Cash for caulkers was an energy efficiency initiative proposed in the United States in 2009. The original proposal called for rebates for homeowners who installed various energy efficiency measures. By providing a direct incentive to weatherize homes and upgrade appliances, the government could cut down on national energy use and stimulate jobs in the construction industry. Several attempts at passing legislation over the course of 2010 failed. Economic and political issues related to the global recession played a role in the program’s struggles.
Known officially as "Homestar," this program was given the “cash for caulkers” nickname in reference to another program, “cash for clunkers,” which encouraged people to trade in old vehicles and receive a rebate. The government also offered a limited appliance rebate program for refrigerators, washers, and dryers with energy efficiency measures. All of these proposals were intended to stimulate economic activity while simultaneously improving energy usage levels in the United States.
The proposal included two levels, silver and gold. People making minor energy efficiency changes could qualify for rebates on up to 50% of their purchases, up to a certain amount. In the gold Homestar proposal, the government recommended rebates for homeowners who paid for an energy efficiency audit and made substantial changes to their homes. Creating two tiers was designed to encourage people without substantial sums to dedicate to energy efficiency to participate, while offering an incentive to people who could afford to spend more.
Proponents of cash for caulkers pointed out that it could have a number of benefits. Making homes more energy efficient cuts costs for residents, who spend less on heating and cooling, in addition to reducing the strain on the energy grid. Furthermore, purchases of energy efficiency supplies would benefit manufacturers and retailers, while construction workers would see more jobs as a result of the program. The United States was struggling with economic problems at the time of the proposal and this was one measure suggested for addressing the faltering economy while promoting long-term stability.
A high cost for cash for caulkers led some legislators to baulk at the program. It included billions of dollars in funding distributed across the nation, and there were concerns about whether the money would be used efficiently and appropriately. Some legislators felt the government had spent enough on other stimulus activities and believed the cash for caulkers proposal might create an unnecessary financial burden without offering enough clear benefits.