These chilly winter mornings have many homeowners turning up the thermostat and cranking up their heating bill. President Obama has proposed a plan to help homeowners plug drafts and lower heating costs.

Called Cash for Caulkers, the program would pay back homeowners up to $12,000 to make their homes more energy efficient. Homeowners could get rebates or tax credits for installing energy-saving appliances or insulation.

How the Program Might Work

A large part of Obama’s plan to stimulate the economy promotes energy-efficient jobs and manufacturing. Last month he urged lawmakers to give homeowners more incentives to make energy saving upgrades in homes.

Plans for the Cash for Caulkers program are still sketchy. In one scenario, approved contractors would perform energy audits on homes to show where energy-saving improvements would be the most cost-effective. Contractors or homeowners would purchase and install approved appliances or materials.

Rebates up to fifty percent of the cost to put in new energy-efficient appliances like air conditioners, heating systems, washing machines, and refrigerators might be available. Additional costs of weatherizing homes, such as new windows, insulation, and caulk, might also be covered.

Taking advantage of the program could also lower your energy bills by about 20 percent. So far, there's no income limit for eligibility in the program. It’s not clear whether you'd get tax credits or rebates directly from the federal government, or if the program would be run by state agencies. Program prooposals estimate costs to be around $10 billion to fund.

Take Advantage of Energy Saving Programs

You can’t take part in the Cash for Caulkers program yet because it’s still in the drafting stage. However, there are other ways to cut energy costs and take advantage of government sponsored energy-efficiency programs.

  • Online energy audit. Find out how your household’s energy use compares to other homes across the country with the Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick.
  • Weatherization assistance. The federally funded Weatherization Assistance Program provides low-income families with free home repairs to reduce heating and cooling costs. Contact your state administrator to apply for help in your area.
  • Federal tax credits. Visit EnergyStar.gov to learn about federal tax credits available for the installation of energy-efficient products and renewable energy systems in homes.
  • State programs. See DSIRE to find state, local, and utility company incentives that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency in homes and businesses.

Taking part in energy saving programs could help stimulate the economy, reduce environmental pollution, and cut your own energy bills.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Am I eligible to take tax credits for new windows, doors, and insulation installed in my home during 2009?
  • Are there any government energy-efficiency programs that apply to rental properties?
  • How could I become a certified or approved home energy auditor?

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