We just got our first full electric bill and Won’s not happy. It was €307 ($337 USD). I’m pretty sure that if we had a defibrillator handy, he wouldn’t have let me use it to revive him.
How is it possible that we used that much electricity??? Our apartment is only 106 square meters (1141 square feet). To put this in perspective, the electric bill for the month of February when we lived in Chester, New Jersey was $169 (€153). [He wasn’t particularly happy about that bill either, but I digress…] The Chester house was huge – 372 square meters (4001 sq ft not including the nearly 2000 square foot finished basement).
As is the case in the US, the electric company comes out once a month to read the meter. Our meter is located inside our apartment and unfortunately we missed them when they came by. But, unlike the US, they sent Won a text telling him he needed to log on to the electric company website and upload the number. After doing so, he received an immediate message telling him the amount was significantly higher than the prior month. I reminded him that the first month’s bill included time when the apartment was empty prior to our move in so this one would naturally be higher. We just didn’t realize how that was going to equate to cost.
Back to looking at that bill… After we both had a glass of wine to ensure a civil, productive conversation, we started tossing out ideas on what could be impacting the number. The first thing I thought of was the cost of electricity. We had heard anecdotal stories that the cost of electricity in Portugal was high, but we hadn’t fact checked that information. Won pulled up the electric bill from Chester and compared the cost per kilowatt hour (kWh) there to what we pay here. Turns out they aren’t significantly different. In Portugal it is €0.16 kWh (or $0.18 USD using current conversion rates). In Chester it was $0.14 USD (or €0.13). So, while there is a bit of a difference, it’s not huge. I think people believe it is more expensive here because electricity is the primary energy source so they use more.
Of course Won immediately threw out leaving the lights on in the master bath, which I perpetually forget to turn off, along with the towel warmer issue (refer to Random Musings on why this is). I bristled, but knew he had a point. I countered with the fact that we had been using two of our space heaters to help dry the laundry. He agreed that the heaters would be a contributing factor. [For anyone new to my blog, please refer to Home Sweet Home for background on the laundry situation.]
We continued to noodle on what other culprits there could be, but after scratching our heads for a few minutes we couldn’t think of anything else. We live in a small place. It’s only the two of us. We don’t have central air or heat. Could Sweet Pea be a factor? Who knows! She might be getting up in the middle of the night to read or watch TV while we’re sleeping. Nah…but, there had to be something else.
Then I remembered that we have an induction cook top as opposed to gas which is what we had in the States and we no longer grill because we have no outdoor space (which is a TOTAL bummer because we love to grill). This means we are using our oven and cook top a lot. It suddenly occurred to me that all of our appliances use electricity including our water heater. In New Jersey the water heater, dryer, stove and cook top all used natural gas and natural gas is a lot less expensive than electricity. As an example, the bill for gas in February was $35 (€32). Ahhh…so this is what is driving up the electricity bill!
We agreed to make a concerted effort to turn off the bathroom lights and the towel warmer. The weather is warming up and there is less rain so we are already putting clothes out to dry instead of relying on the space heaters. Those are all good measures, but what else could we do???
Then I had an epiphany! The only other way to reduce the bill – other than taking fewer, shorter showers, and let’s face it, with self-isolation in full swing, THAT’s not going to happen – was to use the kitchen less. We calculated the difference between our electric bill here and what we typically paid in Chester including the gas bill. The difference came to approximately €121 ($133).
We had a choice. We could keep things the same and pay the electric company (boo, hiss) or we could use our kitchen less and eat out more often (yay!). We won’t spend less money, but we’ll have more enjoyable evenings and spend it in a far more pleasant way. Another added benefit is that there would be less food to buy too. Talk about a win win! Unfortunately, this awesome plan is on hold until after we are past the pandemic. Until then, Won has begun to follow me around the house ensuring we turn off lights to minimize electricity usage.
So, here it is, 8:37PM on Saturday, March 28th (pre-Daylight Saving Time) and he followed me into the office to watch Netflix while I edited this blog post. This meant he could turn off the lights in the living room. I guess social distancing doesn’t work at home. Good thing we like each other.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay in touch!
From Portugal with love,