Friday, January 1, 2010


Most new homes in Hawai 'i will need to come with a solar water heater under a law that takes effect today.

The legislation is one of only a handful of new laws that kick in on this New Year's Day.

But it's the so-called "solar roofs" law that puts Hawai'i on the map, since no other state mandates that new housing have solar water heaters.

The law is hailed by environmentalists, who say solar heaters are not only environmentally friendly, they save consumers money. But some in the solar heating industry still have concerns about the law's efficacy and some loopholes.

Enacted in 2008 but mandated to begin today, the law says a building permit cannot be issued for a new single-family structure that does not include a solar water heater system meeting certain standards.

A homebuilder may, however, apply for a variance through the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' energy resources coordinator, under some circumstances.

Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the nonprofit Blue Planet Foundation, said that with a solar water heater, the typical homeowner will pay 30 percent to 40 percent less on their electric bills, or about $750 a year, depending on the number of people in the household and how much water they use.

Carilyn Shon, the state's energy conservation program manager, pointed out that petroleum experts are estimating that oil prices will more than double in the coming two years, providing additional incentive for people to go to solar water heating.

"The people who are going to install solar water heating as of 2010, or who already have it, are going to be the beneficiaries," Shon said.

From the environmental standpoint, the law will reduce greenhouse gas emissions statewide by 8,000 tons annually from avoided electricity use, according to the Blue Planet Foundation, which aims to make Hawai'i energy independent.

Article from the Honolulu Advertiser
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer

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