Hawaii’s electricity the most expensive in the nation, but there are ways to save

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — A $2 million program to help Hawaii residents pay their utility bills is now closed after just two days.

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The Hawaii Utility Bill Assistance Program launched on Monday, Feb. 8, but high demand has led Aloha United Way to put a pause on accepting applications. They say nearly all of the money that Hawaiian Electric (HECO) pledged to the program has helped 2,700 households so far.

HECO has approximately 16,000 customers behind 90 days or more on payments and is asking those who are behind to go to their website to set up a zero-interest payment agreement.

The Utility Bill Assistance Program is now accepting contributions to help those that are on the waiting list, but with Hawaii’s electricity costs the highest in the nation, there are still ways to save money on utilities.

HECO’s current electricity rates range from as low as 26 cents per kilowatt-hour in Honolulu to a high of 34 cents on Lanai, which is triple the national average.

Using fans and open windows instead of air conditioners can yield big savings with wintertime cooling down temperatures in Hawaii.

“One of the cooler hacks we like to do with our ceiling fan is, if you actually look at your ceiling fan, make sure that it’s spinning counterclockwise,” Blue Planet Foundation Creative Director David Aquino said. “Because what that does is it actually pulls cool air up over you rather than blowing hot air down onto you, and most ceiling fans actually have a little switch on top where you can change the direction of the fan.”

Deficient appliances eat electricity. Blue Planet Foundation says hot water heaters take an average of 60% of a home’s energy use, so take shorter showers or invest in a solar hot water heater or an energy-efficient one. The water heater can also be set on a timer or turned it off.

“If you’re not going to be using it for, say, a span of several hours, you can turn off that hot water heater,” HECO Corporate Communications Manager Shannon Putnam said.

Extra refrigerators typically cost about $200 per year in energy. Making sure the fridge and freezer work correctly is another way to save.

“Its called the dollar bill test,” Aquino said. “You actually take a dollar bill, shut the dollar bill on top of it. If you can pull it out fairly easy you know it’s time to replace the seals on your refrigerator. If it stays, put that bill back in your pocket knowing you saved a ton of money on your electricity bill.”

HECO recommends looking at LED options when changing lightbulbs.

“You’re going to see that you don’t have to change the light bulbs as much,” Putnam said.

Spend time cleaning appliances that can work for you while spring cleaning.

“That could be things like cleaning your refrigerator coils, cleaning out your air filters for your air conditioning, and cleaning your solar panels to make sure that they’re all working as efficiently as possible,” Aquino said.

HECO’s Shift and Save program could make sense for those who spend most of their time at their residence since more people are working from home. Current rates in Honolulu are 10.9 cents per kilowatt-hour from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 39.8 cents from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and 31.6 cents from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. It is also available for neighbor islands except for Kauai.

“If you’re able to use all your energy or most of the energy used in your household during those hours, you’ll be able to save,” Putnam said. “You’re using it when there’s most renewable energy on our grid. So you’re being rewarded for using the energy from renewables,” Putnam said.

HECO also offers a bill that features a comparison of normal rates for those that opt-in to the Shift and Save program.

The Board of Water Supply recommends fixing leaking pipes, watering your lawn twice a week outside of the hours from 9 am to 5 pm, and installing efficient fixtures as some of the ways to save on your water bill.

While saving money, reducing energy usage in Hawaii where petroleum and coal make up the majority of electric energy means helping in the fight against climate change.

“The more we can do to reduce the amount of energy that we use in the islands, the better off, and the smaller footprint that will be,” Aquino said. “We’re all in this together and it’s up to each of us to do our part in making sure that we’re really addressing climate change and really being efficient as possible.”

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