Electricity in the Philippines, Part 2 – Generators, AVR’s and Savings

Ok, so after discussing some of the things you can proactively put into place in order to deal with power irregularities in teh Philippines, let’s take a look at some other factors.

 

National Power Supply

The Philippines makes use of traditional power production (fossil fuel-powered stations) and also relies on geothermal and hydroelectric plants.  With the population of the Philippines recently hitting 100 million souls and limited increases of actual power production, electricity shortages are becoming a problem.  2015 in particular is going to bring a host of shortages to the Luzon area, with the government there scrambling to source supplemental power generation to cover the expected shortages.

 

In order to deal with the limited energy supply, many provinces institute planned “brownouts,” rolling them around the state in order to provide at least some daily power to affected shortage areas.  Mindanao – which relies heavily on hydroelectric power generation from it’s many raging rivers – is known to have daily rolling brownouts during the “dry” summer months when the water tables across the island drop precipitously.  Solar production has been gaining traction over the years, and commercial solar plants are breaking ground in some provinces.  The Philippines can also claim the largest solar powered mall in the world, with 5,760 panels being mounted atop the SM City North EDSA mall outputting 1.5 megawatts.

 

 

Backup Power Production

A number of commercial/corporate locations and private homes have emergency backup generators.  The most fuel efficient of these are diesel generators but some smaller “gennies” only run on gasoline.  Some of the larger hotels and malls you will see have massive diesel backup generator arrays in order to ensure continued electrical delivery to their clientele.

Residential solar arrays are becoming more popular as time goes on.  Some folks are putting up simple systems to power a single deep cycle battery for a few lights and a fan.  Others are putting up larger systems with multiple battery banks that can power the entire home.  We had a large system in Dauin that basically powered the entire home – we only had to switch over to the electrical company during extended cloudy periods or when we were running the bathroom water heater too often.  Batteries are still the weak link on dedicated solar arrays.  With the heat and humidity of the tropics and even with regular maintenance, they still have to be replaced a LOT sooner than those in a more temperate climes.  As for cost per kilowatt hour, home solar production systems are still not perfected enough to get a good return on investment, especially in the tropics where you will see about .22 to .35 cents per kilowatt hour.  Still, when more efficient batteries are put into production, solar energy will be a total game changer.

Cost source: (http://www.solarray.com/TechGuides/Batteries_T.php)

small solar array

solar deep cycble battery

Dedicated solar battery

 

110V and 220V

The Philippines has a 220 volt electrical grid.  If you have a strictly 100 volt appliance (toaster, blender, etc.), you will need a voltage converter in order to use it.  Most – if not all – electrical gadgets (phone chargers, desktop and laptop power supplies, gaming system, newer televisions, etc.) all have power supplies that automatically switch between 110 and 220.  That said, MAKE SURE to check the fine print on your unit’s power supply to make sure that it does so!  I brought over a lot of gadgets from the USA, and the following items are the only things I have issues with:

 

  • My Nintendo Wii is the does not switch automatically between the two voltages and I will need a 220v power supply in order to use it.
  • My Nintendo DS Lites also need dedicated 220V charging units.
  • An old electrical heating pad for my aching lower back only uses 110 volts. I can use the 110 V outlet on my AVR unit if I want to use it.
  • Two 110 volt surge protector/power strips didn’t work here. I plugged them in anyways, let the surge protection unit “blow up,” and now simply use them as power strips (attached to my AVR).
voltage converter

Voltage Converter

 

110 220 selectro Switch NET

Old style power supply voltage selector

 

 

“Dirty Electricity”

Voltage….er….irregularities are a real problem in the Philippines.  Even with the fairly dependable electricity that we receive on Negros Oriental, the voltage levels can vary wildly at time.  On Leyte and Mindanao, my fellow authors report that it is even worse.  We personally didn’t notice it until we got a desktop PC.  Yes, the lights would occasionally dim in the house, but once we got the desktop, it really come to a head, with the PC restarting with even the slightest power fluctuation.  We didn’t notice this with our laptops as their power supplies had in-line batteries which would modulate the voltage delivery.  To solve the desktop issue, we picked up a fairly inexpensive Automatic Voltage Regular (AVR) and since then – short of a total power loss – we haven’t had any problems. As a matter of fact,  I know it’s working as whenever it kicks in, the AVR’s mechanical arms make quite the ruckus as they do their job keeping the voltage steady.  AVR’s usually have more than one outlet, so I also have our LED TV and media player hooked up to it.  And if I really want to go old school, it’s even got an outlet for 110 volt appliances!  The AVR we purchased was a little Sassin SVC-1000 (1000 watt), and it cost us 2,500 pesos.  A little expensive, but it’s better than having your TV or computer damaging power spikes.  Overall, it’s a great investment.

