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Hilo, Hawaii, on the “Big Island” is a beautiful truly Hawaiian town at the base of 13,796 foot Mauna Kea – home of 13 telescopes (Yes, the mountain is snow-covered in the winter – but it’s always warm in Hilo!)

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Leslie & Jo Hittner

In March 2014, we visited the Big Island for one day. We loved it. In particular, we fell in Love with Hilo. We returned for two weeks that following December/January. We needed to be sure. We were. By the end of January 2015, we were the happy owners of a townhome in Hilo. We now continue a decision we made long ago: to use energy as wisely as possible. We continue our goal of reducing our “carbon footprint.”   Below are the initiatives that we have implemented in Hilo.


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We have also retained a presence in Winona during the summer.  Who can completely abandon Minnesota’s fine summer weather? Who can go a year without attending the GRSF, or the Minnesota Beethoven Festival, or the Commonweal Theater in Lanesboro? We also continue to have family and great friends here in Winona.

Our unit is on the left side of the middle floor in this picture.

Now, I have to get to work to see what it takes to put a big solar array on that great roof!


Green Heat and AC – No Furnace and no AC

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Yes, some of the newer buildings are air conditioned. Our townhome, however, is built in the classical Hawaiian energy-efficient way. We have wide eaves, and lanais which keep the sun from shining into the house.

We also have open louvers at the bottoms of windows. Yes, the trade winds move air through our home continuously – and for free!


Green Power – Solar Photo-Voltaic

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This is the array on the house
we built in Winona.

The photo-voltaic grid-tied array that we are installing in Hilo will generate a peak of 4,000 watts of electricity when the sun is shining. Hilo days are typically not completely clear, so production will often be slightly less – but unlike our snow-covered panels in Minnesota, these Hilo panels will generate significant power for 12 months of every year. Typically, that will represent 30-36 Kilowatt-hours of power each day.

Grid-tie systems do not store electricity. Every watt of power generated by this array is either used in the house or sold to the Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO). On most days, the array should generate more power than we use. Since we continue to use power at night, when the array is not producing, we will continue to purchase power from HELCO, but hopefully the cost of that power will be offset by the revenue generated during the day.  We will soon begin collecting the data needed to analyze our net savings.


Green Lighting – LEDs

All of the lights in our townhome have been replaced with LEDs.  We found a great line of inexpensive LED bulbs at Home Depot that are not dimmable and offer the maximum in savings. We have one dimmable LED bulb in the light fixture above the dining room table.


Green Transportation – Ford Escape Hybrid

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Ford Escape hybrid in 2010 and moved it to Hilo in August 2015. The hybrid system is the same as that used in the Toyota vehicles. The Escape averages 35 mpg but in Hawaii, where the speed limits are generally 55 mph or less, we expect to average 38 mpg.

The best single tank mileage we have achieved is 40 mpg.