So let's be honest: "Insulation is sexy" isn't what we expected President Obama to say last month in promoting new tax credits for energy efficiency, but it was nice to hear a little love for the remodeling industry.
The program, called Home Star by its supporters and dubbed "Cash for Caulkers" by some, would provide billions in incentives for home weatherization projects. (By the way, can we all agree to stop using the annoyingly cute and exceedingly inaccurate "Cash for Caulkers" name? I get the symmetry, but really, enough is enough.)
The program is a great idea: it generates business for remodelers, creates jobs and makes homes more efficient. It would be funded out of uncommitted TARP funds, and I'd much rather see the money go to homeowners and remodelers than bankers. There are a lot of details still up in the air on the program, but we've got some answers for you on p. 9.
People like to talk about building more energy-efficient homes, but the reality is that even constructing every one of the homes being built every year more efficiently will make only a tiny dent in energy usage compared to the potential of upgrading the millions of existing homes. New homes are the easy part — now we need to the heavy lifting.
Home Star is a great idea: it generates business for remodelers, creates jobs and makes homes more efficient.
Energy efficiency is where the action is right now in remodeling. In fact, for many remodelers, it's the only work that is selling, as I've heard from a countless number of you. Our monthly remodeler surveys this month and in previous issues back that up. If homeowners want a monetary return on their investment, this is the only way it's going to happen. Nobody's adding $100,000 on to the price of their home by remodeling a kitchen anymore.
We can certainly argue about whether or not last year's stimulus and its included energy efficiency tax credits are a good idea in general. I've heard from plenty of you who think it's a huge boondoggle, and I've been lukewarm at best about its long-term effect. At the same time, there's no denying it's had an impact on the remodeling market. I'll be the first to admit it's helped more than I thought it would.
Many remodelers are crediting it for their survival in 2009. Admittedly, its impact has been felt mostly in smaller projects, but smaller work is better than no work. In our research this month (p. 32), 64 percent of remodelers reported that the existing tax credits are influencing their clients' remodeling decisions. That's a hopeful sign that Home Star or similar incentives could help out even more.
We're waiting on Congress to make the final call on the funding, so be sure to contact your senator and representative to let them know how important this is not only to the remodeling industry but to any effort to reduce our energy use.