VA Home Loans: Helping Hawaii Service Members

VA Home Loan

VA Home Loans: Helping Hawaii Service Members

Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have fallen while serving our country. The day was originally founded to recognize soldiers in the Civil War, but later expanded to give tribute to all service members. For the bravery and service of our current military members and veterans, the VA offers programs that enhance the quality of life and provide options that aid the military lifestyle. One such program is the VA Home Guaranty Loan program. 

What is the VA Home Loan Program?

The VA Home Loan program was established in 1944 to help veterans and active duty service members more easily achieve homeownership. Since service members move more frequent than most, conventional lending programs offer less of an appeal. Through the program, military members are able to obtain a mortgage partially backed by the VA that gives them benefits not commonly found in conventional lending programs.

Why Choose a VA Home Loan?

Traditional home lending programs usually require good to above average credit, a large down payment of close to 20%, and charge Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI). Due to the mobile nature of military service members, most veterans and active duty service members have little chance to build savings or strong credit.

The VA Home Loan program is specifically designed to cater to military member’s financial situation, and offers benefits not seen in conventional lending programs, like the zero down payment option, which helps military members continue to build their savings in case they are reassigned to a new base and need the money for their Permanent Change of Station (PCS). Other benefits of the program are:

  • Competitive interest rates
  • Flexible mortgage terms
  • Refinancing options

The VA Home Loan program also has high loan limits, which is great for military members interested in purchasing a home in Hawaii, where homes can vary in price.  In higher priced real estate markets, VA Home Loans can even be secured up to $1,000,000, without the need of a down payment.

Eligibility Requirements

The first step in determining eligibility is to see if you fall in one of the following categories:

  • Served for at least three months on active duty during wartime or 181 days during peacetime
  • Served a minimum of six years in the national guard or reserves

The next step is to acquire your Certificate of Eligibility (COE). This can be done by contacting a Hawaii VA home loan specialist like VA Mortgage Center or by calling the Department of Veterans Affairs. A VA loan specialist can streamline the process and obtain the certificate in a matter of minutes, whereas the VA can take up to two weeks to process the request.

Although the VA Home Loan Program has no credit or income requirements, most VA-approved lenders will require a mid-range credit score of 620 in order to secure financing. Regardless of their credit history, all interested veterans and active duty service members are still encouraged to apply as even those with a history of bankruptcy and foreclosure have been approved in the past. For more information, contact a VA home loan specialist today!

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – A Horse, of Course – Part II

By Kelly Moran

A Horse, of Course – Part II

Bird McIver is a locally famous saddle-maker and horse-rescuer (see “A Horse, of Course – Part I“).  I asked her what it costs to buy a horse on the Big Island.

“There are some very, very good horses here: good looking, with nice attitudes. We have access to good bloodlines here. And right now, it’s a buyer’s market. Prices are down because we’re in a down economy.  A good horse can be had for $2,500, although you’ll pay more like $5,000 or $8,000 for a really great one.”

Bird McIver rides Joe: a young horse being trained for polo.
Bird McIver rides Joe: a young horse being trained for polo.

Another source for horses – at a much lower cost – is a horse-rescuing operation. The Hawaii Humane Society has one, and so do Bird and her husband, Colin; they call it CB Horse Rescue.

“With the economy in the tubes,” she explained, “people are neglecting their horses. We see this especially where the owners are on drugs, or drink too much. We see horses that have been frightened, or starved, or not given enough water. I placed six rescued horses last year, and I charge – though it’s funny to put it this way – fifty cents a pound. That works out to about $500-650, which is really a donation to the cause. But you have to remember that, like any other distressed animal, a rescued horse can have ‘issues,’ and the new owner has to be somebody who’s able to handle them. I always say: You have to be ‘married’ to your livestock!”

Suppose someone already has a horse, and wants to bring it here? “That’s pricy, but not much more so than bringing over a car. By sea – that is: by container-ship and inter-island barge – it’ll take a few weeks, and cost about $1,200. As an alternative, and unlike shipping a car, you can actually fly a horse here! FedEx will fly it in, direct from the Mainland, for about $2,200.”

