For now, product-specific incentives are motivating people to make their homes more efficient, thanks to tax credits in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Soon, say some, the major drivers of such improvements will shift to performance-based incentives — as in, prove that you’ve improved your home’s overall energy performance, and get money back.
And, hire certified contractors to execute the work, and test to verify that it was done safely and effectively.
And, spend far less than many existing incentives might compel you to spend.
Look ahead, says Carl Seville of Seville Consulting. “In the early stages, most of the stimulus money takes a prescriptive path: you replace things, you get this much money. But over the long term, [federal and state governments] are going to move to a performance-based model” of improving efficiency, he says.
Raising the Bar
“We have this problem … in that almost all incentives work against the most cost-effective loading order,” Golden says. He illustrates this premise in the graphic, and says that smarter incentives lie in the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (the energy bill), now inching its way through Congress. An element of the bill known as REEP, for Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance, calls to boost building efficiency 20% nationally, through incentives such as those in the list at right, and validated through pre- and post-retrofit energy audits using the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) or equivalent.
Other groups joining Efficiency First in supporting REEP include the Building Performance Institute (BPI), whose contractor accreditation standards or the equivalent are specified in REEP.
Performance-based standards “will spark the demand that will really push this industry to develop a competitive presence,” says Larry Zarker, BPI’s CEO. “Contractors will realize that they’ll benefit by setting the bar higher.”
“There is no shortcut to real training,” agrees Devon Hartman, of Hartman Baldwin Design/Build Hartman Baldwin Design Build, in Claremont, Calif. Instead of a “rush to spend” stimulus money encouraging inadequately trained people to do poor or ineffectual work, he advocates for higher standards and greater understanding of efficiency’s cost-benefit equation.
These sources are aware that many remodelers are in survival mode. But they say that it’s critical to find time to really understand efficiency. “Step back and ask where things are going,” Golden says. “And point your ship there.” —Leah Thayer, senior editor, REMODELING.