WDDA Raises Concerns About Home Star

August 6, 2010

Joining with several other contractor and building industry organizations, the Window & Door Dealers Alliance recently sent a letter to three U.S. Senators asking for changes in the current Home Star legislation.  While supporting "the overall concept of the Home Star incentive program, we want to ensure the proposal factors in its job creation and energy conservation potential," the letter states.

“As an industry, window and door dealers are very supportive of the Home Star program’s basic intent,” says Richard Jones, president and CEO of Stanek Windows and a member of the WDDA advisory board. “But in order for it to achieve its goals without creating additional problems for our industry or consumers, certain fixes must be made to the Senate bill.”

"WDDA members are ready to contribute to the goals of Home Star. They want to make America more energy efficient and they want to create jobs," adds David Walker, WDDA VP. "There are some elements of the Home Star legislation, however, that could hamper our members' ability to do that." Specifically, WDDA has concerns about how rebates will be provided to homeowners under the bill, as well as contractor accreditation requirements included in the legislation, he notes.

Under the Home Star bill, the government would provides rebates to homeowners who make energy efficient upgrades, such as window and door replacement, to their homes. WDDA objects to provisions in the current Senate version of the Home Star bill which would requires contractors to provide the homeowner with the full economic value of all rebates received, and wait for reimbursement from a "rebate aggregator."  This essentially requires the contractor to give the homeowner a short-term loan, WDDA asserts.

"Like most small businesses in the construction and renovation industries, WDDA members are struggling with cash flow issues in this tight economy. With potentially thousands of dollars in rebates available on each project, smaller contractors will be able to carry a limited number of projects, if any," the letter points out. "A 'contractor's rebate' would be an unbearable burden for many small business owners."

WDDA goes on to urge its support for the House-passed version of Home Star, which would have  rebates sent directly to the homeowner. "A homeowner rebate would not require the contractor to float the rebate amount and would allow for better job creation while still granting the homeowners a substantial incentive for higher efficiency improvements," the letter states.

The WDDA letter also questions accreditation requirements for the higher-value Gold Star rebates offered to homeowners that do whole house energy retrofits. The Senate bill currently states that to qualify for rebates, homeowners must use contractors accredited by the Building Performance Institute or who meet requirements not yet set by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

These requirements, WDDA states, have the potential to limit the choices of homeowners who want to take advantage of the Gold Star rebates. Pointing to the BPI accreditation requirements in particular, WDDA notes that 27 states currently do not have any contractors who could offer the Gold Star rebates. Asserting that "professional contractors not accredited by BPI could meet the obligations of the Gold Star rebate program by using approved modeling software, installing the eligible energy saving measures properly, and providing the homeowner with documentation of the overall energy savings,"
the WDDA letter urges the Senate to expand opportunities for homeowners to obtain Gold Star
rebates. "Without this expansion, the job creation benefits of the Home Star retrofit rebate program may not materialize," WDDA states.

Passed in the House earlier this spring, Home Star legislation was advanced in the Senate recently as part of a bill prepared by Sen. Henry Reid (D-Nev.).  Although Senate Democrats hoped to pass the legislation prior to the August recess, Reid could not garner enough votes for passage and is now looking to bring back the bill in September.

"That additional time gives WDDA an opportunity to get its voice heard on these issues," Walker states. "Join our effort by contacting your Senator during the August recess," he urges window and door dealers.  "The solution the WDDA supports is simple: use the rebate language contained in the companion House bill (H.R. 5019) and remove the BPI provision."

Walker notes that such a solution, as well as much of the WDDA letter, echoes the sentiments expressed in a letter recently sent to Congress by a coalition known as Small Businesses for Job Growth in Energy Efficiency.  The coalition includes the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, the Green Mechanical Council, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, the National Roofing Contractors Association and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association.