Solar Water Heater Variance

Public hearing was held on a new solar water heater variance administrative rule

A public hearing on a new administrative rule was conducted on Wednesday, November 1, 2017, 9:00 a.m., Leiopapa A Kamehameha building, 235 South Beretania Street, Conference Room 204, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96813.  Prior notification of the public hearing was publicized in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Hawaii Tribune-Herald, West Hawaii Today, The Maui News, and The Garden Island, on Friday, September 29, 2017.

The public hearing was conducted at the stated date, time, and place.  The Hawaii State Energy Office of the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) is currently considering the testimony and will decide on the next steps.

Please visit this website for updates on the solar water heater variance administrative rule and variance request website.


The Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism (DBEDT) is proposing the following addition to the Hawaii Administrative Rules, Title 15, Chapter 37 (new chapter), entitled, “Solar Water Heater Variance.”

PURPOSE OF THIS NEW ADMINISTRATIVE RULE:  The main purpose of this new administrative rule is for DBEDT to provide a website for solar water heater (SWH) variance request submissions.  This will enhance the process of applying for and approving a SWH variance by automating many of the tasks now done manually, thereby saving time and effort on the part of the general public and the State.  The website will provide architects and mechanical engineers a more efficient method of applying for the variance.  The website also will allow the State a faster, more efficient method of analyzing and approving the variance requests.  The approved variance request will be automatically e-mailed to the submitter when it is approved.

This rule also will allow the State to charge for each variance request for website costs.

QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS:  If you have any questions or comments regarding the proposed administrative rule, please direct your question to Dean Masai, DBEDT Energy Analyst, at

A link to a listing all of the public questions and concerns, and answers from DBEDT, is available here.

Thank you very much for your patience.

GOAL OF THE MANDATORY SOLAR WATER HEATER LAW:  It is the goal of the State of Hawaii to achieve 100 percent clean energy by the Year 2045.  A significant part of the process to achieve this goal is for home owners to make their homes as energy efficient as possible.  A solar water heater is one of the best ways that a homeowner can save energy (and money) in Hawaii.

Act 155 2009 (HB1464, CD1) Part VII, Solar Water Heater System, Section 13:  It is the intent of this 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.  Therefore, the legislature intended for a consumer to have the option to use gas appliances with the full knowledge that such a system may be more costly and less efficient.  To obviate any attempt to circumvent Act 204, the legislature intends that if the potential variance applicant is not the party who will ultimately pay for the energy cost consumption, then only paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of subsection 196-6.5, Hawaii Revised Statutes, should apply.

Information and forms to apply for exemption from solar water heater mandate

As of January 1, 2010, all NEW single-family dwellings built in the State of Hawaii are required to have a solar water heater (Act 204, June 26, 2008, now HRS 196-6.5).  A request for a variance (exemption) from this state law can be submitted to DBEDT by a licensed architect or mechanical engineer.  Click on the link below for a Request for Variance form and, if needed, the accompanying life cycle cost comparison worksheet.  Completed, stamped and signed requests and LCC comparison worksheets should be e-mailed to Dean Masai at (please put “SWH Variance” in subject box).

Click on the links below for answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding variances to the State of Hawaii’s mandatory solar water heater law. To read the PDFs, you will need appropriate software such as Adobe’s free Acrobat Reader.

Fill out this form to request an exemption from Hawaii’s solar water heater mandate law.  Depending on the reason for your variance request, you may also need to complete the “Water Heating Life Cycle Cost Comparison” spreadsheet, below.

The Excel spreadsheet used to calculate life cycle costs for solar and other methods of water heating contains formulae and explanatory comments which can’t be read unless you use the Excel software.  This explanation lists the calculations and comments for people completing the spreadsheet form manually.

A chart summarizing requests for a variance from the solar water heater mandate received by DBEDT will be updated here regularly, as requests are received and as variances are approved or denied.

UL-certified instantaneous gas water heater manufacturers list is available at Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.  On the UL Online Certification Directory:

  1. Type LUVK into the “UL Category Code” box
  2. Click on the “Search” button

The next UL “Online Certifications Directory” page lists companies that make UL-certified instantaneous gas water heaters (8 companies are listed).  The names are linked to lists of the UL-certified gas tankless water heaters.  Please note some water heaters are “commercial.”