President Obama Rolls out Cash for Caulkers Plan

President Obama will showcase his HOMESTAR program which is designed to help create jobs by encouraging homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements to their homes. During a visit to Savannah, Georgia Tuesday, the President will visit a community technical college which trains individuals to install energy efficient heating and cooling systems as well as solar panels and insulation. The White House cites unemployment numbers in construction jobs at nearly 25% and says the HOMESTAR program will be "one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest things to do by putting people to work." White House officials say so much energy is wasted because homes built in the first half of last century use fifty-percent more energy than homes built today. Officials say energy upgrades such as new windows, insulation, doors, roofs and modernizing heating and cooling equipment is one way for middle class consumers to save money. During a conference call with reporters Monday, White House officials said "if a family is looking to do an investment or upgrade in their home, this program will give them a direct and easy access to rebates, right at the point of sale or at the point of engagement with a contractor for a variety of investments they can make in their home."

White House officials are marketing this like the short-term and popular Cash for Clunkers program from last summer, making consumers directly eligible for rebates at the point of sale from a variety of vendor home improvement stores such as Lowes or Home Depot who would then be reimbursed by the federal government. White House officials believe that "even in the current economic environment that this kind of incentive, that is easy for a consumer to get, that is upfront and has a bit of time limited 'get-it-while-you-can' quality is quite powerful."

The rebates are two-tiered: the Silver Star level offers $1000-$1500 in rebates for improvements such as insulation, duct sealing, windows, roofing, doors and upgrades to heating and cooling systems. The Gold Star level is for consumers who are planning more comprehensive energy retrofits and include an upfront home energy audit to achieve a 20% energy savings in their homes. Consumers at that level can receive $3000 and potentially additional rebates for energy savings in excess of 20%. "Consumers would be doing an upfront energy audit and then identifying a set of activities that would have the maximum potential to achieve energy savings," one official said. "One of the potential activities and one that is growing in popularity is including a state of the art meter and energy monitoring device in the home so that you can achieve behavioral energy savings in addition to structural energy savings."

Officials anticipate two to three million households will participate in the program and would like to see $6 billion set aside to fund the rebates.