Tuesday, January 30, 2007

it's electric

I was chatting with KylieMac yesterday, complaining about our clothes dryer woes, and in talking about how we discovered that it was indeed the dryer that was tripping the fuse, she suggested I write a little post about electricity in France and how it's different than in the States.

So how is it different? Well, for one thing, getting electricity turned on for your new abode isn't as simple as calling up the electric company and paying for what you use. Here in France, when you call, you'll be asked for an accounting of all your electrical appliances. For us, that includes the refrigerator, the dish washer, the television, the two computers, the clothes washer and dryer and all the radiators, of which there is one in each room. The electric company rep then makes an estimate of how much electricity you will need as well as your payment schedule. Once that's set, you'll pay a fixed amount each month for ten months and then on the eleventh month you'll either pay the balance or receive a refund.

If you're playing at home and want a comparison, our monthly payment is right around 100 euros a month. It took the first couple of weeks to get adjusted to the number of appliances that could run at the same time before tripping the fuse - the computers can run with the clothes washer or the dish washer, but never both washers at the same time. Same goes with the washer and dryer, or the dryer and the dish washer. Of course, we could have the amount of electricity increased, but that means our monthly payment would be increased as well. With careful timing, all runs smoothly.

Then you have discounted hours - running appliances between the hours of 12:00pm - 2:00pm and 11:00pm - 7:00am will save you quite a bit of money. For this purpose, our dish washer has a timer on it so it can run in the middle of the night and the water heater waits until the dead of night to replenish itself, but other than that, it's a matter of paying attention to the hour - trying to remember to turn the laundry on at lunchtime, for example.

At first, I thought the idea of paying for electricity on a fixed schedule was just on this side of ridiculous, but Steph reminded me that it would likely save us a huge headache, as the radiators running nonstop would result in sky high bills in winter contrasted with quite low bills in summer. Now I rather like the idea. I once explained all of this to my Dad, who assured me that this option was available in the States as well, but I'd never heard of it.

The only other thing to mention, in case you didn't pick it up, is that electricity is crazy expensive here! It's for this reason that we wait as long as we can before turning on the radiators in autumn and turn them off as soon as we can stand it in the spring. Of course, there are other ways to heat a home (gas radiators, etc.) but as we're renting, we didn't get that choice - or to be more precise, we weighed the cost of rent with the knowledge that we would be paying X amount more a month because of the electric radiators.

I believe that about covers it. Am I leaving anything out, my fellow Frenchies?

The bad part about all this is that I hadn't even thought of blogging about this - either I'm getting used to the differences of living here or I'm just being a lazy blogger. I'm afraid the latter may be true. Bad blogger!

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