On January 1st, 2010, Hawaii became the first state in the country to require new homes to have solar water heaters installed. The law was passed in 2008 and was delayed to give more home builders time to get ready for the law to take place.
The law was the dream for an organization known as the Blue Planet Foundation, which sees the new law as a way to protect the environment and save a lot of money on energy costs for homeowners. It was also supported by the Hawaii Solar Energy Association.
It is estimated that the new law will save homeowners an average of $750 a year in energy costs, which are relatively high for an island nation that’s located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In some instances, home builders have been installing solar water heaters in homes since 2005, so it’s not necessarily a problem for them. However, there are some negatives with this new legislation.
Up until this year, there have been tax incentives for homeowners to install solar water heaters. Those incentives end with the new law, which means that home owners are going to have to foot the bill to the cost of somewhere between $5,000 and $7,000 per home, depending on the size of the home. Also, though the savings average $750 a year, that’s only for homes that have high water consumption, so a single family of 3 might not make back their investment for at least 15 years.
And that leads to one of three loopholes in the new law that can be exploited. One, if it’s estimated that homeowners won’t have the ability to make back their money within 15 years, they can opt out of having the water heaters installed. Two, if it can be proven that they live in what’s called a “sun disadvantaged area”, and I’m not sure how that would be determined, they can opt out. And finally, if a homeowner decides to install a tankless water heater, they also get to opt out of this law.
Loopholes aside, there is one more controversy with the new law that probably wont’ be changed. Some homeowners don’t believe it’s fair for the state to pass a law that will end up costing them more to purchase new homes. For their part, both BPF and HSEA are upset that there are so many loopholes in the law. It seems to prove that whether you get what you wanted or not, no one is ever totally happy.
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