House Passes Energy Bill: Cash for Caulkers

Last Thursday, the House passed the Home Star bill, a $5.7 billion stimulus program that will offer rebates to homeowners for energy efficiency renovations. The bill has been unofficially dubbed "Cash for Caulkers."

Here is a report by the Associated Press on how the program will work:

How the proposed Home Star, or Cash for Caulkers, program works

Here are some basics of the proposed Home Star legislation to provide rebates to homeowners for energy-efficient improvements. There are two types of consumer initiatives for retrofitting homes with energy-efficient models:

* Under the Silver Star program, homeowners would get rebates of between $1,000 and $1,500 for each improvement installed, or $250 per appliance, with a benefit not exceeding $3,000 or 50 percent of total project costs. Covered measures in the Silver Star program include air sealing; attic, wall and crawl space insulation; duct sealing; replacement of windows and doors, furnaces, air conditioners, heat pumps, water heaters and appliances.

Under the Gold Star program, consumers would be eligible for $3,000 when they conduct whole-house energy analyses and install technology that improves their overall home energy efficiency by 20 percent. They could receive an additional $1,000 rebate for each additional 5 percent improvement, to a maximum of $8,000. The rebate could not represent more than 50 percent of the total cost of the project.

The overall Home Star legislation initiative is different from the provision in last year's economic stimulus bill that provides a tax credit of up to $1,500 for energy efficiency improvements. That tax credit expires at the end of this year.

The bill would authorize $5.7 billion over two years for the initiative. An additional $600 million would be provided to help states with programs to make mobile homes more energy-efficient. Some 3 million households would be expected to take advantage of the program.

Supporters say it would create almost 170,000 jobs in the construction industry and reduce home energy costs by almost $10 billion over 10 years.