sassin 1000 NET

Sassin 1000 Volt Automatic Voltage Regulator

 

 

Electricity Costs

With a stressed system and limited facilities, electricity costs about twice what it does in the United States, costing – on average – about 10 pesos (or .25 cents USD)  per kilowatt hour.  The price fluctuates slightly throughout the year depending on a variety of environmental and production factors, but when all is said and done, if you are going to run your electronic devices like you do in the West, it’s going to cost you.  I know some expats that run their aircon systems all day and night and are regularly dealing with a seven to eight thousand peso electric bills.  After hearing about this even before moving to the RP, I had budgeted $200 USD just for electricity alone.  Thankfully – due to some energy savings measures that we will discuss in the next section – our bill has never been that bad.

Paying your electric bill in the Philippines is pretty easy – you can pay them directly at the local electric company office or – better yet for a much shorter line –  make your way to a number of local banks that participate in the utilities payment network.  Other than Manila and Cebu, you will find online utility payment options limited or non-existent.

 

 

Electricity Savings Techniques

After the shock of getting your first electric bill, you will most likely start implementing energy saving measures.  The Philippines embraced fluorescent lights in lieu of much less efficient incandescent long before the United States did, but shutting them off when not needed is the first step in cost savings.  The second thing you should look at is your air conditioning use.  As stated previously,  I am a total wimp and need at least the option to turn on my aircon when the heat and humidity here grows to unbearable levels. Back in the US, if it got to hot, I would simply crank the aircon level to it’s highest level (10) and not worry too much about the costs.  Here, however, I rarely have the level higher than 4.  This brings the room down to a very bearable 78 degrees Fahrenheit and limits the time the compressor is on which lowers our electrical costs.  How much you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you – We use aircon about 8-10 hours a day and along with our other electrical use (desktop and laptop computers, Playstation 3, 46 inch LED TV, etc) we run about 2,400 pesos a month (or about $54 USD a month).  Keep in mind that this is with a .5 HP Carrier Optima aircon that is very efficient and – in my humble opinion – was one of the best purchases we have made.  It’s small and only good for a medium-sized bedroom, but it’s cheap to run and has yet to let us down.  🙂

 

flouresent bulb NET

 

 

So, that’s about it.  If you’ve got any questions or have anything you would like to add, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.  This blog entry will probably make it’s way into our upcoming book on the Philippines, so your input is appreciated in advance!

Comments 19

  1. Hi Ned
    In the UK I have gas and electric I pay a combined monthly bill of £85 thats nearly 6000peso (my electricity is £0.1533p per kilowatt that is nearly 11peso, I run two cars one runs on petrol the other diesel, petrol costs £1.17p per litre ( 82peso ) and diesel costs £1.22p per litre ( 85peso ), fuel costs have come down in UK at one time I was paying £1.46p per litre for diesel thats 102peso.
    So i don’t see electricity costs as a problem its the SUPPLY that concerns, more so as I intend to retire to Davao. I don’t intend to drive ( they drive like lunatics in the Philippines) as public transport and taxis are real cheap.
    Love your Blogs and Vids
    Gerry

    1. Post
      Author

      Whoa. Well, I guess that puts things into perspective. I don’t know about southeastern Mindanao, but I do know that other parts of Mindanao have pretty bad power shortages if they have a dry summer season. A good part of their supply relies on hydroelectric, and lowered water tables have a definite impact on that. Thanks much for that information, Gerry.

