The information below describes our experiences setting up and using utilities including electricity, water, sewer, trash, telephone, cable, and internet in Hilo, Hawaii. It also has information about car licensing, mail services, and the Hawaii County offices.
If you are considering a move to Hawaii Island, YOUR IDEAL HAWAII MOVE: A Guide for Moving to Hawaii Island contains detailed information on setting up utilities on Hawaii Island and the challenges with getting water, sewer, electric, cable, internet, cell, and phone services on the island.
HILO UTILITY SET UP AND EXPERIENCES
Here are some suggestions about setting up utilities painlessly:
- You need a signed lease or closing documents showing that you are a resident with an address. If you are renting, make sure to get a copy of the lease and keep it safe since it is your proof of being a local kama'aina.
- Utility setup in Hilo in most cases requires that you go in person and wait in line. We found everyone to be nice and helpful, but it helps to be in aloha time rather than in a mainland-hurry. No one is thrilled about obnoxious folks from the mainland moving to town and if you are in a line to set up utilities everyone knows you are not a tourist. Dress local and be very patient.
- Go as early in the morning as possible. Most of the county offices open early and everyone is in a good mood then.
- Don't try and do everything in one day.
Sewer - The sewer service for Hilo can't be set up until the water service is set up. Once the water service is set up you can go to the county sewer department (next to Checkers Auto Parts) with the account number given to you by the water service and fill out the paperwork. Many houses in Hawaii are not connected to sewer and have septic systems or even out of compliance cess pools. Find out about the sewer situation before moving in.
Water - Water service for Hilo is set up at the Department of Water Supply for the County of Hawaii in a complex at 345 Kekuanaoa Street in Suite 20. You must show a signed lease, photo id, and pay a $50 deposit. They provide you with an account service number to to set up sewer service. They bill you every other month.
If you live outside of Hilo your house may depend on a catchment system or well. Make sure to find out where the water is coming from and its state, before moving in.
Electricity - In Hilo, HELCO is the electric company. HELCO is located in at 1200 Kilauea Avenue. To start or convert electric service, get there early, show your lease or property ownership, photo id, and pay your deposit. The deposit is 2 months based on past usage at the residence. Be prepared to wait.
We have blogged about the expensive electric rates in Hawaii and some ways we cut back our electricity bill. Unlike the mainland, there is no natural gas service on the island. Some houses require propane for stoves or heating, which must be delivered in tanks. Although HELCO has been supporting the use of alternative energy and adding solar power generated from homes and business to the distribution system, most of the electric on Hawaii Island is generated from small diesel burning power plants. The cost is high and will likely continue to escalate. Our efforts to cut back on electric have been fruitful. We reduced our electric bill by 1/3 (from $350 to $220/month) by replacing light bulbs with low energy bulbs and carefully monitoring our hot water heater usage.
Telephone - We initially picked Hawaiian Telcom for our local phone service. Their service can be set up on the phone or online. We switched from Hawaiian Telcom to an internet phone to save money. The downside of an internet phone service is that if Oceanic Time Warner's internet service is down, the telephone is also down.
Cable and Internet - We use Oceanic Time Warner Cable for our internet service. We signed up for their high speed RoadRunner service. Oceanic Time Warner's office is located at 548 Kanoelehua Avenue in Hilo. They are open from 8:30AM to 4:30PM Monday through Thursiday, til 6PM on Friday, and 9AM to 1PM on Saturday. We were not able to set up our internet service until the previous renters canceled their service.
Trash - The trash pickup companies in Hilo are all local entrepreneurs. Most folks take their garbage to the Hilo landfill themselves where garbage bags can be easily thrown down a chute to garbage trucks waiting below. Since we don't have a pickup truck, we paid for a service to pick up our garbage.
We used Leo's Rubbish service which picks up one can of garbage once a week, although they will pick up more often if desired. Other trash services exist, so rates and service may vary.
We reduce our trash by recycling what we can. Hilo doesn't have curb side recycling, so we take it over to Reynolds on Kilauea street or other recycling centers in town. There is a 5 cent reimbursement (HI5) on most plastic and aluminum drink containers. We drive to the Hilo landfill to recycle our glass, cans, cardboard and paper at the Hilo dump in special dumpsters set up for recycling.
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HILO MAIL SERVICES
There are two Post Offices in Hilo, one in the airport complex and one downtown in the Federal building across from Kalakaua Park.
Hilo's zip code is 96720. It also has 96721, but only for PO Boxes at the downtown post office.
The mail cut off time is later at the airport Post Office, so we often drive there to get an important letter out that day. Mail to and from Hilo can be slow, so you have to prepare accordingly for the delay.
FedEx and UPS
There is service from UPS and FedEx in Hilo, but there is no "overnight service". UPS and FedEx's "overnight" means 2 days to the mainland. For fast delivery, we have had the best luck with FedEx since their plane flies into Hilo and Kona daily.
Both FedEx and UPS are near Hilo's airport. UPS is on the road to the airport terminal and FedEx is on the opposite side of the runway from the terminal accessible from Hwy 11 via Operations Road.
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HAWAII COUNTY OFFICES
Apuni Center has many of Hawaii County's offices. It is the place to pay property tax bills, sewer bills, get information about parks and recreation, investigate county land records and get building permits. To give you an idea of the offices in the Center, below is a photo tour.
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