The plan would take the approval of Congress.
"When it comes to domestic policy, I have no more important job as president than seeing to it that every American that wants to work and is able to work can find a job," Obama said at Savannah Technical College, in a state where the unemployment rate tops the national average of 9.7 percent.
"That was my focus last year and that is my focus this year," he said, "to lay a foundation for economic growth that creates jobs." He appeared in Georgia three days before the government releases the February unemployment report.
Speaking to the many people looking for jobs, Obama said he knows "it's tough out there."
The administration is hoping the energy rebate plan could become as popular as last year's Cash for Clunkers money-back program for autos. Consumers would collect immediate rebates for buying insulation, water heaters or other equipment to make their homes burn energy more efficiently.
Various vendors, ranging from small, independent contractors to national home improvement chains, would promote the rebates, give the money to consumers and then be reimbursed by the federal government.
Some details of the program, including how long it will run and its total cost, remain to be worked out with Congress, administration officials said.
The price tag could be in the range of $6 billion.
Obama said the upfront costs would be worth it, just as homeowners must put money into their homes to improve them and save costs in the long term.
Appealing to Congress, Obama said: "I just hope Washington stands along side me in making sure we've got the kind of energy future that we need." Congress has stalled several of Obama's legislative efforts, including overhauling the health care system, addressing climate change and giving the government a bigger role in providing student loans.
Cash for Clunkers was a $3 billion program that ran for about a month last year, from July 27 to Aug. 25.
The latest proposal has two levels of rebates.
Under the first level of energy rebates, to be called Silver Star, consumers would be eligible for rebates between $1,000 and $1,500 for a variety of home upgrades, including adding insulation, sealing leaky ducts and replacing water heaters, HVAC units, windows, roofing and doors. There would be a maximum rebate of $3,000 per home.
Under the second level, Gold Star, consumers who get home energy audits and then make changes designed to reduce energy costs by at least 20 percent would be eligible for a $3,000 rebate. Additional rebates would be available for savings above 20 percent.
If the program is enacted, the administration expects millions of households will boost demand for insulation, water heaters and the like -- the same way consumers pumped up car and truck sales last year by trading in their gas-guzzling autos with more fuel-efficient models.
While at the college, Obama shared a photo-opportunity moment with about 10 students from the YouthBuild Savannah program, who were laying bricks and cinder blocks. The training program was funded through federal economic stimulus grants.
"We're very proud of you guys," Obama said.