House Passes $6 Billion Cash for Caulkers Bill


Miss out on that last go around to make your home more energy efficient on the government's dime? You may get another chance to try.

The House on Thursday approved the $6 billion Home Star Energy Retrofit Act, aka Cash for Caulkers, which aims to make the world a little greener, foster job growth and save Americans money on retrofitting their homes with energy efficient products that can lead to lower utility bills.

The H.R. 5019 bill, which still needs approval in the Senate, is a two-track program. Consumers using the Silver Star program would receive up-front rebates up to $3,000 for covering installation costs of such behind-the-scenes products as water heaters, air duct sealing, windows and doors. Under the Gold Start program, homeowners would be required to arrange for an energy audit and put all the measure in place, in order to receive up to $8,000 should they hit the energy conservation milestones as it relates to dollars saved.

With this bill, one of its chief sponsors, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., expects 3 million families will be eligible to retrofit their homes for energy efficiency and save an estimated $9.2 billion over the next 10 years on their monthly utility bills.And where does the job growth come in? The program is expected to create 168,000 new jobs.

For consumers, the Cash for Caulkers bill could represent a second chance to bring energy efficiency into their homes in the past year.

Last year, Congress authorized $300 million in Obama stimulus funds to cover energy efficient appliances in consumers homes. The disbursement made good on a 2005 law that was designed to payout $300 million toward energy efficient appliances but had never received the actual funds.

Under the federal stimulus money, the federal funds were doled out to each state, which set the guidelines of how they wanted the funds to be distributed.

"The states could chose to give it to only low-income people or to everyone and decided which products would be eligible," said Jill Notini, spokeswoman for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. She added, "Iowa received $12.5 million and the money was gone in less than three hours."

The California Department of Energy, for example, received $35.2 million of the federal funds and is currently doling it out to residents who are seeking energy efficient rebates of $200 for a refrigerator, $100 for a clothes washer, or $50 for an air conditioner. The rebate program ends later this month on May 23.

"The stimulus bill created the first federally funded energy efficiency rebate project," Notini said. "Before that, the states used their own funds for energy efficiency projects."

Some of the energy efficient projects consumers may be familiar with include sales tax holidays, bounties for turning in older less energy efficient appliances to tax credits for such structural changes as new windows, doors, furnaces and water heaters.

One spot consumers can troll around to find energy efficient rebates and other incentives is the Energy Star site, which is a joint-program run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy.

Iowa, however, may have some slim pickings given how quick their residents respond to energy efficiency deals.

Originally published