Hawai‘i’s Sustainability Heroes: Pono Home
The company helps homeowners and renters reduce their energy and water waste, while saving customers $6.3 million a year.
After nearly a decade in business, Pono Home is more than living up to its name.
Since 2014, the company says its handful of technicians have serviced close to 15,000 homes and small businesses across the Islands. Their mission is to help reduce electric and water bills by providing assessments for problems like appliances that drain too much power; unsealed windows that let air-conditioned air escape; and incandescent bulbs, which drain far more power than LEDs.
But instead of just telling residents about the problems, Pono Home fixes them too – often immediately. CEO and owner Mike Vise says the company’s efforts have amounted to customer savings of more than $6.3 million a year. The savings often cover the costs of any changes within a few months.
Pono Home recently partnered with the Hawaii Public Housing Authority to help bring its properties up to date with energy-efficient lighting. The company is also working with Hawai‘i Energy and its Smart Homes project, a publicly funded program to help retrofit showerheads and faucets to conserve water.
The company often finds solutions for multifamily buildings, “where people don’t always have transparency with their utility bills,” Vise says. The aim is for people in those buildings to know exactly how much water and energy they’re using.
A Native Hawaiian born and raised on O‘ahu, Vise and his family now live on Hawai‘i Island. “Mike’s story is a very quintessential story for Hawai‘i,” founder and former Pono Home owner Scott Cooney says. “He grew up here, is hardworking and very entrepreneurial.”
Last year, Cooney says, he decided to sell the business he founded and considered an offer from a mainland company. But then he had second thoughts.
Over lunch in Hilo, Cooney asked then-employee Vise about taking over the business. Vise didn’t have the money to purchase the company, so, in an amazing act of generosity, Cooney gave it to him.
“I was super shocked,” Vise says. “I thought I was on a reality show or something. That is the type of person Scott is though. He was always pushing and challenging me to take the next step in leadership and this is how I was rewarded.
“Nobody really gets these kinds of opportunities – especially local guys like me with no college degree and coming from a lifetime of blue-collar work. I am super grateful for all that he has done for me and my family.”
Part of his decision, Cooney says, was about undoing some of the cultural appropriation that he felt was “not quite right” in originally naming the company without invoking the true meaning of “pono,” and also wanting Native Hawaiians to have some ownership over the ecosystem, including the business of providing clean energy.