For the past two months, my electricity bill has been outrageously high, the highest bills I’ve had in almost 10 years of living in my house here in the Philippines. Granted, there are some mitigating circumstances, like extra people staying with us for a few months, but it’s more than likely because my air conditioner stayed on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The key reason for lowering my electricity bill is that I can’t afford to pay a bill that high every month. It leaves no wiggle room for unforeseen expenses or emergencies.
I received last month’s electricity bill on either the 28th or 29th of January. I don’t know what day it will be in February. The electricity company, OEDC, exercises their right to a speedy payment that’s supported by some Philippine law. I have nine days from the date it was printed to pay it (weekends and holidays included). On the ninth day, I’ll receive a disconnection notice, which will give me two more days. After 11 days, they’ll shut my electricity off at the meter.
The days preceding the second day of each month are meaningless as far as my electricity bill is concerned because I don’t get paid until the second. Sometimes I get paid on the fourth or the fifth, depending on what day the second falls on every month. The preceding days still count against the nine. It’s usually not a big deal to pay it on time unless we’re in the middle of a tropical storm.
From experience, I can tell you that cooling is always more expensive than heating. It doesn’t matter what’s being heated or what’s being cooled. I’m not sure, but it seems harder to cool humid air than it is to cool dry air. Perhaps that’s the reason the air conditioners have built-in dehumidifiers. Harder means more expensive.
After seeing the last figure on my latest electricity bill, I turned off my air conditioner and I haven’t turned it back on. Unfortunately, it’s going to start getting warmer next month than it has been so far this month. During the months of March through June, Josie (my wife) and I can’t sleep at night, even with an electric fan blowing directly on us. I think we’ll try it with two electric fans and a cross-breeze before we succumb to turning on the air conditioning unit. On the bright side, I usually turn the electric water heater off until rainy season starts. Having it on or off doesn’t seem to affect my electricity bill, but it can’t hurt to keep it off.
The last couple of days have been uncomfortably warmer than usual. I’ve been tempted to turn the air conditioner on and hide away in the master bedroom, but I’ve fought that temptation.
Water cooler is really a misnomer. I have both a hot and cold water dispenser. The cold side is turned off. When someone wants water colder than room temperature, they have to fetch ice from the refrigerator freezer. There are two lights on the front. When the red one lights up, the heating element is doing its thing. When the green light comes on, the cooling element is doing its thing. I used to see the green light all the time and I rarely saw the red light. Nowadays, I still rarely see the red light.
We use the hot water dispenser a lot. We use it for instant coffee, hot tea, ginger tea (salabat) and Milo. My daughter-in-law, who’s staying with us until she leaves for the United States, drinks that chocolate drink instead of coffee. It’s sort of like Ovaltine, which I haven’t seen here since I’ve lived here. Of course, I haven’t been looking for it either.
Well, low-income Filipinos in the Philippines anyway. Most Filipinos in that class don’t have air conditioning and they don’t have water coolers. They don’t even have refrigerators, but my refrigerator is something I refuse to turn off. I can’t have ice or anything cold without it. Some things simply have to be kept cold to last for more than a day or two (like raw beef and chicken).
Josie and I are forcing ourselves to get acclimated to the hot months as well as the cooler months, which really aren’t cool for us – they’re cool for the Filipinos and they have no problem telling me they’re cold. If we can lower our monthly electricity bill in the process, it’s a winning situation.
By: RT Cunningham
February 18, 2016
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