Living in Hawaii Without AC ceiling fan

This is our first summer in Hawaii and with August being the hottest month of the year I thought I would share what it’s like living in Hawaii without air conditioning. At first it was strange having a house without A/C but we’ve learned how to make it work.

Living in Hawaii without air conditioning is definitely doable and more normal than you might expect. Many homes do not have air conditioning and if they do it is normally a split-system A/C allowing better temperature regulation while reducing energy costs.

trade winds cool the air in Hawaii

 

Living in Hawaii Year Round Without Air Conditioning

We haven’t been here an entire year yet but we have been here in some of the hottest, and most humid, months of the year. We live in Hawaii year round and we do it without air conditioning.

Considering it can get into the 80s and even the low 90s living without A/C might not sound all that appealing. But, it works and here’s why…

Cool Mornings

The mornings are cooler where we live. During the month of August the lowest temperature of the day occurs at about 5:00 AM, just before sunrise. The average low temperature at 5:00 AM in August is around 69°F. Which is very comfortable, sometimes even a bit chilly if you have a nice breeze.

Because we don’t have any air conditioning in our home we simply open up the doors and windows to let the cool air in (assuming we didn’t just leave them open over night which we do many times). The house cools off and stays fairly cool until the early afternoon.

Trade Winds

In addition to the cool mornings we get the trade winds. Each morning the winds pick up and blow from the makai to the mauka side. Based on how our house sits we get that cool air flowing through the house when we open up the doors and windows.

Finding a home that takes advantage of these trade winds is can be critical if you are going to be living in a home without A/C.

Fans

When the temperature starts to rise throughout the day and the winds die down a bit we turn to our fans to keep us cool. Turning the fan on gets the air moving and keeps things comfortable despite the higher temperatures in the late afternoon.

Normally we sleep with the fans on to keep the air moving to regulate both temperature and humidity as best as possible without air conditioning.

Elevation

I’ve talked about how important elevation is in selecting a home and it definitely applies to living in Hawaii without air conditioning. Since the temperature drops about 3°F for every 1,000 ft in elevation you can regulate your average temperature by selecting a home at the “right” elevation.

We ultimately selected a home that sits at 1,300′ which provides an average annual temperature of 73.4°F. Most people are pretty comfortable at a temperature between 72°F and 75°F which puts us is a perfect location for that temperature range.

Pool or Ocean

We don’t have a pool but a lot of people in Hawaii do.  Instead of being inside without air conditioning just head outside and jump in the pool (or the ocean) to cool off!

The heat of the day is the best time to be in the water anyway, right?  So go outside and hop in the pool, head to the beach, go out and do some paddle boarding or just go for a swim.

split system ac hawaii

Air Conditioning Options in Hawaii

Hawaii has all the same A/C options as anywhere else but central air conditioning is not as common as you might see elsewhere. Many of the luxury homes in Hawaii have central air to cool the homes to a comfortable temperature but that’s not necessarily normal in Hawaii.

Split-System A/C

The most common form of air conditioning in Hawaii is a split system. Before we moved to Hawaii I had heard of split-systems but didn’t really know much about them.

Basically it is an air conditioner that is half inside and half outside…split, get it? The two parts of a split system A/C unit is the compressor (on the outside) and the air outlet (on the inside). This type of systems eliminates the need for duct work throughout the home and makes it easier to retrofit a home that was not built with central air in mind.

Energy Efficient

Split air conditioning can be very energy efficient which is important in Hawaii due to the high energy costs.

Rather than a central A/C system that cools the entire home a split system allows you to cool the room, or rooms, you want to cool without having to expend the energy required to cool the whole home. Many people who live in Hawaii put these split systems in their bedrooms to keep them cool at night and make sleeping more comfortable.

You Don’t Need A/C All Year

Believe it or not Hawaii has seasons. In the winter the temperature drops. Maybe not as much as other places you’ve lived but there is still a change during the year.

Where we live, at the 1300′ elevation, the average high temperature hits a low of 72.6°F in February. And a high in August of 78.8°F. But that’s at 1300′.

Kailua-Kona Hawaii High Temperatures Year Round

Closer to sea level near Downtown Kona the high average temperature ranges from 76.5°F in February to 83.5°F in September. So, that may mean you’ll want the A/C running in July, August, September and October but the rest of the year you can do without.

What about Heat?

Since we are on the topic of comfort you might also wonder about heat.

Some houses in Hawaii do need to be heated! Again, it goes back to elevation. The higher you go up the lower the low temperatures.

At our house at the 1300′ elevation the lowest average temperature occurs at 7:00 AM in February getting down to about 63°F. I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s “cold” but it is chilly, especially when you combine that with 79% relative humidity at that time of the year.

But do we need heat? Considering we don’t have a way to heat the house the answer is no. We don’t really need to though. We just do the opposite of what we do in the summer.

Instead of opening up the doors and windows to cool the home we keep them shut, or open them up later in the day if we need to warm it up a bit (which normally we don’t need to). We might where some light pants or even socks in the December, January or February but it isn’t a big deal.

Further up in elevation from where we live some people have fireplaces they can use to heat the home if necessary but very few have any type of heating system installed in their homes.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Dan D.

    Split A/C is *very* uncommon among Waikiki buildings. You’ll find old noisy window units, or central A/C.

  2. JH

    I’m 60 lives in Texas my whole life, love my state but I I’m sick tired damn devil ass heat. I want to come to Hawaii to finish it out. Got about 800 grand saved and about 6000 a month coming in. My wife cries we can’t afford Hawaii. 30 years I’ve been married but I may be finding out how much she wants me soon cause I’m ready. Put me at 2000 feet.

    1. Calling Kona Home

      Do it! You won’t regret it. Hawaii is more affordable than you think, if you do it right.

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