Meralco’s ‘orange tags’

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas - The Philippine Star

I’ve long wondered how I could reduce my monthly electric bill. How much do I pay for an airconditioner I rarely use, four electric fans whirring during waking hours, a flat iron, eight fluorescent lamps, three TV sets, a 7 cubic-foot refrigerator and two computers? For what I consider “economical” usage, my monthly bill varies from P5,000 to P6,000 a month. How can I reduce that amount?

Yes, we can cut down our electric bills, Tony Valdes, head of the marketing and customer relations office of Meralco, told us journalists and regular attendees at the media forum Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel Hotel.

The first “remedial” step cost-anxious consumers like us can take is looking for the “orange tags” in the household appliances we purchase. The bright orange tags plastered on appliances have been worked out between Meralco and certain appliance manufacturers to help consumers, said Valdes, to “make informed choices” when buying household devices. This project is in keeping with Meralco’s policy of informing and giving (“malasakit”) caring for customers.

The orange-tagged appliances have been tested for accuracy and varifiability, in Meralco’s test lab, said Alfred Iporac, Meralco consumer solutions head. An engineer, Iporac said he and his team try to replicate the normal conditions and the level of use of most appliances in the average Filipino home.

Valdes and Meralco information officer Joe Zaldarriaga brought along consumer guides on the cost of operating appliances. A 7-cubic ft two-door, conventional refrigerator eats up power at P18.10 per day. Multiply that by 12 hours, and you come up with P217.2 a day. The advice given is, don’t unplug the appliance at night, because when you turn it on the next morning, there is an upsurge of electricity, from zero, to the desired level.

(I must admit that I have added a tip or two to the two Meralco executives’ guides, based on the old folks’ advice from way back when.)

A flat iron costs P1.91 per hour of use. Switch down device when the temperature goes up (otherwise your materials being pressed will get burned). Avoid pressing one or two dresses or handkerchiefs at one time, when you can iron many materials during that one time. 

It’s P4.93 per hour for a 1 hp window-type air conditioner. If you leave an air-conditioned room for 30 minutes, don’t turn off the appliance, but set it down to 27 degrees, then turn it up, if you wish, when you return to the room.

A rice cooker for l-liter rice consumes P1.87 per saing, or P800.00 a month. If you leave the device on after the rice is cooked, the device turns itself up when the rice becomes cold. Advice: turn off the cooker after rice is cooked, then turn it on when you want to reheat it. Don’t leave the cooker on the whole day or you’ll be charged for an unnecessary six hours or so.

A 32” television set consumes P1.10 per hour. Joe Z told me that keeping the TV set on high volume does little to up the cost. Some TV sets have automatic timers; the device turns off and on according to your specifications.

A Microwave oven costs P.90 per minute. Additional tip: don’t use metal utensils or wrapping foil in the micro-oven.

A computer and monitor costs P0.76 per hour.

A washing machine for 6-kilos of clothes, costs P2 per cycle, i.e., per washing, rinsing, and drying.

A most expensive appliance is the water dispenser (P15-20 per hour). This is because the water cools down when not in use, and starts heating up when the “hot” button is pressed.

So, if you’re getting a new appliance, look for the “orange tag.” Without it you can’t be sure how much using it charges you per hour. Valdes said not all appliance manufacturers have agreed to let Meralco test its products as yet. So, be aware, and be warned.

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Valdes said Meralco’s public information drive also involves new technologies recommending energy-saving and safety considerations.

One is the induction cooktop that does not use traditional radiant heat, and heats food and liquids more quickly than traditional cooktops.

The induction stove, is unlike electric stoves that have coil cooktops which consume a lot of power.

LED lamps are cheaper energy-wise than the traditional lamps.

Appliances using “inverter” technology are new development which, said Iporac, consume around 20 to 40 percent less power, and therefore savings in electric bills. Inverter technology, however, requires an initial steep outlay, but will in time become cheaper.

Another technology is solar power, but the drawback is its not showing itself to be cost-efficient for the household level. It will take a household about 10 years before recovering the investment spent on solar panels said Valdes.

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Now, as to the perception that foreign investors are discouraged from doing business in the country because of its high cost of electricity, Zaldarriaga said an international study places Philippine power rates ninth highest among 40 markets surveyed.

Zaldarriaga said a study done by the International Energy Consultants (IEC) in 2012 revealed that the Philippines’ electricity rates are not the highest in Asia or in the world. According to Dr. John Morris, a number of Asian counterparts with lower rates enjoy subsidies from their governments that range from 36 to 54 percent of the cost of supplying electricity. Subsidies account for around 75 percent of the difference between Meralco’s tariffs and those of its Asian neighbors.

Such subsidies come in the form of frozen tariffs, sale of fuel to utilities at below market rates, deferred expenditure leading to supply shortfalls, borrowing to meet operating costs, and large cash grants to utilities.

Zaldarriaga emphasized that Meralco is responsible only for distribution charges, accounting for only 18 percent of one’s monthly bills.

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On another front, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto says thumbs up to a Department of Health (DOH) order that women’s “dignity kits” must be distributed during disasters and emergencies.

The kit must contain 22 items of women’s personal care, including, bath soap, laundry soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, panties, brassiere, sanitary napkins, shampoo, face towel, bath towel, slippers, tissue roll, cotton balls, and a malong. Also in the kit are a pail, whistle, solar lamp with charger, alcohol, dipper, comb, and chamber pot.

Pregnant women will receive maternity pads, baby rubber mats, three sets of baby clothes, baby blanket, baby mittens, bonnets and socks.

But for these kits to be “prepositioned” in the field, government must release funds for their purchase, which, according to Recto can be taken from the P38.9 billion calamity fund this year.

The said fund, officially known as National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Fund, can be used for “pre-disaster” activities, “which include stockpiling ready-to-deploy emergency food, medicine and other relief goods.”

Ayaw natin na kung kailan tapos na ang emergency ay saka lang bibilhin ang mga ito, “ Recto said, noting that government procurement practices “are like that of a person who is still haggling for the price of a water hose when his neighbor’s house is already on fire.”

Recto issued the call after Health Secretary Janette-Loreto Garin “commendably issued” DOH Administrative Order (AO) 2016-05 Feb. 26, 2016, detailing the national policy on the Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) for women’s health in health emergencies and disasters.

The order carried out mandates in Republic Act (RA) 9170, or the Magna Carta for Women, and in RA 10354, or the Responsible and Reproductive Health Law, that timely comprehensive health services must be extended to women during emergencies.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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