The Home Star program — otherwise known as "Cash for Caulkers" — looks to be edging closer to reality.
There are multiple proposals in front of Congress, and while the details vary, the basics are relatively similar. The total pool of money for the program looks to be somewhere in the $6 billion to $10 billion range for home energy retrofits.
Unlike the existing tax credits passed as part of the stimulus last year, Home Star would provide immediate rebates for homeowners who undertake energy retrofits. The money would be instantly available, addressing one of the key complaints remodelers have about the existing credits.
There are two levels of projects eligible for rebates under the Home Star proposal:
- A Silver Star "prescriptive path" under which homeowners would be eligible for rebates of between $1,000 and $1,500 for each installed project (or $250 for appliances), capped at 50 percent of the project cost. Installing high-efficiency appliances, upgrading windows and doors, improving insulation and air sealing, along with other various weatherization projects would be eligible up to a lifetime maximum of $4,000.
- Under the Gold Star "performance path" homeowners would be given incentives to undertake energy audits and make improvements to home energy efficiency, instead of focusing on specific projects. The rebates (also capped at 50 percent of the project price tag) would start at $4,000 for improvements that reduce home energy use by at least 20 percent. Each additional 5 percent reduction in energy usage would equal another $1,500 in savings, all the way up to $12,000. The projects would have to be audited by a third party.
Supporters have gotten behind the proposal, including trade associations, building product manufacturers, environmental groups and even the president and vice president.
NAHB is putting its powerful lobbying weight behind the proposal as well and points to Project ReEnergize, a Minnesota program that provided $2.5 million in state grants for middle-class homeowners for specific energy-efficiency projects, as a model of how such a program can invigorate spending.
The association is also supporting a proposal by Rep. David Reichert, R-Wash., that would extend the existing credits (due to expire at the end of the year) for five more years and increase them from $1,500 to $5,000.