Note: This story appeared June 2, 2010 in the San Francisco Chronicle’s “Sweat Equity” column.
By Bill Burnett and Kevin Burnett
We receive dozens of e-mails each week. Many of them are grist for our mill – questions from readers asking us to weigh in on a particular home problem. Then there’s the junk.
Merchants from China, India and parts unknown inundate us with solicitations to meet our plastic molding needs or to sell us grosses of screws. We also get inquiries from heaven knows where asking if we can sell people anything from toilets to drywall. Needless to say, we hit the delete key.
But the other day, while sifting through the crud, one e-mail grabbed and held our interest.
It informed us that on May 6, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR5019 by a vote of 246-161. Big deal, we thought. On further review we found the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010 pays people to improve their homes. This is the “cash for caulkers” program that President Obama spoke of in his inauguration address and has been floating around in the congressional ether for the past year or so.
The program, also known as Home Star, is designed to spur home energy retrofits by providing rebates to homeowners who install energy-saving products, such as insulation, windows, doors and heating systems.
The legislation must still pass the Senate and be signed by President Obama to become law.
It includes two tracks. The Silver Star program will provide homeowners with a 50 percent rebate, up to $3,000, for the installation of specific energy-saving improvements, including insulation, duct sealing, energy-efficient windows, doors and water heaters. Homeowners receive up to $1,500 per improvement – capped at a total of $3,000 or 50 percent of the total project cost. So replacing half a dozen single-pane aluminum 1960s-vintage windows with $3,000 worth of modern, energy-efficient windows will get you $1,500.
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. These folks can receive up to $8,000 for implementing retrofits that reduce energy use by 20 percent. The bill also creates an innovative financing program to assist with the cost.
One of the more remarkable aspects of this story is the coalition that came together to support it. The House vote was bipartisan and there are two Republican co-sponsors in the Senate (Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina). Also, there’s a huge list of businesses big and small that support it.
Democrats like it, Republicans like it, consumers like it and business likes it. What’s not to like?
No matter who you are, if you live in this country, Home Star means a few simple benefits:
- Economic boost: The legislation means job creation, increased sales of home improvement materials and innovation in the energy-efficiency sector.
- Reduced pollution: Each time a home becomes more energy efficient we have a little less need to build a coal plant in your state. Fewer coal plants means healthier air, right?
- Increased security: Energy efficiency, in the long run, means more use of our own domestic supply of energy. Which means, ideally, less conflict over fossil fuels.
We encourage you to read the bill, which is long but surprisingly understandable. You can find it at links.sfgate.com/ZJRJ.
The White House has put together a fact sheet. It can be found at links.sfgate.com/ZJRH.