The National Capital Contractor Forum in Virginia was one of several recent events around the country where representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), efficiency organizations, association contacts, and local home performance contractors gathered to discuss changes in the existing home performance market. The conference was presented by the Building Performance Institute (BPI) and the Electric & Gas Industries Association (EGIA) and organized by, with similar events held in California and Wyoming.

At the Virginia conference, opening speaker David Lee, EPA director for the residential branch overseeing the Energy Star new and existing homes program, told attendees that the Home Star or “cash for caulkers” bill — part of a jobs bill aimed at the residential retrofit market — is “something to watch out for and take advantage of.”

The bill, which is currently in Congress, will likely pass by June 2010 and will provide $6 billion for the Home Star program, with $3.6 billion going to Silver Star prescriptive upgrades that include HVAC system installations and duct and air sealing, and $1.8 billion to the performance-based Gold Star segment, which involves upgrades that reduce a homeowner’s overall energy consumption by 20%.

Jared Asch, national director of Efficiency First, a nonprofit trade association for home performance contractors, pointed out to attendees that the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance (REEP) bill is a long-term version of the Home Star bill. REEP is part of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 that calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The bill, currently pending in the Senate, gives states grant money to encourage and supervise residential and commercial energy retrofits.

According to Asch, the Home Star bill is encouraging because it allows families to have a positive cash flow on Home Star projects from day one. He asked attendees to consider: “How many more retrofit jobs could you get if the government paid half the bill?”

Transforming the Market

Bruce Matulich, executive director of EGIA, said that — with federal government programs, state and local credits, utility company rebates, and consumer interest in efficient, healthy homes — the market is experiencing a transformative convergence of activities.

Financing is a key component of this transformation. Matulich noted that 60% of homeowners who say they will secure their own financing never actually complete the job. However, only 10% of homeowners cancel projects from contractors who offer secure financing. Instead of waiting for Home Star or state programs, he urged contractors to offer some type of financing to their clients right now. “When it comes to financing,” Matulich said, “there is no silver bullet. Make sure you have some kind of financing, and as these programs come to fruition, integrate them into your process.”

—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.