Tuesday, December 06, 2016

electric bill: WOW!

Every month, I pay something that I often miscall "rent." Technically, it's more like an admin fee: my company, which is sponsoring my housing, is the actual rent-paying entity. In the summer months, when I'm not using much electricity except to drive my air conditioner, I pay about W180,000, or somewhere between $150 and $155, US. As summer bleeds into fall and my A/C usage drops off, my bill shrinks to an even more pleasant W160,000 or so.

Last year—my first winter in Daecheong Tower, my apartment building—the weather eventually got so cold that I finally relented and grudgingly turned on my floor heating. Once I made that decision, I kept the floor heating on pretty much every day during the winter—whenever I was home, I mean. Obviously, the ondol was off whenever I was out. Still, even though the ondol was on for only part of the day, my monthly bill doubled frighteningly in size to around W350,000.

We should keep this in perspective, though: paying W350,000 a month for "rent" is still a far better deal than paying the usual W500,000 to W1,500,000 a month for actual rent in an apartment with a standard contract. With this in mind, I would get a bit sulky whenever I saw my monthly admin fee, but the mood would wear off soon enough once I remembered how cheap my accommodations still were, despite the doubling in size of my bill.

This past November, as the weather finally went from warm to cool to occasionally very cold, I decided to try something a little different, which I talked about in an earlier post: I elected to heat my apartment with just my space heater and a couple pots of boiling water on the gas range. While my gas bills in Daegu and Ilsan were expensive, I currently never pay more than $2 a month for gas in Daecheong Tower (the gas bill comes separately, by the way). So I thought to myself: if gas is this amazingly cheap, and if my space heater supposedly consumes as little electricity as the salesman claims, then why not try to survive this coming winter on just those two heat sources?

Almost every day in November, then, I used my space heater. Sometimes I cranked it to "regular"; sometimes I cranked it to "high." And as the month wound down, I became curious as to how much my residence fee was going to be.

Well, good gentles, the bill for November came today, and the damage is:



It's unreal how cheap this bill is, and that's going to do wonders for my budget. The only real question left is whether I'll be able to keep this up when the weather gets truly hardcore. We've got a couple months to find out.


Charles said...

Congrats on the savings. Now all you need are some thick socks and slippers and you won't have to worry about cold floors.

(Also, I think what you are paying is generally just called "utilities.")

Kevin Kim said...

It's more than utilities. The bill itself is labeled "gwallibi myeongse-seo," and it's primarily the admin fees I'd referred to, plus a variable electric bill that's folded into the monthly total. So: admin + utilities (or at least one utility). Gas bill, for the only other utility I pay for, comes separately.

Interestingly, the bill has a little graphic on its front that looks like a tachometer, and the graphic shows my energy consumption. For the first time ever (all my previous electric bills have shown similar information), the graphic said I had consumed 17% less energy than the neighborhood average. That's welcome news, and now I can feel all self-righteously green.

Kevin Kim said...

I think of the mysterious gwallibi as basically a bullshit fee. At every university I've worked at, the monthly itemized pay stub has always shown a debit vaguely labeled "gwalli" or "gwallibi." "Maintenance" is fairly vague, too, but to me, "admin fee" is code for "extra stuff you pay so we can run things." I suppose that "maintenance" is also for the purpose of keeping things running...

Charles said...

It is rather vague. I always assumed it went toward soju for the gwalli ajeossis.