House Passes Home Star Bill

May 7, 2010

The U.S. House of Representative passed the the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act (H.R. 5019) yesterday by a vote of 246 to 161. The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) would provide temporary rebates to homeowners to refit, renovate and insulate their homes, while putting 170,000 Americans to work.

With program incentives directly targeted at windows, doors and skylights, the bill received a wide range of endorsements from President Obama to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Association of Home Builders and the Window & Door Manufacturers Association.  The Senate must still pass its version of Home Star for the program to become law.

"Incentives for improving home energy efficiency are powerful tools to drive consumer purchases that in turn drive the restoration of jobs across the building supply chain, while also resulting in significant energy savings in existing homes," says Steve Sisson, VP and GM of Karona Inc. and WDMA chair.   "Home Star will help spur the production of more energy-efficient windows, doors and skylights while helping to reduce our nation's overall energy costs."

While commending the passage of the Home Star bill, WDMA expressed disappointment that the House rejected a WDMA-supported amendment, offered by Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), which would have delayed application of the Environmental Protection Agency's Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule to Home Star-funded retrofit projects for one year.

"As we have said numerous times in recent months, the LRRP rule has the potential to hinder the success of the Home Star program due to the lack of certified renovators, trainers, accurate test kits and overall industry awareness," Sisson explains. "The Boswell Amendment was a common-sense solution that would help assure that the Home Star program has the greatest impact."

Details of the Bill
H.R. 5019 includes two types of consumer incentives. The first, Silver Star, provides up-front rebates for specific energy-saving investments, including windows and doors. Homeowners receive up to $1,500 per improvement—capped at a total of $3,000 or 50 percent of the total project cost.

A window replacement project that replaces at least eight exterior windows or skylights, or 75 percent of the exterior windows and skylights in a home, qualifies.  To qualify, windows must meet the same .30 U-value/.30 SHGC requirements established for the current federal tax credits, while skylights must  meet 2010 Energy Star criteria to qualify.  Door replacement also qualifies for a Silver Star rebate, if the door meets 2010 Energy Star criteria.

Home Star also provides larger rebates to homeowners who conduct a comprehensive energy audit and implement measures to reduce energy use. Consumers receive $3,000 for a demonstrated energy savings of 20 percent, plus an additional $1,000 for each additional 5 percent energy savings—capped at $8,000 or 50 percent of the project cost.

"Home Star is a practical, common sense investment in job creation and energy savings. By partnering with the private sector and homeowners, this bipartisan bill will create jobs in construction, manufacturing and retail," says Congressman Welch. "Vermont has shown that investing in energy efficiency works. Now the rest of the country will have a chance to benefit from the Home Star hat-trick of job creation, energy savings and reduced carbon emissions."

"At a time when millions of Americans are looking for work and companies are ready to take on new customers, this legislation will help jumpstart job growth and demand for new products created right here in America," said President Obama in a White House statment. "This rebate program will not only put people back to work, it will lower costs for homeowners who choose to improve their home with products like energy efficient windows, water heaters and air conditioners. And it will also save consumers money on energy bills down the road.

"I’m convinced that the country that leads in clean energy is also going to be the country that leads in the global economy and I want America to be that nation," his statement continued.  "I will not settle for anything less than first place when it comes to new energy technologies, and this bill will create the incentives to help us accomplish that goal. We have workers eager to do new installations and renovations, and factories ready to produce new energy efficient building supplies. Today’s House vote is an important step forward, and I look forward to working with the Senate to improve this legislation so we can help more middle-class homeowners make these investments without delay.”