WASHINGTON - On May 6, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5019, the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010. The bill, nicknamed “Cash for Caulkers,” is designed to spur economic recovery and job creation by providing $6 billion in rebates to homeowners who make energy efficiency upgrades.

Passed by a 264-161 vote in the House, the Home Star act would establish a two-tiered system for rebates - Silver Star and Gold Star. The Silver Star rebates are intended to reimburse homeowners for installing energy savings measures. Such measures range from whole-house sealing and insulation to window and door replacement to heating and cooling equipment upgrades. The maximum rebate provided for a home under Silver Star is $3,000 or 50 percent of the total cost of the installed measures.

The Gold Star rebates are intended for whole-house energy reduction and are based on software simulations comparing the energy use of a home before and after retrofits. Gold Star provides a $3,000 rebate for a 20-percent reduction in a home’s total energy consumption, with an additional $1,000 for every additional 5-percent reduction. The maximum Gold Star rebate per home is $8,000.

While industry groups are excited about the positive potential impact of this legislation on the HVACR industry, many have raised concerns about certain provisions in the bill. The most controversial provisions in the bill regard the qualifications for contractors to perform the rebate work. According to the House bill, contractors who perform work under the Silver Star program must have a work force certified by the BPI, North American Technician Excellence (NATE), or the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), and those who perform work under the Gold Star program need to be specifically accredited by BPI.

According to Paul Stalknecht, president and CEO of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), “The legislation did include an amendment that would require the Department of Energy to approve or deny proposed alternatives to BPI within 30 days, but we do not find this to be an acceptable alternative. However, ACCA remains very supportive of the goals of the Home Star legislation, and as the legislation moves to the Senate, we will continue to make a good faith effort to find a real solution that will actually meet those goals and create good, high-paying jobs while improving the energy efficiency and security of the United States.”

Other amendments made to the House version of the bill include a cap on the income level of eligible homeowners ($250,000), a provision that contractors who perform the work cannot employ convicted sex offenders, and a stipulation that the Home Star program must not have a negative effect on the national budget deficit.

With the passage of the bill in the House, the Senate is expected to move ahead with its version of the bill, S. 3177; however, there is currently no timeline for the Senate vote.

Publication date:05/24/2010