Bird reminds all prospective owners that horses should not be left entirely out of doors. “Ideally, you want to keep a horse in a pasture, but with shelter from the rain and the sun. “If you don’t have a stable, or can’t put one on your land,” she said, “you may be able to rent a stall. The stalls at the Panaewa Equestrian Center, in Hilo, for instance, have traditionally been inexpensive; but costs have been going up for years, so I expect rental fees will also go up, soon.”

Bird McIver riding sidesaddle on Coosa Lani, at the Hawaii Quarter Horse Association's Fun Day Show.
Bird McIver riding sidesaddle on Coosa Lani, at the Hawaii Quarter Horse Association's Fun Day Show.

But you don’t actually have to own lot of land to ride a horse around here. “The Panaewa Equestrian Center is like a giant park,” said Bird. “You can ride in the rodeo arena, or the track, there’s a dressage arena in the infield, and a cross-country course. For skill-building, the Hawaii Island Dressage and Eventing Association can help you with dressage, stadium jumping, and cross-country jumping. There’s a very active polo contingent here. And there are plenty of public places to ride, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.”

And so, Bird has one more piece of advice for the prospective owner: “Before you buy a horse, buy a trailer.”

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – A Horse, of Course – Part I

By Kelly Moran

A Horse, of Course – Part I

“What’s it like to own a horse here?” The question came from a family that was looking at a house on pastureland. I know a little about horses, but Bird McIver is an expert: she’s famous in local equine circles for making fine custom saddles, and for rescuing horses that have been abused or abandoned.

Bird McIver with her horse Bunny
Bird McIver with her horse Bunny

“Keeping a horse is certainly a lot of fun,” said Bird. “There are plenty of horses and horse-people here, and we have some very active clubs. But it’s also more expensive to keep a horse, here, than on the Mainland.”

Take feed, for instance. “A bale of hay that costs maybe six to ten dollars on the Mainland,” she said, “costs forty dollars here, because it has to come over on a barge. And you may have to buy hay, because not every field or pasture on the island has vegetation that can sustain a horse. The soil here is volcanic, so it’s typically deficient. Cows will eat what’s known locally as ‘Wainaku grass,’ but horses won’t touch it. There’s a lot of moisture in that grass, but not a lot of the nutritional components that a horse requires. So, horses here need to be fed and supplemented.”

Bird estimates that it costs the average owner about $225 per horse per month. That includes feed, vaccinations, and “equine dentistry.” (Huh?) “You absolutely should ‘look a gift horse in the mouth’,” she said with a grin. “It’s the first thing to do – check the teeth. Horses’ teeth grow all their lives; they get sharp, and have to be ground down. You also have to ‘worm’ horses every six weeks, here, because we have a year-round growing season and no killing frost. You have to deal with other pests, too. I encourage people to keep chickens near their horses, to eat fly larvae.”

Surprisingly, you may not have to ‘shoe’ your horse. “Horses evolved near timberline,” Bird explained. “If you toughen up their feet, they can go barefoot. But check their feet often, and watch out for foot problems wherever the ground is wet, as it can be, especially in East Hawaii.”

Most horses do, however, get shod. “Horseshoes themselves are not expensive, and they can be shipped here fairly cheaply, in flat-rate boxes from the Post Office. But to do the work – to actually shoe the horse,” declared Bird, “pick a good farrier. Around here, we have certified farriers and we have ‘cowboy shoe-ers.’ Go with a farrier.”

Bird will tell us about buying a horse on the Big Island, in my next blog.

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – A Text that Can Save Your Life

By Kelly Moran

Civil Defense and You – A Text that Can Save Your Life

If a major road or highway is closed somewhere, as it might be after an accident; or if bad weather or a natural disaster is approaching, the Hawaii County Civil Defense Mobile Alerts program can tell you almost instantly. It will send the news directly to your cell phone, as a text message.

I got the following text one Sunday in September, at 4:15 p.m.: “Police report road closure of Hwy 19 @ 44-45 MM due to traffic crash. Detour is through Ahualoa.” A little later came the update: “As of 5:30, police have reopened 1 lane to traffic. Full road reopening to follow.”

