Obama Proposes “Cash for Caulkers” Offering up to $12,000 per Home

Last Tuesday, President Obama proposed a new energy saving program as part of the plan to boost the economy. This stimulus program, called “Cash for Caulkers” would provide rebates for homeowners making energy efficient weatherproofing improvements to their homes.

An incredibly large percentage of the energy wasted in the US comes from conditioned air in homes leaking out into the atmosphere. The specific improvements allowed are not clear yet, but it will be mainly pertaining to creating a seal to reduce wasteful airflow, including services like replacing windows, replacing old insulation or adding foam insulation, and caulking the cracks that lead to air leakage.

The legislation also known as Home Star is still being written, but it is expected that homeowners can get a 50% rebate for making their homes more energy efficient up to $12,000.

How Will it Work?

A certified contractor will go to your house to conduct an energy audit. They will determine what work should be done and where in your house. Based on priorities and your budget, you will decide what work to do and how much to spend. After paying the contractor for supplies and labor, you will recieve  a check in the mail sometime later from the federal government for 50% of your expenses.

Hypothetically, that means that if a family decides to retrofit their home, they could hire a contractor costing $24,000 in labor and supplies, and get a rebate check for twelve thousand dollars. While this means great savings for those who can afford it, it means that those who need it most might not be able to afford paying the contractor up-front. As the legislation is written, available options will become clearer, but there may be a possibility for other types of financing.

Energy efficiency auditors and contractors will be expecting a big boost in business because of this new plan. The government will essentially be footing half the bill for each home. People will be more likely to spend because of the huge savings, and contractors will be able to hire help, increasing demand for jobs.

Because the goal here is to stimulate the economy while reducing home energy waste, there is no talk so far about rebates for do-it-yourself energy projects. Contractors will likely have to be certified, to reduce fraud and poor workmanship. It is likely for the same reason that DIY energy efficiency projects won’t be covered. A professional job should be done to ensure that the project actually improves energy efficiency.

The details of Cash for Caulkers are not yet decided, but we will keep you updated on what this means for homeowners, and how you can take advantage of the rebate program when it is available.

Image Credit: Wayne National Forest / CC BY 2.0