Actually, we don’t need more power, but we’re getting some anyway. We just had solar panels installed, which led me to reconsider one aspect of expat life in general: utilities.
Utilities are something you take for granted NOB. The water works and is potable, the electricity is always on and the voltage constant, mail is delivered whether “sleet or snow” and sewage just goes away. This is not always the case lakeside. Of course you pay for the luxury of not thinking about your utilities NOB, while here in Mexico we might pay less, with less certainty.
For example, consider electrical power. The line voltage can wax or wane, so you may need to purchase a voltage regulator, or use local appliances designed to operate in such conditions. Power is generally stable here, although we do get occasional outages during especially powerful storms in the rainy season. Given we endured several such outages in our last apartment in Arlington, Virginia, I can hardly complain. My dear wife tells me our electric bills NOB for a small apartment averaged $105 monthly; I wouldn’t know, as I never paid a utility bill in my life (thanks, dear!). Like typical Americans, we had a TV running constantly, air conditioned/heated to 70 degrees year-round, and had all manner of computers and appliances plugged in continuously.
Electric power in Mexico is heavily subsidized by the federal government. There are varying rates for electric use, with the smallest use being very cheap. Once you cross over into high use (called by the acronym DAC) your rates triple. This is meant to deter energy waste, but it is still cheap by NOB standards. The DAC measurement is based on a running 12 month average, so it is not a one-time trip wire, but once you go into DAC you stay at the triple rate until your average goes completely below the limit.
I was really focussed on NOT being an ugly American energy waster when we moved down, so I was a fanatic the first month at turning off lights, unplugging small appliances, etc. Then my first bill came.
Now that bi-montly bill only totaled about $27 USD per month. But as you can see, the usage arrow is way over in the red, the dreaded DAC. ¡A poco! Our bills hovered in the same area the rest of the year. Meanwhile, we sweated through a particularly hot end of the dry season in May and June, which forced us to reconsider the standard no-heat-and-no-air conditioning mantra of lakeside. But if we went with mini-split air conditioners, we would bust DAC permanently.
All of which led us to consider installing solar panels. The purchase and complete installation of four panels with microinverters and a monitoring system ran us approximately $3000 USD, which is still cheap. And yes, I know that even considering the permanent DAC costs, this was not a great move in terms of return on investment. It was more about peace of mind while not worrying about our comfort. We’ll soon follow-up with two mini-split air conditioners. Even after that, our electrical usage should be back down into the low or very low range.
More about the other utilities in future posts!