Sunday, September 30, 2012

Moving to Hawaii

When we moved to Hawaii, we were faced with a lot of big decisions like what to bring, whether to ship our cars or buy new ones on the island, and how to transport everything over 2,000 miles across an ocean. We have come to realize how important the moving choices we made five years ago have been to our cost of living and quality of life in Hawaii.

We love getting emails with questions and moving stories from people drawn to the island.   We are surprised that the frustrations people have about their move to Hawaii are so similar.  Unlike moves to other states in the US, most newcomers are rarely able to find ways to change their circumstances once they have settled on the island.

We wrote a new book: Your Ideal Hawaii Move:  A Guide for Moving to Hawaii Island, to consolidate everything we learned about moving to Hawaii in one place. The book describes how the decisions you will make during your move later affect your living expenses and lifestyle in Hawaii.  Some seemingly minor choices can cost a lot in Hawaii.

For example, can you imagine having to ship your car to the mainland for warranty service or repairs?  Some brands of cars have no dealers in the state of Hawaii.  We know people who routinely transport their vehicle to California, fly there, and stay in a hotel to get warranty service on their car.  Bringing the wrong make and model of car can be a major hardship and cost in Hawaii.

Another choice a lot of newcomers to Hawaii make is to retain their driver’s license from another state on the mainland. Many people living on Hawaii Island have never become legal residents of the state.  Their choice prohibits them from participating fully in state and county activities, voting, and potential financial benefits of residency.

Living a few extra miles out of town is no big deal on the mainland, however in Hawaii where gas is $4 a gallon or more, every mile costs a lot more. Utilities and services that are taken for granted on the mainland may not be available in some neighborhoods.  Choices made about where to live make a big difference in the cost and quality of life on the island.

The book is organized into sections addressing the differences in location on the island; advanced planning for the move; setting up after the move; ideas for managing the cost of living; getting a job; and the many fun activities there are on the island.  Though the book is focused on moving to Hawaii Island, most of the content is applicable to moving to other islands in Hawaii.

The book is available in Kindle ($4.99) and paperback ($9.99) versions. You can view the table of contents and read the first chapter about our move from Northern California to Hilo by selecting “Look Inside” on Amazon.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

LED TV power savings in Hawaii

We are always looking for ways to cut our electricity bill in Hawaii where the cost of electricity is 450% higher than the average rate in the US. Our latest focus was on our 7 year-old 40-inch Samsung LCD TV. We assumed the cost of buying a new LED TV would eventually be returned to us from the savings on our electric bill.

We purchased a highly-rated 40-inch Westinghouse LED TV from Amazon.

We used our handy kilowatt meter to measure the wattage used and calculate our savings.
We measured our old LCD TV at 241 watts per hour.

241 watts read Samsung LCD TV

We measured our new Westinghouse “energy star” LED TV at 60 watts an hour.

Westinghouse LED TV 60 watts read

Our new LED TV uses 75% less electricity than our old LCD TV!

We have our TV turned on about 4 hours a day so our old TV uses about 1 kilowatt hour during that time. The cost to us has been 45 cents a day (using our current cost of 45 cents per kilowatt hour in Hawaii).  Using only ¼ of a kilowatt, our new TV will save us about 34 cents a day which adds up to about $123 a year.  Since we paid $399 for the new TV, it will pay for itself in about three years from lower electric bills.

We bought the new LED technology TV now for more reasons than just saving on electricity costs. We are concerned that the conflict between China, Taiwan, and Japan may escalate in a way that makes affordable electronics from Asia a thing of the past.  The cost of electricity in Hawaii keeps going up and we expect that it will continue to rise.   The new TV is lighter, has a better sound system, and seems to have a clearer and brighter picture.   

We are looking forward to seeing our reduced electric usage in our next electric bill.

You can find the Westinghouse LED HDTV we bought here.
You can find the Kill A Watt EZ Electricity Usage Monitor we used here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hawaii’s spectacular sunsets from volcanic emissions

We are having gorgeous sunsets on Hawaii Island thanks to the increased volcanic activity from Kilauea Volcano. Volcanic ash makes the sunsets a bright reddish orange.

Unfortunately, the beautiful sunsets mean more volcanic emissions are covering the island.  Recently, two new vents opened up on the volcano and the amount of sulfur dioxide emissions have increased. The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has measured sulfur dioxide emission rates of up to 900 tonnes or 1,984,140 pounds per day during September.

The Vog Measurement and Prediction Project (VMAP) at the University of Hawaii has created a very helpful map website that predicts the movement of sulfur dioxide (SO2) around the island.  This month there have been many days with deep orange and red level readings in Volcano and the southern parts of the island. Kona has also been having some days with high levels of Vog.

Hawaii Department of Health has an SO2 advisory website with advisory levels based on the measured amounts at various detectors around the island. We took a snapshot on  September 17th, showing several hours of unhealthy red levels at Jaggar Museum in Volcanoes National Park.

 We find even yellow levels of SO2 to be uncomfortable.   After many hours of moderate levels, we feel fatigued and light headed. The best protection from unhealthy levels of SO2 is to stay inside and turn on the AC, if you have one.  We have gas masks just in case. We are hoping that the Volcanic emissions subside, but we are enjoying the incredible sunsets while they continue.