One thing I am finding out about living out here in the middle of the Pacific is utilities are expensive, very expensive. I guess it’s to be expected when you have to supply your own power, water, and other necessities, but according to some property owners I have heard from, it can get pretty pricey.
Electricity is the worst from what I understand. Hawaiian Electric is the big dawg on the islands, with a major monopoly on providing power. A scan of the website reveals the vast majority of the island’s power is supplied by, of all things, oil. Yes, the fossil fuel which has caused environmental disasters, wars, and Oklahoma earthquakes, remains the top choice for producing electricity. It’s a bit of a shock considering how much sunshine and wind is out here.
There are wind farms, you can see the big one here on Maui from the beach on the west side.
And there are a lot of buildings which have solar panels. But apparently, H.E. is not too keen on giving up it’s monopoly on power supply here, so there is not a lot of incentive to go with renewables as of yet.
I’ve heard horror stories of power bills approaching $1000 a month for a single family house. Like anyplace, conservation helps a lot. In the little condo where I currently reside, we have not run the air conditioner at all since I have been here and have no plans too. A few ceiling fans and some open windows to take advantage of the trade winds is more than sufficient to keep the place comfy. Beyond the climate control, all there is are the usual appliances, and not much else.
Water is next in line. Here in Maui, water is supplied by the Maui County Department of Water Supply. The fresh water comes from a variety of sources such as deep springs, run off from the mountain, catchment systems in the rainy areas, and some desalination plants. It’s drinkable for the most part, being filtered by the lava rock, and so far reliable except today as I write this sure-to-be-award-winning-post, said water has been out since 3:00am the past morning.
Again conservation goes a long way towards keeping the bills down and the county stresses such. A lot of usage depends on where one is on the island. Those on the dry leeward side tend to use a bit more than those on the rainy side.
My old friend, wifi, which I struggled so much to maintain a connection with in the Keys is not so bad here. Instead of the evil Comcast providing non service, Hawaii has the equally evil Time Warner Cable. The condo has said TWC and so far the connection has been reasonably strong, fast, and reliable. I have noticed on occasion where video has a tendency to slow down leading me to believe some throttling of download speeds may be in use, but overall, the wifi here in the condo has been more than sufficient. I’ve found plenty of hotspots around the island also. Seems like there is some sort of hotspot in every store and shopping center so getting a quick connection has been fairly easy.
I mentioned I dropped Sprint for my iPhone a while back, preferring to rely on hotspots rather than pay $100 a month for service I rarely use. I do still have the portable wifi hotspot in case of emergency and from what I have seen so far, as long a one is in an urban like area, the cell signals are strong, although a tad slow. Useable, none the less.
While utilities are pricey here in the islands, there are ways around some of the costs. In my case, my rent includes all utilities with the exception of ac. If I wanted to turn on the little wall unit, it would cost me. As I said earlier, the place is quite comfortable. The weather here, at least where I am is so mild, climate control inside is unnecessary. I do understand in places such as high up on the mountain, particularly in winter, heat becomes a necessity. I will stay down below, thank you very much.
Within the hinterlands of Maui, and on the other islands as well, many who live here and own property have gone off grid with their lifestyle. There are many small cabins, permaculture farms, and other residents where they provide their own power through solar, rely on catchment systems for water, cell for wifi or just go without, and compost toilets for waste, recycling said waste back into fertilizer for said farming. While it’s more work to build and maintain said systems, it does save a lot of money over paying out utility bills. The difficult part is finding a place where one is allowed to live off the grid. Not so easy when you have monopolistic corporate warlords who demand their tribute from the masses. But, people seem to make it work.
I looked at a lot of off grid places to rent before coming out here. Some were very tempting but I had to weigh costs vs convenience. Being it was my first trip here I wanted to have as few distractions as possible while I get a feel for living here. Most places were out of cell signal, or not near any bus routes nor shopping. So a vehicle would be necessary, something I am not ready to do again. Perhaps, now since I am out here I can look a bit closer at such places later on when I will have to move from where I am currently. At least there are cheaper options available. I like where I am at the moment, but dropping rent by a couple of hundred dollars a month would really make things more better. I’m in no hurry for now and I have the luxury of being able to be a bit picky about where I want to move to next.
So, just be aware should you decide to make a move out here to Hawaii and want to own some property or get into a rental situation where the utilities are extra, spend some time finding out the actual cost of said utilities before signing any lease or mortgage agreements. Be prepared for some sticker shock when you do. Learn to conserve power and water usage and look into alternative means when possible. It could save you a lot of money in the future.