Now, I wasn’t going to be driving on Highway 19, past the 44- and 45-mile markers, that particular day. But some day, news like this is bound to come in handy.

If a service like this were merely “handy,” though, it wouldn’t be worth telling you about. But consider that, a few days later, around 8:30 a.m., Civil Defense sent a text message that there’d been an earthquake and tsunami in Samoa. That is news that everyone here has to pay attention to, because any such event in the Pacific Ocean could potentially send a tsunami to Hawaii. And indeed, Civil Defense issued a tsunami “watch” for the Islands. Ultimately, the Samoan tsunami did not threaten Hawaii, and the watch was cancelled. But a friend across the island phoned, that morning, to ask if I’d heard anything about the Samoa quake, and I was able to read him what I’d gotten from Civil Defense.

If a tsunami is ever actually approaching Hawaii, Civil Defense will issue a more serious “warning” or “alert.” And when that danger is imminent, sirens will sound all around the islands’ coastlines. (Be aware, though, that the sirens are regularly tested at 11:45 a.m. on the first Monday of each month.)

A tsunami in motion can travel as fast as a jet plane – about 500 mph. So it will take hours for a tsunami that’s generated by an earthquake elsewhere in Pacific – whether on the rim, as in Chile or Alaska, or in one of the far-flung archipelagos, such as Samoa – to arrive here. That gives you plenty of time to evacuate, if you’re in what signs all over the coastal areas of the islands call “Tsunami Inundation Zones.”

But at such a great speed of travel, the worst-case scenario is when a tsunami is generated right here, by an earthquake in Hawaii, leaving people practically no time to escape. This happened one night in 1975, when a quake beneath Mauna Loa generated a tsunami that caused a beach in Ka’u to subside. Within only a couple of minutes, the ocean surged in, swamping kids and counselors on a camping trip, and killing several. Remember: If you’re near the ocean and you feel an earthquake, drop everything and head for high ground immediately!

That's not a tsunami, just very high surf at Hilo Bay during a storm.  But the waves are high enough for the County to close the Bayfront highway - and for Civil Defense to text a warning to that effect.
That's not a tsunami, just very high surf at Hilo Bay during a storm. But the waves are high enough for the County to close the Bayfront highway - and for Civil Defense to text a warning to that effect.

One night in October, there was a small earthquake here. It didn’t have much power: we felt the shake, but nothing fell off the shelves. Fifteen minutes later, though, Hawaii County Civil Defense text’d me that it measured 4.1 on the Richter scale, that it was centered under the sea southeast of Pahala, and that no tsunami had been generated. Okay – that night, the news was not much to worry about. But it was reassuring, and it trumped the guessing-game (“Wha’d’you think? Four-point-something?”) that inevitably follows a quake.

All local telephone directories have Civil Defense pages near the front, with maps of low-lying areas highlighted for evacuation in case there’s a tsunami emergency. To be fully informed about tsunamis, I urge you to visit the unique Pacific Tsunami Museum on Kamehameha Ave. in downtown Hilo; or go to its website at

Of course, traffic and emergency notifications are not all that Civil Defense can do for you. Want to know how near you or your visiting friends can get to wherever Kilauea is erupting today? Or whether your favorite viewing spot is open or closed? You can check with the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, of course; but it’s Hawaii County Civil Defense that has a dedicated Lava Viewing Hotline. Phone 808-961-8093.

As for those emergency alerts, some – though not all – cell phone service plans charge you for incoming messages. But the folks at Hawaii County Civil Defense are not likely to send you something every day – and when they do, it might just save your life! Sign up to receive these alerts by going to:, register and filling in the form.

Believe me: you can afford it.

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Could You Live Off-the-Grid? Part VI – Winter Wood-Working

By Kelly Moran

Could You Live Off-the-Grid?  Part VI – Winter Wood-Working

          Nighttime winter temperatures along the coasts, here, can get down to 60° F.  Add the cooling effect of clouds and rain, and on the eastern side, at least, you can expect nights in the 50s. As you get above sea level, anywhere, ambient temperature falls 3° F for every 1,000 feet up, so many places here are downright chilly in the winter: Volcano, at 4,000 feet, gets frost!

