SOLAR WATER HEATER VARIANCE

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 Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (HRS), requires that after January 1, 2010, any NEW single-family dwelling built in the State of Hawai‘i 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 Hawai‘i 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 Hawai‘i 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 Hawai‘i 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 Hawai‘i 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 Hawai‘i state energy office on an application prescribed by the chief energy officer of the Hawai‘i state energy office.”

SUBMITTING REQUESTS USING ONLINE APPLICATION

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 Hawai‘i may submit a request for a solar water heater variance.

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.

The online application allows for easier fee payment and tracking of your variance request. However, if you prefer to submit a variance request using the manual process, see the section below for instructions and links for submitting a request via e-mail, U.S. mail, or hand-delivery.

SUBMITTING REQUESTS USING OFFLINE APPLICATION

Requests submitted via e-mail, U.S. Postal Service, and hand-delivery also require a $25 per request processing fee. For these offline requests, a check in the amount of $25 per request payable to “State of Hawaii-DBEDT” must accompany the variance request or be mailed to:

DBEDT Hawaii State Energy Office
SWH Variance
P.O. Box 2359
Honolulu, HI 96804-2359

One check can cover multiple solar water heater variance requests if they are all submitted at the same time.

Write the Tax Map Key (TMK) number at the bottom of the check.

Note: If a check is not received within 10 business days of the receipt of the variance request or if the check does not clear within 29 business days of receipt of the variance request, the request shall be DENIED.

Be sure to follow directions and complete the variance request correctly. Incorrect or missing information will cause the request to be DENIED.

There are no refunds for denied requests.

OFFLINE REQUEST FORM FOR A SOLAR WATER HEATER VARIANCE

The variance request form has been revised to reflect the new gas demand tankless water heater requirements.

All solar water heater variance requests must use the latest form below. The use of older forms will cause the request to be denied.

Click on the link below for a Microsoft Word version of the Request for Variance form. Use this form if submitting a variance via e-mail, U.S. mail, or hand-delivery. Use of older forms will not be accepted and will cause the request to be denied. There are no refunds for denied requests.

Follow the instructions on the form. Incorrect or incomplete forms shall cause the variance request to be denied.

Offline Variance submittal information:

  • E-mail: [email protected].
  • U.S. Postal Service: DBEDT Hawaii State Energy Office, SWH Variance, P.O. Box 2359, Honolulu, HI 96804-2359.
  • Hand-delivery: DBEDT Hawaii State Energy Office, 235 South Beretania Street, 5th Floor, Room 504, Honolulu, HI 96813. Office hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed on state and federal holidays.

A Life Cycle Cost Comparison (LCCC) worksheet must be submitted with a variance request if selecting Justification #1 (installation of a solar water heater is impracticable or cost prohibitive) or Justification #3 (gas-tankless instantaneous water heater). Instructions to complete the LCCC and an explanation of the LCCC can be found in the links below. Solar water heater variance requests and LCCC worksheets must be signed and stamped by a Hawaii-licensed architect or mechanical engineer and sent using the submittal information listed above. If submitting by email, please note “SWH Variance” in subject box.

The Microsoft Excel spreadsheet used to calculate life cycle costs for solar and other methods of water heating contains formulae that cannot calculate unless you use the Excel software. Here is the link to the current LCCC:

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.

MARCH 3, 2021, NOTICE

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.
  5. The applicant must be the party who will ultimately pay for the energy cost consumption.

For questions, contact [email protected].

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