Going green doesn’t mean that you need to live “off the grid.” There are plenty of ways to make a home more sustainable. On Kauai, as well as the rest of Hawai’i, we are fortunate to have mild temperatures all year round with an abundance of wind to cool your home naturally and rain to water your landscaping without irrigation. With so many natural resources available, it’s an ideal place for green homes. While some homes are certified green by housing or environmental industry groups, properties don’t necessarily have to carry a label to be considered green. For existing homes, there’s a vast array of strategies for achieving greater efficiency.
Though the absence of extreme temperatures can alleviate the need for some big appliances such as a furnace, energy costs in Hawai’i are some of the highest in the country. Even small projects can make a big difference in your energy bill. Green home improvements don’t have to be expensive or time-consuming.
Where to Start
A great resource to check first is the local electric utility company. KIUC offers a free in-home energy audit, also known as the Hale Program. An energy specialist will come to your home and make suggestions specific to your household on what changes would make the highest impact. Here are a few ideas to get you started…
- Switch to CFL or LED light bulbs
- Solar garden lights
- In-ground moisture sensor for irrigation
- Low flow shower and faucet heads
- Fix leaky faucets
- Use low VOC paint
- Plant a garden
- Programmable thermostat if you have central air conditioning
- Make an effort to shorten shower times
- Buy products with biodegradable packaging whenever possible
- Solar hot water heater or a tankless hot water heater
- Energy Star appliances
- Whole house fan or solar attic fan
- Hybrid Solar AC Conditioners
- Tubular skylights
- Low flow toilets with dual flush controls
- Photovoltaic systems (solar panels)
Tax Credits and Rebates
Solar panels or photovoltaic systems are the first things many people think of when you start talking about green homes. In 2019, Kaua’i homeowners have two large tax credits available. When purchasing a system, you are eligible for a 35% Hawai’i tax credit and an additional 30% federal tax credit. This can make purchasing a system quite affordable. If owning doesn’t interest you, many companies offer leasing options as well.
Switching to a solar hot water heater can make a big difference in your utility bill. KIUC provides a $1,000 rebate incentive for customers who want to replace their existing electric water heater. They also offer a zero interest loan to purchase the system.
Thinking of getting new appliances? KIUC has a New Efficient Appliance Replacement Rebate Program. You can find out more about that program here.
Thinking of Building?
Builders with green practices in mind will often design homes to include a tight building envelope, passive solar, and proper ventilation to utilize the islands tradewinds. Homes made primarily of hemp are becoming more popular as well, largely due to the cost and sustainability benefits the material provides. Hawai’i’s first hemp house was built just two years ago on Maui. Hempcrete is made of a mixture of hemp, lime, and water. It is energy efficient, non-toxic and resistant to many common home maladies, such as mold and insect infestation. It has been referred to as a “revolutionary building material.”
The National Association of Realtors Green Resource Council has composed a great checklist for greening a home, along with links to resources. If you would like a copy, please contact me and I would be happy to email it to you.