          But homes in Hawaii don’t have furnaces, and few if any are insulated against cold (or hot) weather.  Other than wrapping yourself in heavy clothes, if you want to stay warm indoors, you’ll have to generate heat, and the easiest way is to burn wood.

          You could soak all day in a wood-fired hot tub, but more likely you’d want to sit around the house near a modern wood stove or fireplace that’s engineered to send a lot of heat into the room, instead of up the chimney.  They’re are sold in specialty stores in Hilo and Kona, and can be ordered through home-improvement stores, too.  You must get a commercial model, and not build one yourself, because it has to meet strict local construction codes, and the building-inspectors here are very finicky about anything that could be a fire-hazard.

          What isn’t widely available, however, is wood.  You won’t see cords of firewood stacked outside supermarkets and garden supply stores, as you do on the mainland.  (A true cord, by the way, is four feet wide, four feet high, and eight feet long.)  Sometimes, a classified ad in one of the local papers will offer firewood.  Just make sure that the pieces are cut small enough to fit in your firebox.

          You could, of course, go out and cut your own firewood.  Unless you have an especially dense stand of trees on your land, that you really don’t want to keep, you probably will have to go elsewhere.  Obviously, you can not go logging in Hawaii’s forest reserves or parks; and until you’ve lived here a while, you probably will not know or hear about neighborhood trees that have to be cut due to land-clearing, hazard-removal, and so on.

          You should certainly consider cutting weed-trees, though.  Many property owners – maybe you, too? – have thickets of rose-apple or waiawi that they’d like to get rid of.  Waiawi (“vy-vee”) is strawberry guava, an especially hard wood that burns hot; but the trunks are not especially thick, and hence not easily split by hand.

          A client of mine purchased a house whose long driveway was lined with tall cedars and pines.  These exotics were probably intended to be harvested as Christmas trees, but had not been cut in time, so they stood over 50 feet tall, deeply shading the driveway, and blocking half the view from the house.  He had them professionally cut down.  The branches and leaves were ground up into mulch, which was piled up near his garden; and the logs were cut to fit in his fireplace.  Citing the old adage that you get warm first from the exercise and then again from burning the wood, he now spends an hour or two each autumn and winter month with an axe, maul and wedge, happily splitting those logs.

Getting a pro to cut your fire-logs frees you up to split and burn them.
Getting a pro to cut your fire-logs frees you up to split and burn them.

          He doesn’t use a chain-saw, however.  In the popular imagination, you aren’t really living off-the-grid if you don’t have a chain-saw.  But you probably won’t need one; and unless you are already experienced in operating one, or have someone who can teach you to use it carefully, you probably should not get one.  The ease with which a chain-saw cuts through wood makes it a very compelling tool, especially for inexperienced users who are all too likely to take on a challenge they can’t meet, or in some other way get into an accident.  Moreover, it’s a tool that requires a lot of
care: ensuring that the cutting-edges are sharp, keeping both the engine and the chain properly lubricated, etc.  Like installing electrical circuits or plumbing, cutting wood with a chain-saw is a task best left to experts.

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HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Getting Into Hot Water

By Kelly Moran

Could You Live Off-the-Grid?  Part V – Getting Into Hot Water

          You probably don’t want to live anywhere without hot water.  But fortunately, that’s the easiest convenience to have, off-the grid.  In our warm and sunny climate (sunny enough, even in Hilo), a simple black plastic water-bag on the roof will give you hot showers from afternoon through early evening.

          Utility executives know this.  They also know that heating water with electricity is terribly wasteful and inefficient; and that they may never get approval to build another power-plant here if they don’t help to hold down demand.  So the Hawaii Electric Light Co. (HELCO) is offering households huge incentives to replace electric water heaters with solar water-heaters.

