Questions, Questions, Questions


Cost of living in the Philippines is always one of the most consistently searched for items here on PhlFAQS … your site to learn the answers to the FAQS (Frequently Asked Questions) about flying to the Philippines, moving to the Philippines, retiring in the Philippines and whatever else the “ringmaster” here decides to ramble on about.

IMap of Bulacan showing the location of Marilao. don’t get as many direct questions as I would like … and it occurs to me that one reason for that is, I hardly ever ask for them … d’oh. So, that’s what I am doing now. If you have a question, that’s connected to the Philippines, big or small, give me a shot. You can leave a comment, which I’ll always try to answer … but sometimes comments may get missed. It’s better to contact me directly through the secure, spam free contact page here on the site, leave a comment, or call me on 1-719-966-4295 (My US number that rings at my desk). I’ll shoot for a schedule right now that makes Friday as the day for a Q & A session. What do you want to know? (Image via Wikipedia )



Q & A 19 Sep 2008  Air Con Electric Costs

Randy C (Randy’s excellent Journey to Samal blog is a recommended read) asks:
Question: Found the part about your monthly kwh usage useful, because I didn’t really have anything to relate that to over there. How often do you run the aircon, and how many rooms?
Answer: Mita (Tots ‘N Tings and the Unofficial Cook) and I rent a 3 bedroom single story home in Marilao, Bulacan, about 20 kilometers north of Metro Manila. The house is approximately 1,000 square feet in living area and has a small amount of shade from exiting trees. It is typical low-cost employee housing (our subdivision was built about 40 years ago to accommodate employees of the Philippine Central Bank) the walls are reinforced hollow block skim coated on both inside and out, the windows are single-pane steel swing out casement style and the roof is a low, hip roof design covered with the ubiquitous corrugated GI sheet (stands for galvanized iron by the way, not GI like the military folks, but totally inaccurate as the material is galvanized steel, not iron … oh well).

Our electric service is via conventional overhead power pole service to a US made electric meter and thence to a US-made circuit beaker (main service) panel. Total service capacity is 60 amps. We are billed monthly by hand-delivered paper bill (there is virtually no working Philippine postal system, (you only think you got problems with the USPS) each business that wants to operate on a monthly billing scheme has to employ couriers to deliver bills individually) and I normally pay the bill, in cash, at the dedicated “Bill Paying” counter in our local mall’s customer service area. I could also pay at the power company’s local office by cash or check, or (a real rarity) pay by direct debit of my local BDO bank account. One thing I don’t do is delay .. typically power gets cut off within a few days of a bill’s due date … it pays to mark the calendar and follow up if you don’t get a bill in your hand on time, else things will get very dark and warm in a hurry.

Here on Luzon there is a distinct wet and dry season. Usage is highest in “high summer’ which is April through June and lowest during the dry ‘ber’ months of November through February. My last bill, for service from 15 August through 15 September was for 376kWh @ 9.0613 Pesos per Kwh ($0.19376 USD) for a total of PhP 3407.05, or about $72.87 USD at today’s rate. Philippine electricity has the distinction of being second most expensive in the world, only Japan is more costly. To put this in perspective, our rent is PhP 7,000, which is $149.68 USD at today’s rate, so our electric costs are basically 50% of our rent.

We have two individual one horsepower (12,000 BTU) window unit air conditioners, one in the master bedroom and one in the bedroom we use as Blog Central Bulacan. The wiring is ample to run both at once, but we seldom do. Typically the one in the computer room runs 6 or 8 hours a day (I seldom need to turn it on before 9 am) and the one in the bedroom runs 10 pm to 6 am or so … so that electric bill includes an average of 16 hours a day of 12,00 BTU air conditioning. The temperature makes much more difference than the time, it seems, because the units spend much of their time in “fan only” status, while in the hot months the compressor kicks in much more often. These units are over sized for the rooms they serve, if I were do it over again, I would buy a single one horsepower “split” unit with two “heads”, one head for each bedroom. The rest of the house gets by fine on open windows and fans.

How does that compare with your rent or mortgage payments versus your electric bill?

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  1. says

    Hi Dave – WOW! Thanks for the detailed answer. That was great and extremely informative.

    I’m guessing your rent is about P7,000 not P700 though. Either one is a great deal by comparison here.

    Our kWh runs between $.06 and .07, depending on how much you use. The first 600 are at the lower. I use approx 700 kWh a month, but it’s deceiving because we have natural gas for things like the furnace, water heater and dryer. Winter months are our most expensive (or highest usage).

