There is a trend in home design and construction toward greener, cleaner sources of energy. On the mainland, this might mean installing solar panels in the backyard, using rain barrels to collect water in dry areas, and insulating doors and windows to reduce heating and cooling costs. But Hawaii’s natural landscape and regional climates take special consideration when thinking about energy-focused design. When you team up with a dedicated design and construction professional who really understands Hawaii’s features, like Greg Putman Construction, you’ll see how clever design of your Hawaiian home can save tons of energy.
Arguably one of Hawaii’s richest natural resources, solar energy is not to be ignored. Utilities are quite expensive on the Islands; the fuel oil that supplies most electric power plants has to be imported from the mainland, making electricity costly. Water, which has to be pumped to the surface, is typically heated electrically or with propane, the latter of which has to be specially shipped in and stored according to suppliers’ requirements. Most homes in Hawaii are on the grid, but they supplement their energy with photovoltaic cells that generate electricity from the sun. Using solar energy to heat water and power the home will help you save thousands of dollars every year in energy costs.
There are still tax cuts available for the purchase and installation of solar energy systems, and adding solar panels to your Hawaiian home will pay off big. During the sunny daytime, your home may be powered entirely by the energy from the sun, and at night (or when your solar panels are blocked by shade trees) your connection to the grid will keep your lights on and your water hot. Hawaii Electric Light Company, or HELCO, must approve your application, and some areas are on hold while they upgrade their existing systems. Speak with your design professional about including solar and other green energies in your home’s construction.
Green Heating and Cooling
While most people think of sandy beaches and fruity drinks—that is, of hot and sunny weather—most Hawaiian homes either don’t have air conditioning at all or don’t turn it on. Largely because energy is so expensive and air conditioners require so much of it, Hawaiians turn to natural methods of keeping their homes cool. Instead of keeping your doors and windows shut to try to stay cool, take advantage of Hawaii’s unique climate and build your home for energy-efficient heating and cooling.
How you design and construct your home has everything to do with how cool or warm the home stays during the warm days and chilly evenings. Speak with your design professional about orienting your home to take advantage of the natural coastal and mountain breezes so that they’ll flow through your home’s doors and windows and keep things fresh and cool. Design the home’s ventilation to allow cross breezes to enter the home easily. Make use of eaves and shade trees to keep sun off the home where possible. And choose energy-efficient materials! Asphalt shingles may be common on mainland roofs, but they do nothing to temper the heat of the sun. Opt instead of metal roofs with heat resistant coatings, wood shingles, or other locally favored materials.
It would be unthinkable for a home on the mainland not to have insulation, but in many Hawaiian homes insulation is an afterthought. Don’t skip this crucial step! Failing to insulate a home should be a crime, as the homeowners will only end up paying through the nose to keep their home cool in the warmer months and warm in the chilly months. If you combine insufficient insulation, or none at all, with a poorly oriented home with little support from cross breezes and asphalt shingles on the roof, there are no ceiling fans powerful enough to keep the place comfortable. The cost of insulating your walls and roof will be miniscule compared to the ongoing costs of leaving your home undefended from the heat.
When you’re trying to decide how to keep your Hawaiian home cool and comfortable, it really pays to speak with a local design and construction professional. They will know which materials to use to keep costs low and energy efficiency high; how to angle the house to take advantage of natural breezes; and the best design features for a home that’s comfortable year-round. Greg Putman Construction has been in the home design and construction business for over 25 years, and they have been local in Hawaii for a decade. He knows how to find a uniquely Hawaiian solution for any home design issue, and has the laid-back attitude to turn down the chaos on your home design and construction challenges. Give Greg and his team a call and see how they can help.