Senate Finance Committee Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and a pair of bipartisan co-sponsors have introduced the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010, legislation to create jobs by providing up to $6 billion worth of tax rebates for the installation of energy-efficient products.

S. 3177, which was co-sponsored by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., now goes to the Finance Committee, where Bingaman is expected to push for passage of the measure. LBM and other groups generally support the concept, though they have stressed that the measure needs to be written in such a way as to benefit independent building material dealers and not just the big box stores.

According to a text of the bill, Home Star authorizes two retrofit programs: Silver Star, which focuses on the installation of particular products; and Gold Star, in which rebates go to retrofits that achieve energy savings for the whole home.

Silver Star's rebates go to measures such as:

  • Sealing off air leakage between the attic and the conditioned space
  • Adding at least R-19 insulation to existing insulation
  • Achieving insulation levels of at least R-38 in warmer areas and at least R-49 in colder parts of the United States
  • Replacing or sealing ducts
  • Replacing doors and windows with certified energy-saving products
  • Installing storm windows on windows that don't currently have them

Rebates generally top out at $1,500 per measure and $3,000 for all projects.
Meanwhile, Gold Star focuses on whole home energy savings. It will give a $3,000 rebate for a 20% reduction in the whole home's energy consumption, and an extra $1,000 (up to $8,000) for each extra 5% reduction.

Independent LBM groups have paid particular attention to how rebates are administered. Generally, they've fought scenarios that would give an added advantage to big retails like The Home Depot and Lowe's while making certain that the rebates get paid quickly, in contrast to the complaints that arose from auto dealers regarding the "cash for clunkers" program. The bill calls for the creation of a network of Home Star rebate agggregators that would pay rebates within 30 days of request.

The measure authorizes spending $6 billion for the program. It aims to spend that money quickly, as the bill calls for reviews of the measure within a year of its enactment.