01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: Crazily high electricity bills conundrum solved?!... 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Crazily high electricity bills conundrum solved?!...

I’d like to give an update to all those who have been very kind in helping with practical advice over how to deal with our crazy electricity bills. Needless to say, the saga has been ongoing.

We have switched to low voltage bulbs etc (sadly the bulbs are still pretty costly in this country) and still our last electricity bill for September was 41,000/- (around £385). Gasp! No, in spite of industrial scale bills, we don’t run a sweat shop from home, or have any large scale industry going on in the garden – I promise! (I almost wish we did, at least we could defray bills with profits...)

The good news is that we have now finally, (hopefully) resolved the puzzle and it all boils down to a faulty water heater that has been running constantly. The night security lighting was not the culprit. (I know, I know, somebody commented repeatedly saying ‘DONT USE YOUR WATER HEATER’ whoever that was, was so right).

What happened was that I noticed that over the last 3 months, while our bills have been extraordinarily high, the active a/c consumption has doubled while our water heating meter consumption has read 0. As I wondered about this, I finally recollected that a slightly cocky electrician had come to our house in June to fix a broken water heater thermostat in our old bathroom water heater. Turns out that he didn’t do a very good job and this point marked the beginning of our woes.

The normal thermostat (that he was supposed to have fixed) blew and the heater automatically started running off the booster – hence a steady supply of hot water.

Since I called in our friendly neighbourhood electrician Jeff, who looks a lot like Run DMC (big guy, Kangol hat, tracksuit, big trainers, chains, softly spoken), I found out a few interesting facts:

1. The ‘booster’ thermostat runs to the main meter, these units consumed are charged at a higher rate than the second specifically water heating meter. That is why the latter was reading 0 consumption.

2. The booster thermostat electrics were being run off a lighting circuit. The small wires have been struggling to measure up to the water heating job and have burned black, but were somehow after 3 months still working. There was apparently a high risk of fire during this time.

3. This is because the small/thin lighting circuit wires get warm while the water heater is on, which apparently makes the meter itself run more quickly ie explaining the higher rate of consumption.

4. Plus, and critically, the timer for the water heater was not working, so it was on constantly.

Jeff is a bit of a hero. Over the past few months he has also fixed our washing machine, put a new compressor in our fridge when it stopped working, hung a mini chandelier (that I brought from England in my suitcase) and changed a few blown switches in the kitchen. He has a car and a mobile phone, and his workshop is the one that fixed my eldest daughter’s hot pink cd player when she carelessly forced the lid and snapped it.

Re the crazily expensive electricity bills - You must be thinking but DUH – she is soooo stupid. How can this problem have been going on for 3 MONTHS! I know, I know. I feel stupid. In the first place I was blind-sided by all this talk of the higher cost of electricity countrywide because of the drought in Kenya. I then spent a long time thinking that the meter itself was faulty and was looking into getting KPLC to come and replace it. Needless to say they were dragging their heels not a little. Weeks went by. Oh well. I’ll let you know what our next bill but one is. October’s will be high too as we have only just sorted this. In the meantime, what a waste of cash.... Makes you want to cry....

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