          You can’t go wrong with solar.  Ideally, you should have a broad southern exposure, but almost any place with open sky views should be sufficient to generate heat from the sun.  You will, however, need a tank, and some backup heat source (propane or electricity) to keep the tank’s temperature constant.

          For an attractive alternative, consider an “on-demand” water heater, in which a small propane burner fires up only when you open a hot-water tap.  There’s no tank (a cost-saving in itself), and though the heater may have a pilot-light, it isn’t burning a lot of gas to maintain a high temperature when you aren’t using hot water.  These systems are very inexpensive, and easily installed by any plumber.  Just be sure the burner is vented, for safety, to the outdoors.


          You could also combine a solar water-heater with a slightly more costly version of the on-demand heater, which has a temperature-sensor built in.  It can then raise up to full hot-water temperature the water that’s already warm from the sun.

          Those solutions are excellent for showers and small tub baths.  As for a resort-size, Jacuzzi-type hot tub, big enough for two or more people, you will need sufficient electricity to run the “jets.”  But a more important consideration is that heating such a large volume of water takes a lot of energy – quite likely more than can be heated by the sun in single a day.  But there are other ways to heat a big tub of water, especially if you’d like your hot-tub experience to be naturalistic.

          In old plantation days, a Japanese farm worker would build a bathhouse, separate from his home, with a wood-fired furo inside.  He’d lay a brick-and-mortar firepit and chimney, set a sheet of copper over the firepit, and make a tub out of redwood (and a redwood grille, to keep from sitting down on the hot metal).  An hour or so after starting the fire, the tub water would be hot enough to soak in.  Traditional bathhouses have drains in the floor, because the Japanese always wash and rinse themselves off first, and only then get into the tub.

          Many years ago, I lived in a house near Hilo that had exactly that sort of backyard bathhouse with a brick-firebox and copper-sheet furo.  I would jokingly compare the experience to the cartoon image of missionaries being cooked in a cannibal’s cauldron.

    Fortunately, there is a modern alternative.  It’s called a “snorkel stove” ( – an aluminum firebox that sits in one part of the tub, separated from the bathers, for safety, by a wooden screen.  Since it takes up about one-person’s-worth of space, the tub has to be slightly bigger than you might otherwise need.


          Having a separate bathhouse makes the experience seem special, somehow; and since the tub isn’t in your regular bathroom, it’s more relaxing and more attractive, especially if you share the tub with family or guests.  You’ll probably want to site the bathhouse close to your home, though, and in rainy places, link the two structures with a covered walkway.

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HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Could You Live Off-the-Grid? Part IV

By Kelly Moran

Could You Live Off-the-Grid? Part IV

AC vs. DC

Every electric motor and light bulb in an ordinary house runs on alternating current (AC). And though your cell phone or laptop computer runs on direct current (DC), you keep them charged up with a little transformer you plug into an AC outlet, that “transforms” AC into DC.

No matter how you (or the utilities) generate power, whether from fuel, wind, hydro, or the sun, it starts out as DC and must be changed – or, more accurately, “inverted” – to AC. That’s done through (what else?) an “inverter” that sits between your batteries and the breaker-box for the house’s electrical outlets. The inverter also keeps the electricity from fluctuating, so your power is as consistently smooth as it would be from the grid.

You could skip the inverter, and have an all-DC house. There are DC versions of most appliances, including TVs and refrigerators; and when people here started living off the grid, in the 1960s and ’70s, home-sized inverters were not commonplace; so going entirely DC was the only way they could have modern conveniences. But DC appliances are not cheap, and you won’t find them in local stores. Making an all-DC house also forces you to site all the components of your system, including the outlets, very close together, because (unlike alternating current) direct current loses strength if it has to run through more than about 50 feet of wire. So, to live off the grid, you need batteries and an inverter, too. The fact is: we live in an AC world.

You need batteries. Here, the first five (of sixteen) 24-volt batteries are being installed in a household system. An inverter (not shown) turns the batteries' DC power into AC.
You need batteries. Here, the first five (of sixteen) 24-volt batteries are being installed in a household system. An inverter (not shown) turns the batteries' DC power into AC.

