Government offers Cash for Caulkers
I don’t know about you, but whenever someone gives me something for nothing, I’m always looking for the real cost. The flavor of the month in government stimulus was just passed in an effort to make homeowners more responsible and a little richer. But like all those things offered for nothing, this one also has a few strings attached.
The newest stimulus is called the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act (HR 5019) and was passed by the House of Representatives on May 6, with approval from the Senate still pending. Similar to last year’s Cash for Clunkers stimulus that rewarded people for replacing their gas-guzzling vehicles with more fuel efficient models, this year’s Cash for Caulkers stimulus is aimed at energy improvements to your home.
The $6 billion dollar bill is designed to spur home energy retrofits by providing rebates to homeowners who install energy savings products over a two-year period. The program is designed with two tracks to provide long and short term benefits.
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, doors and insulation. The Gold Star program rewards homeowners who conduct a comprehensive energy audit and implement a full complement of measures to reduce energy use throughout the home. Consumers will receive $3,000 or half the cost for measures that reduce energy use by 20 percent, and can receive up to $8,000 when additional energy savings are achieved.
Naturally, there are certain criteria that have to be met before any of these rebates can be applied for. For example, attic and wall insulation have to meet certain standards outlined in the bill with a minimum of 500 square feet covered. Window replacements are also eligible but at least eight windows or 75 percent of a home’s exterior windows and skylights have to be included in the replacement effort according to the bill’s fine print.
One of the problems with any stimulus is that in order to get the refund or tax credit, you have to first spend the money. In a depressed economy, I wonder how many people want to take money out of what savings they have to improve their homes, which are worth a lot less than they were a few years ago. Even with a monthly energy savings and rebates and/or tax credits, it would take years to break even.
The sponsors of the bill expect three 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. In addition the program is expected to create or save in excess of 100,000 jobs, primarily in the construction field. Of course, the environmental benefit of using energy-saving appliances and home improvements is really what’s driving the bill’s sponsors who hope consumers will agree.
No matter how pro energy conservation you are, there is one other little problem with Cash for Caulkers – the bill is not paid for. Unless the Congress can come up with the funding during the budgetary process, the bill will self destruct under one of the terms of the legislation.
Another day, another stimulus package. Just add this to your list of government stimulus programs thrown at citizens during the last two years. This one might work if retrofitting your home was already on your radar, and you qualify. Stay tuned and wait to be stimulated.