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Tips for Cutting Electric Costs

For electric ratepayers looking to cut down on utility costs, options abound. Outdated air conditioning models can be upgraded for rebates. Extra refrigerators and old freezers can be sent in and recycled for cash. For Molokai residents, however, these and other options don’t always apply, explained Hawaii Energy’s Helen Wai at a workshop on Molokai last week.

“On Molokai you need two fridges and a freezer,” said Wai, Community Outreach Specialist for Hawaii Energy. “You hunt, you fish, the barge comes once a week, you go to Costco once a month. … It can be an insult for someone to say, get rid of your freezer. It’s not a luxury.

Wai invited the Molokai community to a workshop to show residents ways to save without getting rid of necessary appliances. Hawaii Energy is a program dedicated energy conservation and efficiency. It informs hard-to-reach communities and offers residential rebates, all focused on helping reach Hawaii’s goal of decreasing total energy usage by 30 percent by 2030.

When it comes to fridges and freezers, said Wai, vacuum under and behind them regularly to clear dust and allow the motors to run more easily. It’s also wise to think about what you plan to eat before you open the fridge, said Wai, as it can cost anywhere from $1 to $16 each time you take a peek inside.

“The longer you keep the door open, the more it has to work to set itself back to the right temperature,” she explained.

She added that warm, humid air fills the fridge every time it’s opened, and fridge owners can counter that by filling spaces inside with food containers, even if they’re empty.

Appliances often take up electricity when homeowners least expect and overall contribute to 36 percent of the monthly bill, according to Hawaii Energy.

“I call them energy vampires, because what do vampires do? Suck your blood,” said Wai. “But this one sucks your money from right underneath your nose.”

Even when not heating food, a plugged-in microwave uses electricity to run its clock. A TV connected to the wall also sucks energy, as it sits on standby ready to turn on at a moment’s notice. This type of power drain can take up 10 percent of the average household’s energy bill, according to the website energy.gov. Wai suggested buying a power strip and shutting off items when not in use.

With summer approaching, conserving water, which takes up 19 percent of the bill, can prove vital. Wai said families looking to cool off on a hot day could opt for a quick hose down outside instead of jumping in the shower, and use a dishwasher instead of washing by hand.

Anything that requires heat takes up a lot of energy, so Wai recommended things like baking multiple dishes at once, pouring coffee into a thermos instead of leaving it on a hot plate, or storing cooked rice instead of leaving it in the pot to warm until breakfast the next morning.

While these may seem like common sense options, Wai believes it’s often difficult for people to remember when they’re not the ones paying the bill.

“Everyone else who lives in the house doesn’t see it,” she said. At the end of the workshop, attendees received free timers that owners can use to set automatic on and off schedules for devices.

With Hawaii averaging the highest cents per kilowatt-hour in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and with Molokai paying the highest rates in the state per Hawaiian Electric statistics, every little bit counts.

“These are little things that I truly feel in my heart and mind Molokai can truly embrace,” said workshop attendee Iruka Saitoh-Car`ee. “… It all begins with each individual, to show we’re working for the same purpose. In my mind’s eye that defines Molokai.”

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