Go Gas

As for cooking, you will have to forget about an electric stove – you can not possibly generate enough power for that. Get a gas stove, and make sure the installer sets up all the burners for propane (instead of natural gas, which is not sold in Hawaii).

Propane is easily obtained. Tanks range in capacity from backyard-grill-size, to four-foot-tall cylinders, to horizontal giants. You can take the smaller ones into town to be refilled, or pay an additional but small monthly fee (less than $10) to have a gas company driver deliver fresh tanks and/or refill them at your home.

There are, by the way, refrigerators that run on propane. They are more expensive and slightly less efficient than electric refrigerators, but if your generating capacity is limited, and you’re getting propane anyway, for cooking or heating water (which I’ll cover next time), you may want to at least check and see if a propane refrigerator will suit your needs. It is, in any case, one more way to stay off-the-grid.

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HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND: Could You Live Off-the-Grid? Part III: Here Comes the Sun


By Kelly Moran

Could You Live Off-the-Grid?  Part III: Here Comes the Sun

          Turning sunshine into electricity is the most popular way to generate your own power, here, although two conditions must be met.  First, you really have to have a good view of the sun all day: no trees or hills shadowing the house.  And second, you have to have dough: the initial investment is high, and likely to remain so for the near future.  A “family-of-four” will probably need a system costing $30-40,000, including batteries and control equipment. 

          But electricity from the Hawaii Electric Light Co. (HELCO) costs more than 30 cents per kilowatt-hour, pushing utility bills up into thousands of dollars a year, and the rates will only go higher.  So, a solar system should break even in ten years or less.  Moreover, the price of photovoltaic panels is slowly coming down, while their electrical efficiency keeps going up.  And there are no ongoing costs: once the system is in place, your electricity is free, and your batteries get charged up every day!

          Two recent technological developments make solar increasingly attractive. The newest photovoltaic collectors aren’t like heavy picture-frames, with glass on top.  They’re lightweight, flexible sheets of plastic that are available either as shingles or as peel-and-stick strips that lie flat, between the ridges of standing-seam metal roofs.   And these new materials are more sensitive to ultraviolet light than the glass panels are, so they keep on making electricity even on cloudy days, when there isn’t as much “visible” light.

Two ways to Capture Sunlight:

"Building-integrated photovoltaic" (BIPV) panels adhere directly to a standing-seam metal roof.
"Building-integrated photovoltaic" (BIPV) panels adhere directly to a standing-seam metal roof.
Framed-glass photovoltaic panels are mounted on a carport.
Framed-glass photovoltaic panels are mounted on a carport.

          If your land is close to an existing utility pole, the Hawaii Electric Light Co. (HELCO) may accept whatever electricity you generate and, in effect, store it for you in its grid.  But hey! – this is about living off the grid.  And that means storing your electricity in batteries.

          The right kind of batteries for home-size power-plants are similar to car batteries, but larger and heavier, with higher electrical capacity (24- or 48-volt, instead of 12).  And their installation has to meet building codes (e.g., you can’t put them in the crawl-space under the house).

          To keep your system operating at peak efficiency, you will have to take on some responsibilities that have traditionally been shouldered by the utilities.  Though you don’t have power-poles to climb, or high-tension wires to string, you will have to perform some regular maintenance tasks, the equivalent of those that utilities ordinarily do, and the cost of which they bundle into their monthly bill.

          So, for example, you must ensure that the fluid in your batteries is at the proper level, by topping them off with distilled water, once a month.  And as soon as you do that, it’s a good idea to run your backup generator for at least an hour or two, not only to help your batteries stay fully charged, but also to keep the generator itself in top running condition, so it’s always ready in case of emergency.

          Go solar, and you also ride the wave of the future.  If we in Hawaii are ever going to free ourselves from imported petroleum fuels, we will have to generate more and more of our electricity from the sun.

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HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Could You Live Off-the-Grid?


By Kelly Moran

Could You Live Off-the-Grid?

          Notice, please, the question is “Could you . . . ?”
You certainly can live where none or only some of the Big Island’s commercial services – water, electricity, telephone, television, internet – are piped into your home for a monthly fee.

