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Green Building News

Home Star Gets the House Vote

The $5.7 billion measure advances to the Senate

By last fall, when the White House proposed a weatherization program whose financial incentives would be available to all homeowners in the U.S., most consumers had become at least generally familiar with the benefits of making a home more energy efficient and the broader economic benefits of programs that, once they get rolling, can create jobs.

Coverage of the vastly expanded Weatherization Assistance Program, which is aimed exclusively at low-income households, helped with that. And now legislative action on the administration’s new proposal – the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act, aka the “Cash for Caulkers” program – has weatherization in the news again. And all for the good. The House of Representatives passed the bill, 246-161, on Wednesday, and it now awaits action in the Senate. Twelve House Republicans joined the Democratic majority in voting for the measure, but also managed to add a provision that requires Congress to fund the two-year $5.7 billion program through budget cuts, new sources of revenue, or a combination of the two.

As noted in a post by Peter Yost, BuildingGreen LLC’s Director of Technical Services, Home Star has two levels of participation, Silver Star and Gold Star. The former is a “quick start” program offering upfront rebates of as much as $3,000 (or up to 50% of the total project cost, whichever comes first) for certain energy efficient measures such as the installation of new insulation, air sealing, windows and doors, and energy efficient appliances (including furnaces and water heaters).

Performance-based standards

Gold Star, meanwhile, is a whole-house retrofit option that offers up to $8,000 (or up to 50% of the total project cost, whichever comes first) for comprehensive energy efficiency audits and upgrades to various performance levels: $3,000 for modeled savings of 20%, plus $1,000 for each additional 5% of modeled energy savings. Audits are handled by contractors certified by Building Performance Institute and/or Residential Energy Services Network, although only BPI-certified contractors are authorized to do Gold Star retrofits.

The program requires an inspection rate of 20% for Silver Star projects, 15% for Gold Star projects, although the inspection requirement for Gold Star projects is reduced if the participating contractor’s entire retrofit team meets certain certification requirements.

A substantial market

Home Star subsidies can be collected in addition to existing credits or subsidies for energy efficiency upgrades at the state or federal level, including the energy tax credit of up to $1,500 that was included in last year’s economic stimulus act and runs through the end of 2010.

An Associated Press story on the bill notes that its supporters, which include the home-performance trade group Efficiency First, estimate that 3 million households would make use of the new program, saving $9.2 billion in energy costs over a 10-year period. Supporters estimate Home Star would create 168,000 jobs, mainly in the recession-hit construction industry.

In a press release, Efficiency First policy chairman Matt Golden said that the bipartisan passage of the bill “shows how when industry, labor, business and environmental groups cooperate, we can find solution for America. Home Star will create hundreds of thousands of good quality jobs, while saving families money on energy bills.”

4 Comments

  1. Ricky | | #1

    Training
    How do we get training on Home star. I am a home improvement contractor and am interested in this program

  2. Steve McCarthy | | #2

    home star
    I'm a home performance contractor that uses a blower door and an IR scanner and combustion tester. I am also not certified by anybody. I live in rural northern Pennsylvania. I believe the verification, inspecting and administration of the home star program will be assigned to the individual states. That leads me to believe we are screwed.
    Last august I installed a 5KW PV array with the hope of taking advantage of my states Sunshine Program that provides grants for PV and solar thermal. It took 7 months to get an inspection of the system and that happened only after I requested help from my State Representative. I am now still waiting to get the grant money nine months after the system was finished.
    My state can not handle the work load to administer any more programs of any sort.

  3. Li Ling Young | | #3

    Get BPI certified
    Ricky, homeowners can take advantage of rebates at the Silver Star level with any contractor, so get ready to take advantage of folks' willingness to spend money on their homes once Home Star gets on line.
    If you want to serve the folks who are ready to take a bigger plunge on reducing their home energy: getting an audit and doing work that saves at least 20% of their current fuel use; then you need to become a certified and accredited contractor through Building Performance Institute. This certification is expensive and intellectually demanding, plus the accreditation for your firm is an additional cost. Not all parts of the country have an established network for BPI training. Go to the BPI website to find out where classes are being offered.
    Home Star is only going to be around for a couple of years, so think carefully whether you want to change your business model for a fleeting government program. Nonetheless, doing home repairs and renovations with an underpinning of building science will categorically improve the quality of any contractor's work, make your customers happier and give you access to a new market of energy-motivated homeowners. As one successful contractor in the Northeast put it, "Once you get religion about home performance, you'll never go back to working the same way again."
    Getting BPI certified is not for the faint of heart, but it's a valuable asset to those who are willing to transform the way they do work for ever after. Home Star is a nice incentive to get certified; it's not the reason to get certified.

  4. Todd | | #4

    BPI Training
    Actually there is a pretty good network of BPI trainers and proctors. Visit BPI.org to find a complete list of training affiliates. Our company is one of many national affiliates and we have courses all over the country. See our class locations and dates at http://www.goldstarhpt.com

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