Save energy, save water, save money Saturday, May 28, through Monday, May 30. Photo by Julie Thibodeaux.
May 26, 2022
This summer, energy prices are expected to hit record highs. Meanwhile, the Texas energy grid is still facing scrutiny and challenges meeting demands. And while Texans continue to pour water on their lawns, the Lone Star State has lost more than 60 percent of its bottomland hardwood forests, much of it to reservoirs for urban water supplies.
It all makes it a perfect time to get serious about saving energy and water at home and office.
During the Texas Sales Tax Holiday, consumers pay no sales tax on a limited selection of energy-saving and water-efficient products. The offer runs from Saturday, May 28, at 12:01 a.m. through midnight on Monday, May 30, (Memorial Day) and applies to online and retail sales.
“Anyone who’s lived through a Texas summer knows triple-digit temperatures, outdated water systems and inefficient appliances can put a strain on our water supplies and power grids,” says Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar. “By taking advantage of these sales tax holidays, Texans can make upgrades that will help alleviate those pressures and lower their utility bills — while saving money on state and local sales taxes.”
But there are significant limits on energy-saving options available for the sales-tax exemption. The focus is on ENERGY STAR-rated appliances, but a select list only: air conditioners costing $6,000 or less, refrigerators costing $2,000 or less (including mini-fridges), washing machines, dishwashers, ceiling fans and dehumidifiers. Incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs made the list, as did ENERGY STAR certified light bulbs, light fixtures and decorative light strings. The exemptions apply if you buy, rent, or lease the items.
These appliances do NOT qualify, even if ENERGY STAR certified: water heaters, clothes dryers, stoves, ovens, attic fans, heat pumps, freezers and any type of and speciality refrigerators such as kegerators and wine and beverage chillers. Somewhat puzzling, as several are major energy users.
According to Direct Energy, the biggest energy users in the home are air conditioning and heating (46 percent), water heating (14 percent), appliances (13 percent), lighting (9 percent), and television and media equipment (4 percent). Of appliances, according to Connect4Climate water heaters use 14 percent and refrigerators use 4 percent.
Even more puzzling is the lack of sales-tax exemptions for solar energy products. But some power providers and municipalities do offer renewable energy incentives as detailed in this list provided by DSIRE, the database of North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University.
Another lapse is a sales-tax exemption for energy-efficient windows, including ENERGY STAR certified ones. Up to 30 percent of residential heating and cooling energy use is due to heat gain and loss through windows and skylights. Energy.gov offers these tips.
The Energy.gov website is full of good information on energy-saving, including tips for renters. This 44-page booklet encapsulates much of the best advice.
Dallas-Fort Worth area has incurred some of the largest population gains in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This makes water saving imperative. Since area municipalities and water utilities offer few incentives to save, it’s up to citizens to take the initiative.
Any product that displays a WaterSense label or logo qualifies for tax-free this Memorial Day weekend, such as water-efficient and water-conserving products and fixtures for bathrooms and kitchens. This includes washing machines and dishwashers certified for WaterSense but not ENERGY STAR. See the complete list of water-saving products eligible.
Considerable water-saving opportunities relate to outdoor water usage. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in hot climates like North Texas, up to 60 percent of residential water goes to outdoor uses such as watering lawns and gardens. Sloppy and inefficient watering methods waste as much as half.
Many outdoor water-saving items are accepted for tax-free status but do not require a WaterSense label, such as those for conserving or retaining groundwater and recharging water tables, or decreasing ambient air temperature so that water evaporation is limited.
Examples are mulch and other permeable ground covers that allow water to reach underground basins, aquifers or water collection points. Soaker or drip-irrigation hoses qualify, as do moisture control devices for sprinklers or irrigation systems, plus rain barrels or other rain and moisture collection systems.
Examples of outdoor water-saving items that are accepted for tax-free status include mulch and other permeable ground covers that allow water to reach underground basins, aquifers or water collection points. Soaker or drip-irrigation hoses qualify, as do moisture control devices for sprinklers or irrigation systems, plus rain barrels or other rain and moisture collection systems.
Mulches help the soil retain water and qualify but use ones that allow rainfall to penetrate, such as cedar, hardwood, straw or pine straw mulches. Adding compost to soil helps with water retention as so qualifies, but other water-absorbing supplements such as lava sand and expanded shale do not.
Trees, woody plants and shrubs and perennials (but not annuals) are tax exempt. So are grasses, even some such as St. Augustine, notorious water hogs. Select native and Texas-adapted plants that stand up to drought and high temperatures for genuine water savings.
RootedIn offers this list of their top 100 landscape plants in a handy format that includes water needs, light requirements, and bloom time and color.
Native Plant Society of Texas also offers excellent resources for water-saving plants, including their NICE (Natives Improve and Conserve Environments) program for North Texas and lists of sources for native plants.
REACH OUT WITH ISSUES
If an online seller or retailer does not apply the sales-tax exemption, consumers may call 800-531-5441, ext. 34545, or visit this web page for information on filing a refund claim.
Texas Tax Free Weekend
About: The Texas Comptroller encourages all taxpayers to support Texas businesses while saving money on tax-free purchases of certain ENERGY STAR® energy-efficient products during the annual Texas ENERGY STAR Sales Tax Holiday. There is no limit on the number of qualifying items you can buy, and you do not need to give the seller an exemption certificate to buy items tax free.
When: Saturday, May 28, thru midnight on Monday, May 30.
More Info: See list of energy and water-saving products eligible. More info about eligible ENERGY STAR products, like light bulbs.
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