NAHB Works to Ensure Its Members Participate in ‘Cash For Caulkers’ Retrofits

As legislation that would offer tax incentives for residential energy-efficiency improvements continues to move through Congress, a special NAHB task force has new recommendations to help ensure that members of the association will be tapped to participate in the work that results from the new initiative.

Earlier this month, the NAHB Senior Officers reviewed the report of the NAHB Jobs Creation via Energy Efficiency Retrofits Task Force and directed the association and Home Builders Institute staffs to repurpose existing training and education programs to meet the requirements outlined in H.R. 5019, the proposed Home Star legislation that has been approved by the House of Representatives. The companion bill in the Senate, S. 3177, continues to be debated.

(For a related story in this issue of NBN, click here.)

In addition, NAHB continues to study the concept of rebate aggregators as outlined in the House bill. These entities would approve contractors to participate in the program, funnel the rebates to approved home owners and audit the results of the work.

The Senior Officers thanked the task force, led by Environmental Issues Committee Chair Chuck Collett, for its research.

“We commend this task force for its ability to not only explore new opportunities but also identify and respond to the potential barriers that may restrict our members from fully participating in any such federal energy retrofit program,” NAHB Chairman Bob Jones said in a note of appreciation to the participants.

“This task force clearly recognized the important training opportunity Home Star represents for NAHB’s members,” the letter said. “These programs can also revolutionize the way our new employees are trained and certified and the way that homes are rated and verified for energy efficiency.”

Jones again commended the work of the Home Builders Association of Minnesota and its Project ReEnergize program, which last year used federal stimulus money to weatherize homes quickly and efficiently while expanding job opportunities for its members. Its success, Jones said, “has served as an important road map for other HBAs that may wish to explore the ‘rebate aggregator’ role that H.R. 5019 would propose.”

As approved by the House, the Home Star legislation offers two levels of rebates, depending on the type and extent of retrofit activities performed:

  • Silver Star is a prescriptive path, identifying the steps necessary to receive rebates of up to $3,000 or 50% of the total cost of the retrofits, whichever is less. Home owners receive between $50 and $1,500 for each activity. Eligible measures include whole-house air-sealing; attic, wall and crawl space or basement insulation; storm window installation; or replacing ducts, seals, windows, doors, the heating and air conditioning system or the water heater.
  • Gold Star follows a performance path, allowing rebates of up to $8,000 or 50% of the total retrofit cost — whichever is less — for those home owners who choose to conduct a comprehensive home energy audit and then implement selected measures that result in quantifiable savings in the home’s energy consumption. Home owners receive $3,000 for a 20% reduction and an additional $1,000 for each additional 5% reduction. All improvement in energy savings must be documented by an approved whole-home simulation software program.

Current drafts of the legislation allocate $6 billion to this program — the bulk of which will go to administration, purchasing products and paying for labor costs. However, under congressional “pay as you go” policy, it has not yet been decided how to fund the Home Star initiative, and it cannot be made law until that decision is made.

The task force also identified a number of ongoing issues that are either being pursued by the Administration or that need attention to ensure a successful program — including home energy performance assessment and labeling, home owner financing for retrofits and valuating energy efficiency in appraisals.

Additional information about the task force’s work and the legislative proposals now before Congress is at www.nahb.org/energyefficiencyretrofits.

To read legislation, click here and enter the bill number in the box at the center of the page.

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