Saturday, March 31, 2007

Power is Different in Chacala

In this case I am thinking of how charges for household use of electrical power are determined in Chacala. In Mexico, all household electrical power is supplied by the State-managed electric power (CFE) authority. Often people who visit or move here from other countries are not aware of Mexican billing practices, and the result can often be much higher power bills than expected. Whether or not you or your landlady pay the electric bills it’s worth understanding how the charges are determined.

Newcomers are often shocked that the difference between their power bill and those of their neighbors, next door. Who have fewer appliances. Like small fridges, no automatic washer and dryer, no air conditioning, and no outside security lights, and so on.Views from inside the newly remodeled older building above the muelle beach.
It's very beautiful and will soon be some kind of retail enterprise. maybe
And sometimes local people who don’t understand how they are charged end up with large bills without understanding why. A restaurant owner or householder who allows someone to run an extension cord from their house or place of business often accrue very large bills. Whatever the borrower wasn’t paying usually doesn’t cover the increase in usage and rates.

The major difference from what I was used to in the U.S., and here in Chacala, is that the more kilowatt hours (KWH) you use, the more you pay for each KWH.
I think in most parts of the U.S./Canada the opposite is true. The more power you use there, the cheaper the KWH for all the power you useAnyway, I don’t know why they have this system here in Mexico, but I like it because it encourages conservation. Sort of. Of course, that rate system is mainly for household use. I have been told large power users, like aluminum foundries, etc, have their own rates. And that some huge manufacturing complexes, often international businesses, seem to have preferential power rates as part of the package the Mexican government offers to induce large manufacturers to set up plants in Mexico. But I don't know much about that. Only what I read in the papers.Wall at the old building near the muelle
In any case. This system of billing should have some impact on your use of household electricity. Leaving lights or fans on when you are out of the house raises the rate for every KWH. It costs you, or your landlady, money.

Leaving ceiling fans on in your absence does not cool your house. Fans cool you, not the air. Leaving the fan on only cools the air when the air outside is cooler than the air inside. Usually very early in the morning. And then only if your fans are set up correctly, to move air thru the house. Overhead fans generally do not draw cool air into the house. They pass a breeze over the moisture on your skin, which is cooling.

Leaving outdoor lights on all night are probably not the most cost effective why to provide security at your home. Leaving fans and lights on when you are not using unnecessarily raises your power bill. And night lights make it harder to see the stars. Truck fixing the paved town, always torn up by speeding trucks
bringing dirt and rocks to the gated development.
And if you have a place on the sand, at the beach, and shine a high-powered light at the waves in the night, it draws to turtles to public beaches (like Chacala), where the eggs they lay will surely not survive. It fact, I have been told that it’s actually illegal in all of Mexico to shine strong lights on the beach at night. But little technicalities like local laws don’t bother some people in Chacala. .

Another consequence of the Mexican billing scheme will show up if you hook into your neighbor’s power when you are waiting for power to be installed at your new place. The meter reading will read for both you and your generous neighbor’s meter. The KWH usage will increase, and so will the rates for those hours. Sometimes doubles or tripling the rate. Depending on usage.

The CFE has a fee schedule for various levels of household electrical use. As soon as the CFE billing computers notice that the meter is showing a higher usage than is allowed for the rate you are assigned to, your rate is immediately increased. And generally it takes six months of lower usage to get your rate reduced to your original lower level again.

I don’t remember the names/numbers of the various rate schedules, but there are different schedules for different types of user. A house with six light fixtures, a fridge, and an electric water pump is probably at the second to lowest rate. A place with just a few lights and a small pump or fridge is probably paying the lowest rate per KWH. There are six levels within the lowest set of rates. And then there are higher , “gringo” rate for homes full of appliances and special lighting.

You can see that your generous friend who is sharing his power can end up with a serious financial problem. His bill will probably remain at the higher rate for six months after you get your own power. Even if you pay for the power you use, or even if you pay their whole power bill, while your need it, your friend will be paying a seriously inflated bill for another six months, even if they are back to paying for only one household. Because they will be paying a KHW two or three times higher than what they were originally paying.

And when you are renting, or staying, in someone else’s house, it’s important to remember that the extra KWH’s you will be using will probably bump up your landlady’s bills twice. Once for the extra KWHs you use, and again, because of the increased charge for those KWHs.

Awhile ago a local landlady here asked me to ask her tenant to stop leaving the fans on in rooms the tenant wasn’t using, or when gone from the house. And to turn off the lights when they weren’t being used. The person refused the landlady’s request. It wasn’t clear if this person understood the cost of the extra usage to the homeowner or not.

1 comment:

Brenda said...

Or possibly just didn't care, some people are like that.
We are billed every two months here, so that also increases your bill as your consumption is naturally higher than if you were billed every month. Our bills are not too bad though, about $550 pesos every two months.