Solar Water Heater Variance

MARCH 3, 2021 NOTICE:

Beginning immediately, you may begin using the new Water Heating Life Cycle Cost Comparison (LCCC) workbook dated February 2021.

Go to Water Heating Life Cycle Cost Comparison


Effective September 23, 2020

The option of submitting requests using the offline application process has been temporarily discontinued due to COVID-19.  See below for more information on Governor’s September 23, 2020 Thirteenth Emergency Proclamation.

Applications will only be processed digitally, and all follow ups will occur by email or phone; no in-person meetings will be accommodated for the duration of the emergency proclamation.

Go to Online Application


Anyone considering an application for a variance from the residential solar water heater law should be aware that all five of the following requirements must be met if a gas-tankless instantaneous (on-demand gas) water heater is the selected alternative:

  1. Approved (certified) by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL) or other nationally recognized testing laboratory;
  2. At least one additional gas appliance must be installed in the dwelling;
  3. The gas water heater must provide hot water only as it is needed;
  4. The burden of proof will lie with the applicant to demonstrate that a solar water heater system, regardless of location or circumstance, is not cost effective in the context of a 30-year mortgage term; and
  5. The applicant must be the party who will ultimately pay for the energy cost consumption

 

For questions contact [email protected].


Background and Basics of the Solar Water Heater Mandate

What is the Solar Water Heater Mandate?

Act 204, Session Laws of Hawai‘i 2008, codified as Section 196-6.5 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS), requires that after January 1, 2010, any NEW single-family dwelling built in the State of Hawaii is required to have a solar water heater. This law applies to accessory dwelling units (ADU) and similar single-family dwellings.  This law does not apply to duplexes, triplexes, condos, or other multi-family dwellings.  The law states, in relevant part:

§196-6.5 Solar water heater system required for new single-family residential construction.  (a) On or after January 1,
2010, no building permit shall be issued for a new single-family dwelling that does not include a solar water heater
system that meets the standards established pursuant to section 269-44, unless the chief energy officer of the Hawaii
state energy office approves a variance.  A variance application shall only be accepted if submitted by an architect or
mechanical engineer licensed under chapter 464, who attests that:

(1)  Installation is impracticable due to poor solar resource;

(2)  Installation is cost-prohibitive based upon a life cycle cost-benefit analysis that incorporates the average residential
utility bill and the cost of the new solar water heater system with a life cycle that does not exceed fifteen years;

(3)  A renewable energy technology system, as defined in section 235-12.5, is substituted for use as the primary energy
source for heating water; or

(4)  A demand water heater device approved by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc., is installed; provided that at least one
other gas appliance is installed in the dwelling.  For the purposes of this paragraph, “demand water heater” means a
gas-tankless instantaneous water heater that provides hot water only as it is needed.

A subsequent ruling in Hawaii Circuit Court in 2019 stated, in part:

“Specific direction as to … reviewing gas variance applications is available from the statute’s legislative history. The court directs DBEDT to the statements and findings above, as well as the following statements made by the legislature when amending the statute in 2009:

‘It is the intent of the legislature that the variances provided for in Act 204, Session Laws of Hawaii 2008 (Act 204) will
be rarely, if ever, exercised or granted because the burden of proof will lie with the applicant to demonstrate that a solar
water heater system, regardless of location or circumstance, is not cost effective in the context of a 30-year mortgage
term.’”


Solar Water Heater Variances

If you are considering requesting a “variance” (exemption) from the solar water heater law, your architect or mechanical engineer will need to submit a Solar Water Heater Variance Request to the Hawaii State Energy Office. As required by HRS Section 196-6.5:

(a)… A variance application shall only be accepted if submitted by an architect or mechanical engineer licensed under
chapter 464…

(b)  A request for a variance shall be submitted to the chief energy officer of the Hawaii state energy office on an
application prescribed by the chief energy officer of the Hawaii state energy office…

Architects and Mechanical Engineers
Please use this online application to submit solar water heater variance requests. Pursuant to HRS §196-6.5, only architects and mechanical engineers licensed to do business in the State of Hawaii may submit a request for a solar water heater variance.

Solar Water Heater Variance Request Online Application

 

Required Processing Fee of $25 for Every Variance Request
Each request for a solar water heater variance submitted through the online application requires a $25 payment by credit card or eCheck.

Be sure to complete the online application correctly.  Any incorrect or missing information will cause the request to be DENIED.

There are no refunds for denied requests.

 

Submitting Requests Using Offline Application

This option has been temporarily discontinued due to COVID-19.

From the Governor’s September 23, 2020 Emergency Proclamation, available from the Emergency Proclamations page.

[Section VI.D., relating to suspension of laws:]

“Sections 15-37-4(a)(2) – (5), HAR, procedure for a SWHV, so that all solar water heater variance requests and payments will be done online at the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism Energy Division Solar Water Heater Variance website, and no other submittal methods (i.e., email, fax, U.S. Postal Service, or hand delivery) or payments by check will be accepted. ”

Applications will only be processed digitally, and all follow ups will occur by email or phone; no in-person meetings will be accommodated for the duration of the emergency proclamation.

The Microsoft “Excel” spreadsheet used to calculate life cycle costs for solar and other methods of water heating contains formulae which cannot calculate unless you use the Excel software.

Water Heater Life Cycle Cost Comparison (LCCC)-February 2021

The chart below summarizes all the requests for a variance from the solar water heater mandate processed by the DBEDT Hawaii State Energy Office. It is updated regularly as requests are received and as variances are approved, denied, or not accepted.

Summary Chart of Solar Water Heater Variance Requests: July 8, 2021 (PDF)


Background

All NEW single-family dwellings built in the State of Hawaii are required to have a solar water heater (HRS §196-6.5). A request for a variance from this state law can be submitted to the DBEDT Hawaii State Energy Office if it meets the criteria for a variance as attested (and submitted) by an architect or mechanical engineer licensed to do business in the State of Hawaii. As stated in Act 204 (June 26, 2008), the legislation creating HRS §196-6.5, “the purpose of this Act is to increase the use of renewable energy to protect our environment, reduce pollution, make housing more affordable, and enhance Hawaii’s local economy.” HRS §196-6.5 also allows for the creation of administrative rules and the assessment of fees.

Hawaii Administrative Rules, Title 15, Chapter 37, “Solar Water Heater Variance,” was adopted on August 27, 2018.

More background and supporting information can be found on the Frequently Asked Questions:

SWHV FAQs, March 2021 (PDF)