We’ve talked before about the value of energy efficiency retrofits. For many facilities managers, the first step towards cutting energy use and reducing costs involves picking (and retrofitting) low-lying fruit like lighting, insulation, and HVAC. Of course, homeowners can also benefit from similar change outs, and this week, the Obama Administration will unveil a new program designed to make it easy for homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their residences.
The “Recover Through Retrofit” program—set to be introduced in a Tuesday announcement by Vice President Joe Biden—includes new software, government funded financing, and a set of construction guidelines designed specifically for energy efficiency upgrades and retrofit contractors. The plan is to first test the program in nine communities, with nationwide implementation to begin later in the year.
Using the software involves starting with an energy audit that the software then uses to generate a Home Energy Score, factoring in both current energy use and the future potential savings possible through energy efficiency upgrades and retrofits. The Home Energy Score will help homeowners compare their residence against the efficiency of other homes in similar climates and locales. As part of the Home Energy Score, homeowners will receive a list of recommended improvements—added insulation, air sealing, and more efficient heating and cooling—to help them plan and prepare for their retrofit.
Financing will also be available through the PowerSaver loan program to help fund property improvements. PowerSaver—a two-year pilot program offered by the Federal Housing Administration—will make low-rate loans available with repayment terms as long as 20 years. Homeowners will be able to apply for loans in amounts up to $25,000 from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. USA Today estimates that over 24,000 homes will qualify during a two-year pilot program.
The need for construction guidelines can be traced back to a White House report which concluded that “Currently, there are not enough well-trained residential energy retrofit workers and not enough green entrepreneurs to expand the home energy efficiency industry.” Additionally, an audit conducted by the DOE’s Inspector General Office of Audit Services of the stimulus weatherization program in Illinois found “substandard performance” in the assessments, the actual weatherization work, and contractor billing. (Click for PDF of report.) As a result, the program sets voluntary guidelines homeowners can use to find a contractor with the skills and expertise needed to perform the audit and the retrofit. The purpose of the guidelines is also to insure consistency of work and to provide homeowners with a qualifications format they can trust.
In a prepared statement, Biden expressed the hope that the Recover Through Retrofit program would provide the right tools for homeowners so that they can invest in energy upgrades, concluding “Together, these programs will grow the home retrofit industry and help middle-class families save money and energy.”
Ultimately, the hope is that by provided homeowners with information they can trust will empower them to invest in property improvements geared towards energy upgrades and increased efficiency.
So what do you think? Could something like the Home Energy Score be created for our biggest energy users? Do large facilities like industrial parks, malls, hospitals, and data centers have the same concerns regarding reliability of information and the skill and experience of their retrofit and upgrade contractors? And would similar financing—including low-cost loans—encourage our big energy users to invest in energy efficiency solutions for their facilities?