          And you don’t have to rough-it to live off-the-grid.  You can enjoy a thoroughly up-to-date lifestyle, with all the accoutrements of a modern home, without being a customer of any commercial utility.  In this and the next few blogs, I’ll tell you about the challenges and the strategies of acquiring for yourself the necessities of life here on the Big Island.

          Water comes first, of course.  Hawaii County has an extensive water system of wells, pumps, pipelines and meters, with high quality and modest rates.  But where 40 or more inches of rain fall every year, you can reliably collect your own water from the gutters on your roof.  Rain is (shall we say) especially abundant in Hilo and Puna; so even in neighborhoods, there, where County water is easily available, some homeowners choose to use catchment tanks.

This house, though only seven miles from downtown Hilo, is entirely off the grid. The water tank – a metal frame lined with plastic – is in the foreground. The roof also has photovoltaic panels for generating electricity.


          A so-called “family of four” should have at least a 10,000 gallon tank, which is generally a cylinder about twelve feet in diameter and eight feet high. Although some old redwood tanks are still in use, and are aesthetically quite pleasing, they are rarely if ever built nowadays.  More common – and actually better, because they do not decompose – are tanks made of sheet metal and lined with tough plastic liners (very much like above-ground swimming pools), or tanks made of ferro-concrete (in which cement, sprayed onto a metal “rebar” frame, hardens into concrete).  The latter is more expensive but will last much longer. Also, since rainwater is naturally slightly acidic, contact with the slightly alkaline concrete tends to neutralize the “ph” of stored water.

           Once you have water in the tank, you still have to pipe it into the house.  You’ll want some kind of filtration, because dirt and dust, or fragments of leaves, always wash down from the gutters; and though they generally settle to the bottom of the tank, little bits of stuff do sometimes get into the house’s supply line.  But particulates like that are easily intercepted with simple filters which, like their smaller under-the-sink cousins, are typically replaced once or twice a year.

          Getting that supply to flow inside the house’s plumbing, however, requires constant pressure in the pipes.  Standard household water pressure is 40 pounds per square inch (psi).  If your tank can be sited at least 40 feet higher than the highest faucet in the house, gravity will supply enough pressure.  But unless your land is a steep hillside, that won’t be an easy setup.  Besides, it’s much easier to site the tank close enough to the house to take the runoff from the roof.

          So the force that pushes water through the plumbing typically comes from a pump and a special tank which, together, maintain constant pressure.  To have that you’ll need electricity, which I’ll tell you about next time.

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Time is running out for $8,000 Exemption!

Time is running out!

Pocketwatch for blog

The US government has an $8,000 tax credit for you if you have not owned a home in the last three years. It is called a First-Time Homebuyer Credit, but it is for anyone who is buying a primary residence that has not owned a home since 2006. This means that you can deduct $8,000 from your 2009 taxes and may end up with $$ in your pocket in 2010. Please see your CPA or Tax adviser for guidance.

The single most important rule in this stimulus program is that your escrow must close by November 30th, 2009. This gives you less than 120 days from the publication of this blog to close. Since many affordable homes are in the distressed market, foreclosures and short sales, time is literally running out for buyers. These properties tend to have longer escrow periods and must be approved by various entities. A short sale can take as long as 5 months to clear escrow.

Now is the time to contact Hilo Brokers, LTD to see what bargains are available in this market. There are plenty to be had all over East Hawaii in all classifications.  Whether you are looking for a Farm property, waterfront home or a cottage, there are fantastic deals available in today’s market place. At Hilo Brokers, LTD, we can offer you turn key assistance in making your purchase and you can rest assured that we will find the best home for your real estate dollars and if it is your first home in 3 years, you can take advantage of this Government incentive for home buyers. You must act quickly if you want to be assured of qualifying and receiving your $8,000 credit.

House made of money

For more details on the tax credit and what it can mean to you, check our past post about this incredible program: $8,000 Tax Credit Used for Closing Costs & More

ContactHilo Brokers, LTD today and get the ball rolling!