    2. Gerry, being and engineer with some experience in Philippines I would like to make following comments to what you said. A/C cost depends on three major factors: outside temperature, insulation of the building and efficiency of A/C unit. Temperatures in Philippines are much higher on average than anywhere in Europe not to mention UK. Reasonably priced apartments are built cheap which means poor insulation to save on cost and also A/C units which are affordable are not energy efficient – in particular it applies to manual units versus those with inverters. These are three reasons why cost of A/C can be significantly higher then in UK or other parts of Europe. Limiting the area which is air-conditioned to bedroom during the night and living room during the day can help of course.

      1. Post
        Author
  2. In one of your statements you said an inverter AC works a lot cheaper would you elaborate We run basically the same but my air is on more and I have 4 nippa huts on my bill but they are mostly lights and battery chargers my bill is about 5500p

    1. Post
      Author

      Inverter or split-type aircons are more efficient than conventional window aircons and thus use less electricity. They are more expensive to purchase, but the savings over time adds up quite quickly.

  3. Your not that bad off there apart from the brown outs. I am in tropical north Queensland Australia. The climate is almost as hot as the Philipinnes. I just checked the electricity tariffs for here. The basic rate is 28c/kwh (23c US) but we also have a service fee of 92c/day (74c US). The temperature here in summer is usually about 30C to 35C and about 25C at night (sorry but I am only 55 years young and can’t remember what that was when we used to use that outdated Faranhhaat?? whatever system(btw when is the USA going to catch up with the rest of the world)). The thing is of course we do have much higher wages so we are better off than the Filipinos.

    1. Post
      Author

      A lot of Aussies quote those prices as well. I once heard the minimum wage that you all get there and thought it was amazing, but then I heard what you are paying for petrol and electricity. Thanks for your comment, and yeah, between learning of costs in the UK and Australia, I am not feeling so bad now.

  4. what about the use of solar heating system just a simple system consisting of black plastic hoses on the roof and a solar 12v pump to run it ,that way u have warm showers and not the cold philipino shower …….. just an idea!

    1. Post
      Author

      An expat buddy of mine did just that – constructed his own water heater, but he made it gravity fed. When the sun is shining, you have to mix in a good amount of cold water to make it tolerable. 🙂

  5. A thought that I see missed often in these power discussions.
    There is no reason you can’t charge your batteries when grid power is on. It doesn’t have to dome from generators or solar.

    As for humidity making them last less long, this is a definite factor, but there is some twice a week maintenance that will help. Just go out with a rag and wipe the battery between the terminals. The air deposits gunk between them and that provides a path for current. Break the path.

    1. Post
      Author

      Good points, Owen, and yes, you could charge some batteries on regular electric for brownouts. We don’t get them much at all here on Negros, so I haven’t seen the need for it. Good advice on the batteries as well – this weather is brutal on them.

  6. Are LED light bulbs available there yet? They are still somewhat expensive here in the US, but are even more energy efficient than the fluorescent bulbs. Also, do you think it would be better to send a step up/ step down transformer (these can be fairly heavy) or AVR in a BB box, or purchase them on the economy there?

  7. Interesting about power in the Philippines. Where I live in Connecticut, my electric bill runs on the average of about $75 to $80 per month during the winter and springtime. During the hot months, June July and August, it can run about $100 to $120 per month. Depends on the house. I know some folks pay $300 to $400 per month. It is very rare to have a power outage or brownout here. By the way I agree with the Aussie, we should get with the rest of the world and convert to the metric system.

    1. Post
      Author

      Yeah, I thought it was bad here in the Philippines until I heard that people in Australia and the UK are paying about the same! For Americans, though, electricity costs here in the Phils are about twice the cost in the US.

  8. Its not just UK and the down under. Every time I hear youbtalk about electricity I know you are from up north. Being a WI native living in South east TX gulf coast area I couldn’t believe electricity prices here. My electric bill goes $250-$450 a month. And I’m not a heavy electricity user. No TV, no gaming. Minimal lighting. Its all electric heat, ac, water heat, stove and dishwasher. Then again when its 100 with 100% humidity I’m running two ac units full blast for 1000sq foot house

    1. Post
      Author
  9. I have a low voltage problem in my farm in alfonso cavite at 160volts.my 1hp water pump which used to work efficiently now cannot bring water from the source 30mtrs downslope to my overhead tank.do i need an AVR to bring up voltage to 220V?

    1. Post
      Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *