By Joel Hall
Georgians seeking to lower their electric bills with energy-saving products will also have a chance, this weekend, to save on products which can reduce their water bills.
For the first time, the state's ENERGY STAR sales-tax holiday will be expanded to include water-saving products bearing the WaterSense label.
The sales-tax holiday, which began yesterday, will continue until midnight on Sunday, Oct. 5. During that time, Georgians who purchase energy- or water-efficient products, costing $1,500, or less, per item, will be exempt from paying sales taxes on the items.
As water-related matters dominated the last legislative session, WaterSense products -- which include high-efficiency toilets and water-saving faucets -- have been added to the tax holiday to help Georgians combat the ongoing threat of drought.
Gov. Sonny Perdue released a statement praising the tax holiday and the long-term energy savings it can provide. "As Georgians look at appliances and products that have earned the now-familiar ENERGY STAR designation, I encourage them to also be more aware of water conservation and the impact of using WaterSense-labeled products," said Perdue. "The ENERGY STAR and WaterSense sales tax holiday provides Georgians the perfect opportunity to save money immediately at the cash register, and long-term, as their water and energy bills go down."
Many ENERGY STAR-qualified products -- including dishwashers, clothes washers, air conditioners, ceiling fans, fluorescent light bulbs, dehumidifiers, thermostats, refrigerators, doors, and windows -- use 30 percent less energy than regular products.
Some products, such as compact florescent light bulbs, use as much as 80 percent less energy to operate.
Most WaterSense-labeled products are 20-percent more water-efficient than conventional products. Many local water utilities, including the Clayton County Water Authority and the Henry County Water and Sewerage Authority, are offering rebates or credits for people who purchase certain water-saving items.
Deron Davis, waterSmart director for the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GEPD), said the state is still considered to be in a "severe" drought situation and that the expanded tax holiday fits into the state's energy plans.
"The drought is still ongoing," said Davis. "One of the things that we are committed to doing is showing that conservation is a relatively easy thing to do. It doesn't necessarily mean having to go out and buy a new toilet, but just being more conscious of what you do at the tap.
"There is a high degree of confidence in the ENERGY STAR label, and WaterSense is following in that model," Davis continued. "It helps us encourage consumers to do the right thing, because it gives customers a lot of confidence."
Shane Hix, director of public affairs for the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, said programs such as the sales-tax holiday will help with the long-term growth of metro Atlanta.
"We're seeing energy prices continue to go up," said Hix. "On a macro level, Georgia is continuing to grow and we have a limited amount of energy. Its helpful to have appliances and products that can help with the amount of energy you use.
"These product are, upfront, a little more expensive than products that are not as energy efficient, but over time, they will get back the cash they spend at the register," Hix said.
For information on counties participating in rebate programs for purchasing WaterSense products, visit www.conservewatergeorgia.net.