After being passed by the House of Representatives on May 6, the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010—the "cash for caulkers" rebate program first proposed by President Obama in March of this year—was introduced just a few weeks later in the Senate by Sens. Jeff Bingaman, Olympia Snowe, Mark Warner, Lindsey Graham, and several others.

Modeled similarly to the Cash for Clunkers rebate program for automobiles, Home Star is designed to encourage energy-efficiency retrofits in homes to save homeowners money on their utility bills while improving home comfort, reduce the nation's energy usage and carbon footprint, and give a shot in the arm to the residential contracting industry, as well as building materials manufacturers and suppliers.

For custom builders and remodelers experiencing a drop-off in high-end work, this bill represents an opportunity to branch out into a new and growing field, according to Matt Golden, founder of energy efficiency retrofitting firm Recurve in San Francisco and policy chairman of home performance industry association Efficiency First. Golden was part of the team that developed the original Home Star proposal.

As introduced in the Senate, the $6 billion rebate program should drive consumer demand for both individual energy efficiency retrofits—such as insulation and air-sealing measures, window and door replacements, HVAC and water heater replacements, and installation of energy-saving roofs—and whole-home energy efficiency retrofits—based on scientific building energy modeling and audits—through its dual-track approach: the Silver Star prescriptive path and the Gold Star performance path.

Home Star's provisions also include establishing field verifications and a quality assurance program that would require the provider of the energy-efficiency retrofit work to remedy any defect found by a field verifier within 14 days of notification at no extra cost to the homeowner. For more details on the bill's provisions, visit www.homestarcoalition.org or read the complete text of the Senate bill.

The bill is supported by numerous industry groups, building products and materials manufacturers, labor advocates, construction contractors, home improvement retailers, and environment and energy efficiency advocates. One such supporter is Pella Corp., which sees the potential for growth in the replacement window and door market—hurt by the downturn in new construction and remodeling—driven by Home Star.

"Pella supports Home Star because we think it creates jobs now, and it addresses the largest energy savings potential in U.S. homes: the replacement of single-pane windows," says Martin Wesemann, Pella's director of advanced technology. "About 50 percent of existing homes—72 million—currently have inefficient single-pane windows with clear glass and no coatings that reduce infiltration of nonvisible light and heat."