  2. says

    @Randy C: Ooops thnaks for catching that … yes, 7,000 PhP it is. if I had to earn a living as a typist _or_ a bookkeeper … well, I’d be a lot skinnier, that’s for sure 😉 So the power here in the Manila area is right at three times higher, per kWh. What state is that? I’m still at the beginning of my first cup so I can’t remember …

    Let’s see …. furnace, water heater, dryer? I remember those things … vaguely LoL There is no city (piped in) gas distribution anywhere here that I can compare stateside prices with. For cooking we use bottled gas. The bottles are the same as those in the US, a 20 pounder, delivered, costs about PhP 600 and for cooking alone lasts about three months. You can run other gas appliance on bottled gas, although you’ll often need an adjustment to the burner. Do, do bring your gas BBQ, it will hook right up and gas BBQ’s, if you can find them, are ridiculously expensive here.

  3. Ellen says

    Hi all – thanks for sharing, Dave. Hmmm, too bad I can’t seem to get a handle of how much we use here. The house we are staying in does not have its own meter – it is connected along with the other things going on on the other side (boatyard) and registered as commercial – therefore I can’t even get the residential rates for Randy.

    Gas bottles – just replaced ours last week for about P623. That old one lasted 8 months – only the 2 of us here and I very seldom bake anymore. Aircon – only use the one in the bedroom from 7 pm to 6 am. The one in the living area is seldom used – especially when there is a breeze and I keep windows and doors open. It is not bad, however, when the noon and pm sun hits, it can feel like an oven here. So I think, positioning your house and windows are very important. The aircon is used in the bedroom because the room is situated in the S and E corner where the breeze rarely flow through (Winds are seldom from the East and southerly winds are seldom strong unless there is a squall).

    This is my 2-bits worth contribution :)

  4. says

    @Ellen: Thanks for this contribution, which is worth far more thna 2-bits. Wow 8 months out of a gas bottle? You are indeed tipid ;-). There are just two of us here also, most of the time, but Mita is an enthusiastic cook … lucky me.

    Your comment points out something a lot of folks don’t think of … winds in the Philippines vary a lot by location. here in central Luzon a breeze is a rare thing … the only time there is wind is if there are any storms about … rest of the time we’d pay money for a breeze. Less than 150 miles away, on the Zambales and ilocos coasts tthe winds are predictable enough that people already have viable wind generators (a good adjunct to solar). The Philippines is a tiny country in comparison to the US or Canada, but it’s a ‘long’ country … almost as far from Tawi Tawi up to Batanes as from say New Orleans to Chicago … so there are many differences in local climate. My old friend, has historical data including wind speed and direction for many Philippine cities.

  5. Ellen says

    Hi again, yes I check wunderground archives quite a bit – especially when we were doing our route planning and timing. Can’t really sail into an area when it shows 70% chance of thunderstorms in the past – haha. It was indeed scary when we sailed through the lower latitudes both sides of the equator – lightning everywhere and very LOUD. It is a wonderful site – and this is where I try to find where the tropical storms are too. Thanks.

    Yup – I hate cooking – and when I do cook – I cook for 2 days. So, I probably use more electricity than gas – cuz I am into reheating in the microwave – hahaha. If not, we eat sandwiches only and keep heavy meals (with rice) to only once per day.

  6. says

    @Ellen: I’ve promoted Weather Underground before, but I am not sure many people ever explore its vast resources. A valuable place to visit. The best worldwide view for tropical storms I have found is here:

    Many other sites focus on regions, these guys cover the world. Like Weather Underground they have excellent historical data too.

    BTW, are you a Dangerous Catch viewer? To me it is one of the most fascinating series on television … what those guys do for their regular job puts most TV fictional ‘danger dramas’ to shame.

  7. Ellen says

    Thanks Dave – I saved the site into my “travel and weather” category. We are sailing for a while, but I still like to look at trends of the season. I particularly am interested in sailing to Japan, and I won’t even have a hard time twisting hubby’s arm on this. Problem is how to come back from there – that might be a challenge – wind and current-wise.

    I watch Dangerous Catch when I happen into it. Yup yup yup – I get green in the face during fowl seas – but still have to be alert and up – have to. :)

  8. says

    @Ellen: A trip to Japan certainly sounds interesting. One good thing about traveling to Japan is the transportation system there is so well developed that any port is essentially as good as any other … it’s easy to get anywhere by timely. comfortable trains. (buy a Japan rail pass _before_ you go, though, they can only be bought outside Japan … else the cost will put a big dent in your budget. Nagasaki or Kagoshima are good bets, coming from the south. Getting back is easy, I looked on the map and it’s all downhill LoL.

