Heat abatement program at public schools

The Department's heat abatement effort prioritizes schools that require cooling strategies, which may include air conditioning.


The Department is working with the Legislature to fast-track air conditioning projects and other heat-relief initiatives via its Heat Abatement Program, which falls under the state's Capital Improvement Projects​ budget.

Heat abatement is working to reduce heat through passive and mechanical means. Air conditioning is a mechanical form of heat abatement. Passive means are techniques such as heat reflective paint and extending shading to remove direct sunlight from hitting a building.

Air conditioning isn't always the best option — many aging sc​hool facilities do not have the capacity to support it, nor can the state afford to install and run AC at all DOE schools statewide. The Department's facilities team analyzes each school and determines an approach that makes the most sense weighing all factors. Other cooling options include ceiling fans and ventilation. 

There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to reducing heat in schools, but there is a process that's informed by data to reduce heat in schools in the most effective and systematic way. The goal is to reduce classroom temperature via accumulated improvements (options laid out below). For classrooms where these efforts don't bring down the temperature sufficiently, AC and supplemental cooling is planned. Learn more in our 2015 Energy Systems Study​, and you can see school-by-school evaluations and projects, along with weather station data, on MK Think's HIDOE Classroom Heat Abatement site.

The Department is taking steps to monitor and adjust classroom temperatures. The HIDOE Thermal Comfort website features data from 37 schools with weather stations and 62 schools with indoor sensors that monitor classroom temperatures on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. Click here for more information. Visit hidoe-thermal-comfort.com to access the HIDOE Thermal Comfort website.

In the 2016 Legislative session, $100 million was appropriated to cool 1,000 classrooms, with instructions not to add to the net energy load. The approach included:

  • Air conditioning, including photovoltaic-powered AC.
  • Passive cooling including using heat-reflective paint, night-time vents, insulation, ceiling fans.
  • Electrical efficiencies to reduce load further as AC came online​.

In August 2017, we reached the goal of cooling 1,000 classrooms. As of May 2018, there were a total of 1,300 classroom AC units installed under this initiative. Additional units continue to be installed.

It is important to note the costs associated with air conditioning:

  • Equipment and installation
  • Electrical bill increase
  • Maintenance
  • Life cycle replacement (average of 7-10 years depending on type of AC system)

Heat Abatement Options

The Department's Schools Directed AC (SDAC) program enables school leaders to initiate the AC process by requesting an official electrical assessment from the Office of Facilities and Operations to determine where there is sufficient electrical capacity for AC in classrooms. The assessments are being done under existing heat abatement contracts using no additional funds.

Once assessments are completed, schools have a range of options to move forward, including starting to budget for the project, partnering with community groups for equipment donations, engaging area lawmakers, or seeking funds through the Department’s legislative budget request. Unlike some of the complex solar-powered systems designed and installed under the "cool classrooms" initiative, HIDOE is only allowing energy-efficient window AC units under the SDAC program to help control upfront costs and future maintenance. Learn more here.

These are vents that enable hot air to be vented out of classrooms allowing cooler air to come in. Since hot air rises, most of these are installed either on roofs or high up on walls or windows. Additional benefits is that these are powered by the sun and do not need electricity.

These are essentially high efficiency skylights that allow light into the classrooms without the heat generated by electric lights. In many cases, on sunny days, you don't need to turn on any lights.

Since 2005, the Facilities team has increased the insulation in roofs and walls to reduce the amount of heat gain in DOE buildings, helping to reduce the temperature inside our classrooms. These improvements were done in conjunction with needed repairs such as reroofing an existing building.

As part of a Race to the Top-funded facilities effort in the Zones of School Innovation​, ceiling fan installation was targeted for classrooms that (1) were not already air conditioned, (2) did not already have ceiling fans and (3) are used for student instruction.

By painting roofs with heat reflective fluid roof coating system instead of the basic black or gray materials, a temperature reduction of up to 5 degrees is possible. This system includes solar reflective properties and sometimes additional layers of insulation material to help reduce heat transferring into the classroom. This is more than a change in coloring for the roof. It has specific properties to minimize the impact of direct sunlight.​

​​Cost Factors​

​​The estimated cost of installing AC at all DOE schools is $1.7 billion. This figure was a snapshot of how much it would cost to install full-school AC systems like that at Pohakea Elementary, completed in 2010. This number will fall as a survey of HIDOE schools is completed to grasp how many classrooms/offices have AC now, and how many are still waiting for cooling retrofits (either heat abatement measures (listed above) or installed AC if needed).

The annual electricity bill for HIDOE schools and facilities is $48 million. This amount would increase as high-energy AC systems are installed.

New schools will incorporate smart, efficient and modern design principles that take into account the natural environment and exploit ways to cool facilities using less energy. Ho'okele Elementary, which opened in School Year 2015-16, is an example.​​

Preventing heat-related illness

During the hottest months of the school year, it's important that all parents and guardians heed these recommendations to help prepare children for warm temperatures.​

Contact Information

Office of Facilities and Operations

Phone: 808-586-3444



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