Cash for Caulkers Home Star stimulus program

cash for caulkers stimulus program

The U.S. government is at it again – giving away more free money with the proposed “Cash for Caulkers” program. Somewhat based off the Cash for Clunkers program, this stimulus would be geared towards homeowners who weatherized their homes – making them more energy efficient.

President Obama is supposed to be talking about more of the details in a few hours today. So as of now the details are up in the air, but you can bet that some variation of the Home Star stimulus program will be in effect soon.

From what I have read about the Caulkers stimulus, getting a check would involve something like this…

“For about $500, Scharf (an energy auditor) will figure out how much energy the home wastes. He’ll put a giant fan in the door that will suck in air from outside the home, highlighting leaks in windows, doors or walls. He’ll test each appliance to see how much energy it draws. He’ll check the thickness of your insulation and windows.

Then, all this is fed into a computer model that generates a checklist with everything that could be replaced, how much it will cost, and how much in energy savings can be expected out of it. The homeowner decides how much work to do, and negotiates a price.

When the work is done, the homeowner pays Scharf directly. Scharf then submits paperwork to the state agency that runs the program. The homeowner then gets a reimbursement check from the agency for 10% of the project cost, up to $3,000, usually within 30 days.”

cash for caulkers stimulus programOnly getting a 10% rebate probably wouldn’t be enough to get me to take action, but according to John Doerr’s proposal to the president, homeowners could get as much as 50% back…

“Mr. Doerr, who sits on a board of outside economic advisers to Mr. Obama that is working on a formal cash-for-caulkers proposal, told me that his goal was to “keep it really simple so we can do it really fast.”

The Doerr plan would cost $23 billion over two years. Most of the money would go for incentive payments, generally $2,000 to $4,000, for weatherization projects. The homeowner would always have to pay at least 50 percent of the project’s total cost. About $3 billion would be set aside for retailers and contractors in the hope that they would promote the program, much as car dealerships promoted cash for clunkers. (Mr. Doerr says he owns no stake in any weatherization companies.)”

But it is complicated

As we have seen with all of the stimulus programs in the last year (Clunkers, Cash for Appliances, the $8000 homebuyer tax credit, and the $6500 tax credit), when the government just tries to hammer these things out really quick, details are sometimes overlooked and they can get kind of messy. The Cash for Caulkers program seems like it will be no different. Adding to that, the difficulty of homeowners figuring out what projects would and wouldn’t provide benefit is just going to add to the confusion.

Another article showed this example of a homeowner’s energy audit…

“This year, my wife and I had an energy audit done on our home. We were interested in finding out if we could save money and, given the attention that weatherizing was starting to get, I figured it could also make for good column fodder. For $400, an auditor spent hours scouring our house, with the help of a big fan he set up in our front door and an infrared camera. He produced a full-color, 13-page detailed report, informing us of the leaks in our house, and he was also willing to tell us which changes were usually a waste of money (new windows).

Even so, we are still trying to figure out which weatherization projects we should do. The whole package would probably cost $4,500 and save us something like $400 a year. We may not stay in the house nearly long enough to justify the investment.”

What about do-it-yourselfers?

Personally, I would much prefer making the improvements myself and probably wouldn’t take part in the program at all, if I have to have a contractor make the improvements. From the articles I have read about the proposed program I have seen no talk about how the do-it-yourselfer would get re-imbursed – possibly like the other home improvement rebates in the past?

So anyway, at this point all the details of the Home Star program seem to be very sketchy at best, hopefully the next few weeks will yield some well-thought out organization to the program – we shall see…

If you are interested in checking out some more articles about the stimulus plan…

  1. Adam Obrecht

    Our local utility will come do a home audit that is similar (no large fans) for free. They also have some discounts and rebates on some products if they find areas that can be improved like insulation in the attic.

  2. Luke Spencer

    I would have to agree with you on hiring a contractor to do your weatherization tasks is probably not the most fiscally responible thing to do…but Saving a few hundred off a couple hours of work is a good investment. This should be coupled with adjusting the thermostat up or down (which in my opinion will save you the most money) to cut the run time of your ac/heat unit.