Monday, December 13, 2010

The Problem With Green Retrofitting Today

Cash for Caulkers is a lovely program.  Let's give people a financial incentive to upgrade to more energy efficient appliances, lay down some insulation, even install a newer furnace or wood stove.  It works well too.  People have taken advantage of the program.

Here's my problem:  Upfront spending.  The tax credits involved are wonderful for people who have the money in the first place.  These are the people that recognize that these upgrades will ultimately save them money through energy efficiency and they're recouping part of their investment anyway.  These are also people who probably can afford not to make the upgrades.  The people who need these upgrades the most, the ones that would be benefit the greatest, are the ones who don't have the money to spend in the first place.  Their old furnace, wood stove, water heater, windows, doors are all adequate and won't be replaced till its dire.  They're lucky if they have insulation in their walls or attic.  They're equally fortunate to have storm windows over their existing windows.

Now, you may ask, aren't their programs to help these people?  Sure.  First, you have to actually find the programs.  Second, make it through all the red tape.  Lastly, hope the money is still available.  Many programs have limited funding and are difficult to locate.  If you can deal with that, just hope you qualify.  I fall into a bracket where we don't really have the money to upgrade anything but we aren't quite poor enough to qualify for grants.  HUD does offer some help for those that are interested.

Honestly, I'm not sure what to do.  I don't really have a proposal.  I just think that all that money spent bailing out banks and car makers probably would have helped the economy more by buying a bunch of windows and insulation.  Imagine paying ten of thousands (or more) of workers across the country to install all these upgrades for people.  Then you have a whole class of people who previously spent a sizable portion of their income on heating and cooling that will now have a lot of free income to hopefully invest wisely or at least spend elsewhere, further helping the economy.

I may sound like a quack or a pinko commie but I do believe in taking care of each other.  If I was rich, I'd help the poor.