Life & Work
All you need to know about prepaid metersThursday October 20 2011
With inflation biting hard and the cost of essential goods hitting the roof, watching your power expenditure, which we have been told is set to go up some more at the end of this month, is something you need to do.
Using gadgets in the house indiscriminately without a hint on how much power they are consuming can lead to unnecessary but avoidable costs.
Many of us will use the remote to switch the TV or stereo on or off and then leave the appliance running on standby the whole day and night.
This actually means the appliance is still using up electricity and wastes a considerable amount of energy.
Switching off at the main power button, or even the socket, could help you save energy and ultimately money.
With power bills soaring beyond the control of most consumers, we talked to people who are on the prepay tariff and those on the postpaid to see how you can take control of your consumption.
Kenya Power recently launched and is still rolling out prepaid digital meters which only allow consumers to use units they have paid for. The mode of payment is through purchasing a recharge card with a 20 digit number, more like the cell phone airtime scratch card, and then keying in the number on the meter.
“The recharge is instant and you do not need to worry about late payment or reconnection charges as you can load even in the middle of the night,” explains Kenya Power Engineer John Wekesa.
But consumers have received the prepay metres with mixed reactions. Others are cursing claiming they are being overcharged and would rather the postpay arrangement.
“For me, migrating to prepay meter was the beginning of my woes, the cost of the unit is ambiguous and arbitrary.
The same amount of money will get you a different number of units each time,” decries Raven Chuma, a user.
To John Zakumi, a Nairobi resident, the prepay model is working for him as he is now able to manage his power expenditure.
“For me, life is more predictable with the prepaid meters and I like the fact that I’m warned before being disconnected.
I can then put in a little amount of credit to tide me over as I look for money to pay for more units. With the post pay method, I would never know how I was being billed and kept feeling that somehow, the company was charging me arbitrarily ,” says Zakumi.
But how exactly does the prepay meter work?
According to Wekesa, the notion that the prepay meter is costly is misleading and most consumers are yet to grasp how the electricity billing system works.
He explains that the system is based on a calendar month where a monthly fixed charge of Sh120 is deducted at the first top-up of the month. The first 50 units, says Wekesa costs a user Sh2 per unit on top of the fixed charge.
However, any unit consumed above 50 but below 1500 is billed at Sh8.10 per unit and above that Sh18.57 per unit.
The prepay system is automated and that’s why subsequent top ups after the initial ones tend to seem expensive.
For instance, if your first top up is Sh1000, you get 69 units because for the first 50 units, you are charged at Sh2 each and the rest (19 units) at Sh8.10, then above that, you have to cough up a whopping Sh18.57 per unit. That is why subsequent top ups seem expensive.
The bottom line here is that the more you keep spending within a month, the more you pay hence the need to regulate your monthly consumption.
The good news is that the prepay meter is fitted with an alarm that notifies you when the units go below 20 so that you can top up in time.
The prepay system gives you a preview of your consumption rate meaning you can switch off unnecessary electronics and other gadgets to save on energy.
There’s no reconnection fee for the pre pay method of billing because you pay before you consume and you are immediately reconnected upon purchasing power units.
According to Wekesa, this is the same billing system applied to postpaid meters only that the computation is done monthly unlike in prepay system where billing is instant.
Energy saving tips around your house
Don’t Leave electrical appliances on standby mode, switch off at the socket
In most homes, about 10-15 per cent of the electricity bill is for lighting. Use energy saving light bulbs to cut your costs considerably.
They may be more expensive to buy than traditional bulbs, but they are worth the investment as they last over 10 times longer and use up to 4 times less energy.
No matter what type of lighting you are using, always turn the lights off when you leave a room.
Use a smaller electrict burner if using a small pan. Boiling water in an electric kettle first will save the time the burner needs to heat the water, and putting a lid on will help it come to a boil quicker.
When making a cup of tea, only boil the amount of water that you need.
Boiling a full kettle unnecessarily is a waste of electricity.
The location of your fridge can make a difference in how energy efficient it is.
Make sure it is out of direct sunlight and not close to the oven. It is best to keep it against an outside wall so that the heat it generates can escape easily, and always make sure that there is a few inches space all around the fridge so that air can circulate.
Make sure you defrost your fridge and freezer on a regular basis or whenever necessary.
An iced up freezer will make the freezer work harder, therefore wasting more energy than needed.
Only set your fridge to as cold as you need it and avoid keeping the door open for long periods as the more cold air that escapes, the harder the fridge has to work. You should check the seal regularly as well, because if it is damaged, cold air will escape making the freezer less effective.
You should never put warm or hot food in the fridge as this will make it work extra hard to try and keep it cold; always allow food to cool down first.
Defrost frozen food in the fridge as this helps to keep it cool as it thaws