On March 6, 2010 the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act was passed, allowing 6 billion dollars to be set aside for energy efficiency tax rebates.  The act, more commonly known as “Cash for Caulkers,” aims to stimulate the economy as it creates jobs and encourages citizens to spend money.  At the same time energy efficient homes will cut back on our nation’s dependency on non renewable resources. 

The six billion dollars will provide rebates in several areas: 

Replacing windows, doors, HVAC systems, and insulation improvements (All work must be completed by qualified contractors).  50% rebate, up to $3,000

For the do-it-yourself projects you may decide to take on (caulking windows, DIY insulation) 50% rebate, up to $250

The bill also distributes $600 million to states for grants to help homeowners replace pre-1976 mobile homes.

What does this do for the sustainable construction industry?

I have to say that the cash for caulkers program seems to be more about stimulating the economy and government bailout than saving energy.  Either way, from a non political perspective, we should celebrate the fact that the sustainable construction industry has received national media attention from this bill.  Also, for those selling products or services in sustainable production it must be refreshing to use the words ‘tax rebate’ in their sales pitch. 

While all of these benefits are great for vendors and contractors, how should a homeowner decide whether or not to take advantage of this opportunity?  I have never been a huge fan of energy retrofitting as it seems to be not worth the hassle.  Small projects make sense.  Every home should have updated vinyl windows and insulated doors with airtight seals.  Also, you have nothing to lose if you take advantage of the 50% rebate that covers the sustainable DIY projects. However, when considering new heating and cooling systems it is important to weigh your expenses and benefits.  Because you may not see the return on the investment for 10 years you must consider how long you plan on living in a home. 

Another aspect of the bill I would like to draw attention to is the mobile home grants.  I am interested to see what state governments will do with these grants.  I would like to see them fund the growing steel prefab industry.  I believe this technology is an outstanding sustainable construction method that can effectively replace mobile homes for owners that do not mind losing the mobile aspect. 

Overall, the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act directs positive attention to the sustainable construction industry.  However, I am still waiting on stronger tax incentives for new construction projects. 
This type of action by the government would kick off a residential sustainable revolution as new homebuilders are not convinced of the immediate benefits in sustainable investments.