May 11, 2010

A Look at "Cash for Caulkers"

The US House recently passed the 'Cash for Caulker's bill.    The bill will still need to pass the Senate and then be signed by the President so its not a law yet.   But its one step towards becoming law.

The bill is officially named the Home Star Retrofit Retrofit Act or just Home Star Program. But it has been nicknamed by many the 'Cash for Caulkers' bill as a take off of the 'Cash for Clunkers' bill.  Details on the house bill H.R. 5019: Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010 are at the Govtrack site.  This is the initial senate bill.   The house and senate versions differ a bit and right H.R. 5019 is the bill in progress.

Right now the bill is still not law so it could change before it is passed or it may not become a law at all.   Everything about the law is subject to change and nothing may happen at all.   Having said that, lets take a look at the provisions of the proposed law as it stands right now.

There is a summary of the bill at the Home Star coalition website.   There are two different rebate programs, the Silver Star and Gold Star.

They explain the Silver Star program as : "Homeowners receive between $1,000 and $1,500 for each measure installed in the home, or $250 per appliance, with a benefit not exceeding $3,000 or at least 50% of total project costs (whichever is less)."   and it covers : "air sealing; attic, wall, and crawl space insulation; duct sealing or replacement; and replacement of existing windows and doors, furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, water heaters and appliances with high-efficiency models."

The Gold Star level is starts with a home audit, then makes improvements and then gives a rebate based on expected energy savings.   The summary says: "A certified professional with accreditation from the Building Performance Institute (BPI), the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) or an approved equivalent conducts an energy audit before work begins, and a test-out when the performance retrofit is complete. Consumers receive $3,000 for modeled savings of 20%, plus an additional $1,000 incentive for each additional 5% of modeled energy savings, with incentives not to exceed 50% of project costs."

In brief that breaks down to :

Silver Star:

up to $1000 to $1500 or up to 50% back for various energy saving improvements:
air sealing
attic insulation
wall insulation
floor insulation
duct resealing
window replacement
door replacement
furnace replacement
$250 back for efficient appliances
$125 per door and per skylight
$400 gas or propane water heater
$750 for other 'fancy' water heaters (tankless gas, solar power, etc)
$250 for rim joist insulation
$50 for each storm window or door, with a minimum of 5 storm windows or doors and a maximum of 12;
$250 electric tankless water heater, maximum 4
$500 for window film
$750 for heating system replacement
$500 for a wood or pellet stove
$500 for desuperheater

Gold Star:

$3000 rebate for 20% home energy savings,  PLUS another $1000 for each 5% of savings up to 50% of costs.

These rebates could be some pretty good incentives for consumers.

I'm not exactly sure about all the details on what would qualify so we'd have to wait to see the details if or when the bill becomes law.  I'm not sure how the appliances rebate would work.  $250 seems like quite a lot for appliances and I'm not sure exactly what appliances would qualify.   I also don't know if this rebate program will add to existing federal tax credits for energy savings.

Our home insulation project cost a total of $6000 roughly.   We got about $2000 back in rebates from the utility and about $1500 in tax credits from the state and federal.   Our total out of pocket was around $3000.   As I understand it Silver Star rebates would give me back $3000 for the work we did.   So if this law existed a year ago in its current bill form then we might have been able to get our home insulation virtually free of charge after all the rebates and tax credits.

We're planning to get a new dishwasher sooner or later.  Hopefully that $250 rebate will apply to that but I'm not holding my breath.    We've still been thinking about maybe getting a heat pump installed.   If the Cash for Caulkers goes into effect then its pretty safe it would give us $1000 or more toward the cost of a heat pump installation.   At some point we might also want to have a new front door installed and 50% off of that cost would be pretty good incentive.

Again, all of this is subject to change and it may never become law.  Some of the details are currently vague.   If it does ever pass the Senate it might be modified further before it becomes law.

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