Why Do Some Buildings In Hawaii Have No AC?

Posted on Jan 24, 2023

Nowadays, air conditioning systems are practically indispensable, especially in warmer places. For many people, the idea of living without one or more air conditioners at home is unthinkable, given how unbearable the heat and humidity can be.

All this makes it a bit of a mystery why so many homes and buildings in Hawaii don’t have AC. For people coming over from the mainland, the absence of any type of cooling system in many structures is bewildering. After all, Hawaii is located in a tropical region, where temperatures and humidity levels frequently reach record highs. 

Why Some Buildings in Hawaii Don’t Have Air-Conditioners 

There are actually a few reasons why many island dwellers opt not to have air conditioning. And some of them make perfect sense when you think about it. Here are some of the main reasons why so many Hawaiian buildings and homes don’t have AC: 

Naturally-Cooled Building Designs 

Many of the older structures in Hawaii are designed in the traditional plantation style. Consequently, they have excellent ventilation due to the single-wall design, in which windows are placed on opposite sides of the building. This ingenious layout allows the trade winds to flow freely through the structure, cooling the interior as it goes. 

The use of jalousies or slanted window slats also helps improve airflow. By directing the winds into the building, the interior is cooled sufficiently, even without air conditioning. Combined with ceiling fans, these buildings can be surprisingly cool and breezy inside. 

The Building’s Location Might Make Cooling Unnecessary 

Where the building is situated often affects how hot‒or how cool‒the interior is. Structures located in elevated areas or near the coast are generally cooler than those located inland or at sea level. Subsequently, they may not need air conditioning to keep the interior cool. 

The High Cost of Cooling 

If you’ve never been to Hawaii before, one of the things that might surprise you is how expensive everything is. As with many U.S. territories outside the mainland, almost everything costs more in Hawaii: consumer merchandise, food, groceries, basic services, and electricity.

The high cost of cooling a building makes many people hesitant to install air conditioners. Consider that installing a central air conditioning system to cool a 2,000-square-foot space can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $4,000. Add to that the electrical charge of 45 cents per kilowatt hour, and you can understand the reason for the hesitation. 

Some would argue that this is a small price to pay for cooling. But even this insignificant amount adds up over time. And given the high cost of living on the islands, it is easy to see how cooling could be beyond the financial reach of many island residents. Despite the heat, those with limited financial means have no choice but to put up with the heat or resort to other cooling methods. 

Preference for Warmth/Aversion to Cold  

Believe it or not, some people actually prefer warmth to cold. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since the whole point of coming to Hawaii for many people is to get away from the cold climate. 

Hawaii is a vacation and retirement destination for people from all over the world. Many actually welcome the chance to live in a warm place, away from the cold winds and harsh winters they have had to live with all their lives. For these people, there is little sense in moving to a warm place like Hawaii only to spend all their time in an air-conditioned room! 

So if you see a house or building in Hawaii without an air conditioning unit hanging outside the wall, consider the possibility that the residents may actually prefer the heat! 

Thoughts on the Absence of AC in Hawaii Buildings 

As you can see, there are quite a few reasons why some buildings in Hawaii don’t have air conditioning. Some might even resonate with you, and you might find yourself agreeing with the rationale behind them. 

Admittedly, having an air conditioner is a nice option to have. You don’t have to turn it on all the time, and it is surely better to have a cooling system you can count on when temperatures rise. 

If you are planning on moving to Hawaii‒or you already live there but don’t have an AC‒give it some thought. Weigh the cost benefits against your comfort threshold and decide whether having an AC is the right decision for you. Just remember that it is better to have an air conditioner and not need it than to need one and not have it!

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