percent on clothes washers.

▪ 5 percent on dishwashers.

And the savings can be much higher compared with older appliances.

Oncor. Local contractors are offering rebates on central air conditioners and heat pumps as part of Oncor’s annual home-efficiency program. Rebates are also possible on Energy Star clothes washers, dishwashers and refrigerators through the $10 million program, which includes discounts on insulation and other efficiency measures.

Rebates on central air conditioners vary significantly but can reach $3,000, according to Steve Hinton, operations manager for Tuffy’s Air Conditioning and Heating Service, which serves Tarrant and Parker counties and is an Oncor service provider.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “But funds are dwindling fast. The program started in January, and around two-thirds of it is gone for this year.”

Oncor spokeswoman Jeamy Molina confirmed that the program, which is not restricted by the homeowner’s income, still has money left and that the distribution of funds is on pace with last year’s effort.

To qualify, homeowners must live in the Oncor service area. Rebates, funded by a small addition to customers’ electric bills, are based on the existing equipment and the size and efficiency of the new model, Hinton said.

An all-electric house could see higher rebates. The contractors decide how much savings is passed to the consumer, so be sure to ask about their policy.

A survey of a few contractors found that most air-conditioner rebates are around $1,000. Calls to contractors offering Energy Star appliances were not returned, however, and Oncor did not provide more information than what is available on its website.

Find a list of third-party contractors by visiting www.TakeALoadOffTexas.com or calling 866-728-3574.

Atmos Energy. Since 2013, Atmos Energy has offered rebates for the purchase of Energy Star products.

Rebates include $200-$300 for an Energy Star natural gas forced-air furnace; $100-200 for an Energy Star natural gas tank water heater; $300 for an Energy Star natural gas tankless water heater; and $200 for a natural gas clothes dryer with moisture sensor.

Atmos spokeswoman Jennifer Altieri suggests that consumers check the program’s energy-efficiency requirements before they shop so they can be sure the product qualifies for the rebate. You can find the requirements by visiting www.AtmosEnergy.com/efficiency and choosing the Texas (Mid-Tex division) Energy Efficiency Program.

The site has a form to print out and mail in, or you can submit it online. Atmos will mail you a form if you call the customer service department at 888-286-6700.

The products can be bought through any vendor. Proof of purchase is required, along with the serial number and the model number, and a copy of your latest Atmos gas bill. These documents can be mailed in with the application or scanned for online submission.

You can check on your rebate by using the email you provided on the form and your Atmos account number.

Once you’re approved, your rebate check will be mailed within four weeks.

Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net

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