Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation
The mobilization of homeowners to make energy efficient updates continues to be a challenge in the drive to reduce energy consumption.
A newly proposed bill to provide tax incentives for home performance upgrades has been introduced by U.S. Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico) an Dianne Feinstein (D-California) entitled Cut Energy Bills at Home Act.
This new tax credit is based on the annual predicted energy cost savings from improvements to heating, cooling, hot water, and permanent lighting in a taxpayer’s primary residence. The value of the credit begins at $2,000 for a 20 percent reduction in the energy consumption of a residential home for heating, cooling, water heating and permanent lighting. The credit increases by $500 for every additional 5 percentage point increase in energy savings, up to $5,000 and the credit is capped at 30 percent of the cost of the improvements which includes labor, diagnostics and modeling costs. Improvements would have to be “designed, implemented, and installed” by a contractor accredited by the Building Performance Institute (BPI), Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), or a similar program approved by the Treasure Department.
This requirement is a positive one for building professionals but also insures that the work done will provide the necessary end result to qualify the building for the credit. This bill does go a bit further in scope than the previous tax credit. If there is a move to label homes for energy efficiency in a similar way to the energy rating of appliances (as we have spoke of before), then this program will be an invaluable proving ground for the methods, financing, and human resources needed for the retrofitting of older buildings to bring them up to current codes. With a majority of our building inventory more than 30 years old (say 100 million buildings out loud), we need to focus on bringing these buildings up to current standards if we hope to reach our national energy goals as outlined in the Architecture 2030 Challenge.
This bill may not be perfect but it does provide stimulation to the building community and continues to encourage building owners to reduce energy consumption.