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How to get ready for Cash for Caulkers

January 5, 2010

Cash for Caulkers (Photo: Getty Images)
Details for the U.S. government's Cash for Caulkers program aren't available yet, but it's not too early to start thinking about how to cash in on the proposed stimulus program. "Homeowners that educate themselves will be the first ones to take advantage of the program," says Lane Burt, at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He recommends that you get educated about your home now so you'll know what kinds of changes you'd like to make when the money becomes available. This is good point when you remember that Cash for Clunkers ran out of cash in the end. "Understand what you want to do so that you're not the one left in line when the program runs out of money," says Burt. While the details are still being hammered out, there are potentially two ways to have the government help with the costs of making your home more energy efficient:
  1. One idea is that an accredited buildings professional would come in to conduct an energy audit to determine where energy efficiency improvements can be made, help you decide on a plan of action, and then execute that plan. The expectation is that homeowners could get back 50 percent of what they spend up to a maximum rebate of $12,000.
  2. The other way to get government money is to buy an energy-efficient furnace, windows, or other component. There are federal rebates already available and several states also offer rebates for purchasing energy-efficient appliances and more.   
If you decide to make changes yourself and get a rebate on an individual purchase, then know that which order to make home improvements in is important. You'll want to seal leaks and tighten your building's shell so the air you pay to warm or cool doesn't leak out before you buy a new furnace, for example. While we're all waiting for the proposal to get passed, Burt suggests thinking what your home needs. Figure out where you are wasting energy. Take a look at your energy bill and compare it to others in the area. Start looking for leaks. Look at ducts and make sure they are all connected. Do the things that you can do yourself and that don't cost much money. Some suggestions: These are all baseline changes that should be made before you embark on more extensive changes so that you can maximize energy and money savings. Also, think about whether you want to hire a contractor and go for the whole-house approach or if you'd like to pick one project to focus on. Experts say that you'll most likely need to hire a professional contractor to get the most financial support from the government. If you hire a contractor, that person will tell you exactly where you can save money and in which order you should make changes so that you can maximize savings. Environmental journalist Lori Bongiorno shares green-living tips and product reviews with Yahoo! Green's users. Send Lori a question or suggestion for potential use in a future column. Her book, Green Greener Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-smart Choices a Part of Your Life is available on Yahoo! Shopping and Amazon.com. Check out Yahoo! Green on Twitter and Facebook.
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