    Speaking of maps, you might like this website for high level ‘day dream’ planning. It is of course aviation oriented so it ignores that boats can’t sail across land, but I spend many happy hours day dreaming about trips from ‘here to there’ … and you can put your own way points in very easily to approximate the real course a boat would follow … you can ignore all the ETOPS references, that’s special purpose FAA rules for flying twin-engine aircraft over water.

  9. Ellen says

    Hey I tried that site and it said from Davao to Ishigaki – a direct route is about 1100+ miles. :) – and thats about 11 days for us, give or take. Our Kiwi friends passed through there from Central Philippines to Vancouver. It was a culture shock for them, of course, comparing Philippines to Japan – hahaha, but they only had nice things to say about both countries. One thing that was shocking to me was that they said it is very cheap in Japan compared to Vancouver. Mind you, this is not the first time I’ve heard that cruising in Japan is very cheap – a lot of the coastal people are very friendly and the marinas are very welcoming and FREE. Our Australian friends stayed there for 3 years and his wife thought english for US$45 an hour. They only left because the authorities (in clean crisp white uniforms) politely told them they were already overstaying (bet with a lot of bowing while they said this ). I’ve been to Japan in the 70s and studied a lot of Japanese case studies (for my masters). I really like it, though I think if we go, we will only go as far as the southern islands – up to Okinawa. Like you said, the transport system there is so efficient, there shouldnt be any problems.

    Thanks again for the tips, and sorry this is so off topic on this thread :).

  10. says

    @Ellen: Don’t worry about the topic, the post we are linked to is called “Questin” and certainly if one end of your journey is the Philippines it sounds pretty “on topic” to me.

    My view of prices in Japan is that there can be terrific bargains, and they can also water your eyes … and often in the same store 😉

    Food can be atrociously expensive … Kobe steak in the supermarket at more than $100 USD per pound, etc. But when I was there and “living on the economy” as a batechelor I lived off ready to eat items in the supermarkets. I’d stop most every day at amarket on my way home (chosen because of free roof-top parking) and their ready to eat section was a treasure trove. Anything made that day would go on half-price sale at 5 or 6 pm … they are total freshness freaks especially regarding sea food … so I didn’t make out bad at all. At least a couple days a week my deputy and I would go to a local McDonalds for lunch … a ‘setto’ was usually about $5 or $5.50 and included a very real bargain for me … coffee with one free refill … hard to beat. Japanese McDonalds also had a menu item that should be required world wide … at the bototm of one of the menu signs was an entry “Smiles: 0 Yen” … since they often have parking and always have toilet seats and paper, McDonalds is your friend ;-).

    Make your visit correspond with sakura time … usually early March in the Ryukus unless you have seen it already … it is not to be missed.

  11. says

    Hey Dave – I was reading an article somewhere earlier today (geez I hope it wasn’t here) about having your car converted to LPG. It was P40,000 (I think) to do so. What’s your take on that?

    I remember in the late 70’s, when I worked for a pizza place, we had all our trucks converted to propane. Had a massive tank in the bed. Seems like we had lots of issues with them, but I don’t know if it was the trucks themselves or the conversion.

  12. says

    @Randy C: You didn’t read it here. Propane, LPG, CNG, Shellane and several others are all what we we laymen called ‘bottled gas’. All are available around the orld and all _can_ be used as motor fuel. However, (there’s always an however, seems like ;-), it is not very efficient for gasoline engines. A conversion kit for PhP 40T is only ‘overpriced’ by about a factor of two. They are available in the US in varyng degrees of sophistication. Places like pizza parlors would be a great candidate becuase often they use a lot of propane for the ovens, so since they are buying big quantities it looks attractive.

    Propane has a much lower density than gasoline, so you need a bigger tank to get the same range. because it is under pressure in the tank you need a heavier and more sotly tank too. But propane (and it’s compressed gas colleagues) have amuch highe roctane rating than any gasoline sold … so if you just feed it to a gasoline engine with low compression to work with today’s gasoline a lot of the propane’s energy is just wasted. In a diesel … very high compesssion … works like gangbusters. Many large over the road trucks in the US already use LNG or CNG … it is cost sompetitive and burns extremely clean. every truck stop has it. In Colorado Springs where I used t live the city buses use CNG as well as much of the utility department’s fleet … it saves a lot on costs (likely wouldn’t be as cheap in the Philippines) and you can hold your nose in the tail pipe of a city bus and sense nothing but heat … no smell, no smoke, virtually no particulate matter. It would thus be a _great_ possibility for jeepneys and over the road busses here … but to use it effectively in gas engines you really need to rebuild the engine to very high compression like a race car … else it’s inefficient.


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