.30/.30 Criteria Emerge in Home Star Bill

March 12, 2010

Potential details of the Home Star program backed by the Obama Administration to encourage more energy efficiency home retrofits and create jobs are emerging in a draft bill prepared for committee discussion in the U.S. Senate. Most notable is the inclusion of the same .30/.30 criteria for windows, doors and skylights used for federal tax credits under the stimulus package for products to qualify for Home Star rebates.

The Home Star bill under consideration establishes two main rebate programs. The first, Silver Star, sets prescriptive criteria for a range of products that would make homeowners eligible for rebates up to $3,000. The second program, Gold Star, takes a performance approach providing rebates to whole house upgrades of energy efficiency and would offer larger rebates depending on the energy savings achieved.

Under the Silver Star proposals, the draft bill states that “window replacement is eligible if the projection includes at least eight exterior windows and skylights or 75 percent of the exterior windows and skylights in a home, whichever is less. To qualify, windows and skylights must be certified by the National Fenestration Rating Council; and comply with criteria applicable to windows and skylights under section 25(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.

The bill also qualifies “door replacement that replaces at least one exterior door with doors that comply with criteria applicable to doors under section 25(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.”

The National Association of Home Builders, which supports the Home Star bill overall, offered a number of recommendations bill in testimony before the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee in hearings last week. A member of the NAHB board representing the organization, Bob Hanbury, president of House of Hanbury, a remodeling firm based company in Newington, Conn., recommended inclusion of 2010 Energy Star criteria, noting “that the window and skylight specifications for qualification under this subsection are both inconsistent with existing federal incentive programs and geographically inappropriate for some climate zones.”

"As with many government programs and regulations, there are issues to work through, including altering the current .30/.30 threshold for the tax credit provision to align with Energy Star requirements," states Rich Walker, president and CEO of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association.  The organization generally supports the premise behind Home Star to spark more business opportunities in the residential market, he continues, and is soliciting member input to ensure that the program benefits both consumers and manufacturers. "With a few adjustments," he states, "the Home Star program has the potential to revive the sales of high performing energy efficient windows and doors."

Training and certification requirements
The Home Star draft includes a number of provisions covering contractor accreditation and workforce certification and training.  The measures, designed to bring an aspect of quality control to the program, do not mention anything related specifically to window and door installation, but provide the Department of Energy some latitude in recognizing various programs that are available in the marketplace. 

NAHB expressed concern that the draft references the Building Performance Institute among the training and accrediting organizations that contractors could use to qualify to participate in Home Star, but leaves out NAHB’s own Home Builder Institute, among others. “Limiting the program to certain groups of people with explicit certifications, employment status, or specific credentials is short-sighted and would reduce the impact on jobs and energy savings,” Hanbury noted before the committee.

NAHB’s Hanbury actually devoted much of his testimony to the potential impact of the EPA lead paint rules, suggesting that they “will cripple the success of a Home Star retrofit program before it really has a chance to begin.” He pointed to EPA’s own goal to have more 200,000 certified contractors by the April 22 effective date for the new lead regulations, and the fact that only about 13,000 contractors are “lead-certified” now. He used the Senate hearings to urge a delay in the implementation date for the new EPA rules.

Testimony offered at last week's Senate hearings on the Home Star bill is available at the Energy & Natural Resources committee Web site.