Inside the Home Star Energy Efficiency Bill: Cash for Caulkers?

Inside the Home Star Energy Efficiency Bill: Cash for Caulkers?The big news out of Washington today is that the so-called “Cash-for-Caulkers” bill has been passed by the House of Representatives by a 246-161 margin, and is on its way to the Senate. This bill authorizes $5.7B over two years for a program that would provide discounts on energy-efficient home upgrades.

Under the terms of the Home Star program, retailers or contractors would provide an upfront discount to consumers and then submit documentation to a central processing office. Once approved, the request would then be forwarded to the Department of Energy for reimbursement.

Eligible upgrades

So what types of upgrades are eligible for “Cash-for-Caulkers” discounts? Essentially anything that blocks air intrusion, including sealants, foams, gaskets, weather stripping, etc. Attic and wall insulation are also eligible, assuming they live up to the standards outlined in the bill.

Window replacements are eligible if you replace at least eight windows, or a minimum of 75% of your exterior windows and skylights. Storm windows and window film sealants are also covered assuming they cover the majority of your windows. The bar is even lower for door replacements, as you only have to swap out one door to qualify for a rebate.

New furnaces and heat pumps are likewise covered as long as they meet specific energy-efficiency criteria. The same goes for air conditioners and water heaters.

Rebate details

Under the terms of the House bill, you can take advantage of the Home Star program in one of two ways. The “Silver Star” program would provide rebates totaling up to $3, 000 for energy-efficient house retrofits, capped at 50% of the total project cost. Individual appliance being eligible for a $250 rebate.

The “Gold Star” program would provide homeowners with a rebate of up to $3, 000 if they conduct a whole-house energy analysis and install upgrades that increase their overall energy-efficiency by at least 20%. Beyond this, they’d be eligible for an additional $1, 000 rebate for each additional 5% efficiency improvement, up to a grand total of $8, 000 in rebates.

Your thoughts

What do you think? Is the Cash-for-Caulkers program a good way to stimulate the construction industry? Will it succeed in making the United States a wee bit greener? Or is it just an overpriced stimulatory boondoggle?

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