(South Florida Sun-Sentinel (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Buying a new refrigerator or air conditioner has never been so cool: Beginning Thursday, Floridians who buy certain energy-efficient appliances will save sales tax and help lower their electric bills.
Washing machines, dishwashers, ceiling fans and a few other household items also are tax-free under the first Florida sales tax holiday designed to save energy and money. The weeklong holiday ends Oct. 11.
To be eligible for state and local tax exemptions, products must be new and purchased for home or personal use. Items also must cost less than $1,500 and carry an “Energy Star” label, which indicates that the product meets or exceeds the federal guidelines for energy efficiency.
Much like the previous hurricane and back-to-school shopping tax-free periods, retailers in South Florida and across the state are trying to entice customers to their stores with additional discounts and promotions. But this time, consumers who jump at the tax break could save more than a few pennies on big-ticket items.
Edna Friedman of Coconut Creek, for example, expects to save $22.50 on a new dishwasher. For items such as refrigerators, which often cost more than $1,000 with tax, the savings could be more than $50.
“I think it compels people to buy these electronic appliances,” Friedman said.
Even consumers who don’t need a new home appliance can still find savings this week — and lower their electric bills — by replacing conventional light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs, which also are tax-free during the holiday.
Although they cost more, fluorescent bulbs generally last longer than traditional bulbs. And swapping out a single, 100-watt indoor light bulb with a compact indoor fluorescent bulb could save FPL customers up to $13 per month, said FPL spokeswoman Pat Davis. Consumers are expected to save an estimated $2.7 million in sales tax.
Energy efficiency has become a top consideration for home appliance shoppers, because of the growing awareness that dated models require more power to operate and eventually cost consumers more in electricity each month. While products that have the Energy Star label are often priced in the moderate-to-high range, customers are justifying the more expensive purchase, retailers say.
Throughout the tax holiday, South Florida home appliance and electronics retailer BrandsMart USA will be offering an extra 10 percent off all Energy Star appliances.
Also this week, Best Buy is offering customers a gift card worth up to $150 with a purchase of any Energy Star washing machine, said Gabriel Castillo, customer service manager for the Best Buy store in Boca Raton.
Other retailers have ongoing promotions on energy-saving appliances. Sears, for example, offers customers informational brochures that come with a coupon for 10 percent off any regularly priced Kenmore or Kenmore Elite brand Energy Star appliance.
At Best Buy, Energy Star products often win the sale when a customer is deciding between appliances or laptops that otherwise have the same performance features and similar prices, Castillo said.
“Customers are leaning toward it,” he said, “because in Florida every household has high FPL bills.”
SOURCE: South Florida Sun-Sentinel