haemorrhaging electricity

July 13th, 2008

Well, we moved in to this place last Monday evening, making it slightly less than a week here, and over that week we’ve been wondering why we seem to be haemorrhaging electricity. Thanks to the pre-pay system and our particular meter, we can monitor just how much electricity we’re using in real time

[quick note: just about every apartment I’ve had in China has been on a pre-pay system, but not every meter will count down how much you’re using all the time. In several places I’ve lived the meter will only start counting down when you hit your last 50 units. Here at BeiGongDa we get a constant read-out of how much we bought last time, how much we’re using, and how much we have left.]

So anyway we seemed to be haemorrhaging electricity, going from a little over 100 units on Monday evening to 65 this morning and 52 at about 3 this afternoon. Ridiculous. I’ve never lived in an apartment that bled electricity so profusely.

And the hot water was at a temperature that was simply absurd and actually quite dangerous, seriously scalding sort of temperature. So there’s something to check….

The fridge, which would ordinarily be one of the biggest power-sappers, is Level-1, the highest grade on the power efficiency scale, and can’t be doing too much damage.

We’ve only turned the aircon on twice, no, three times, and only for short periods when it’s been really, really hot. It’s the huge, freestanding kind, and I have no idea of its energy efficiency, but I imagine it’ll be somewhere up there with the Hummer. Still, short periods to dry the place out and take the edge off the heat, can’t be using too much.

So today I finally climbed up and had a look at the water heater. It conveniently has a dial that shows the current temperature inside the water heater.

70 degrees celsius!!!!!!

No bloody wonder the water was coming out the tap just about hot enough for a cup of tea! No wonder we’re churning through so much electricity!

But wait, there’s more: It has two buttons whose combinations determine the level of heating. Push in the left button only, you get 节能-power saving- 1000 watts. Push in the right button only, you get 标准- standard- 1500 watts. Push in both, you get 速热- rapid heating- 25oo watts. Both buttons were pushed in.

So basically we’re burning through electricity at the rate you’d burn through fuel if you hooked up a Hummer engine to a generator and used it to power a one bedroom, 50 square metre apartment in which every appliance was of the lowest possible energy efficiency and all were left running constantly at maximum capacity- with the windows welded open.

Well, we’ve done what we can to solve that energy inefficiency problem- and we do use a small, simple electric fan for cooling on all but the hottest, most humid days- and tomorrow morning I’m going over to the main campus to buy up what I hope will be enough electricity and internet access (both are prepaid) to get us right through the Olympics (security is getting ever more tiresome, but that’s a whole different story).

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