So you or your partner have been living the luxurious carefree life, cranking the AC on for the whole day and night, leaving the TV, Android box and computer on for hours on end without thinking too much about it.
The electric bill finally arrives in your mailbox and you are just shocked. It’s ¼ the price of your rent or mortgage! That is definitely too much!
This article is my personal experiences on how to get the most of your appliances whilst minimizing your electricity bill without living in discomforting frugality:
- You need to manually calculate the usage per day of energy using appliances into a table.
- From the table, make a decision on what to cut down on or eliminate altogether.
- Any appliance that you can’t live without such as the AC, I will be sharing with you how to properly maintain the appliances so it runs as efficiently as possible.
- If you are renting a room in a shared 3 bedroom apartment, how to ask your landlord to be billed fairly for your individual usage.
- If you are staying at an apartment with commercial tariff, how to appeal for it to be changed to the residential rate.
Checking Your Electric Meter
As a good tenant and landlord, it is good practice to check on your electric meter from time to time to ensure that it is working normally and if it has been tampered with (someone is stealing your electricity).
But how would you know if anything is unusual if you have never even seen your electric meter? Go out and find it:
Where is the Electric Meter?
In a landed house, it is at the outside of your house. Either at the gate or near your main door. The reason why it is on the outside is so that the TNB technician can come and take a meter reading without coming into your property.
If you live in an apartment or condo, all of the electric meters will be located in the electric room on each floor. You might need permission from the building manager to access it.
Once you have access to the electric room, find the meter that corresponds to your unit. Take a look at it and it should look similar to all the other unit’s electric meter. Notify the management if you see weird wires that look like they don’t belong there as compared to other meters for other units.
Take a pic of it that includes your unit number and meter reading for your reference. The number displayed is your current energy usage to date measured in the unit of kWh (kilo Watt hour).
Understanding your TNB Electricity Bill
Now you need to understand your own TNB electric bill. If you don’t have one in front of you yet, here’s what mine looks like:
- Make sure this is the right bill for your property address & has the owner’s name on it.
- Then, take a look at the billing cycle. It should be about 30 days. However, it may not start immediately from the 1st day of every calendar month. In my example, it weirdly starts on the 18th of June.
- Look at the tariff: Most dwellings are ‘Kediaman’ (Residential), Check out TNB Tariffs here. I will be sharing how to change the Tariff in the following sections.
- Look at the tariff blocks. You will be billed according to your usage. There are currently 3 Tariff Blocks, each will have a different rate. This is to promote efficient energy consumption.
Layman’s Sample Calculation:
- My total energy consumption meter reading on the 17th of July is 453 kWh.
- 1st Tariff Block: The first 200 kWh of my 453 kWh usage is charged at RM 0.218 per kWh. That means, it’s 200 kWh x RM 0.218 = RM 43.60
- 2nd Tariff Block: The next 100 kWh after the 200 kWh is charged at RM 0.334 per kWh. So 100 kWh x RM 0.334 = RM 33.40
- 3rd Tariff Block: The balance usage after 300 kWh is charged a flat rate of RM 0.516 per kWh. So I have a balance of 153 kWh x RM 0.516 = RM 78.95
- So my total bill will be the sum of all 3 Tarif blocks = RM 43.60 + RM 33.40 + RM 78.95 = RM 155.95 in a month.
Understanding the Labels on Your Electric Appliances
Most electric appliances will have a label either at the back or at the bottom of the device. When you look at it, there’s a bunch of numbers thrown at you and it could be quite confusing at first.
You’re not an electrical engineer, so which units matter to you? Is it the Voltage (V)? Or the Current (A) or the Power (W)? To answer this, we need to take a step back and see the bigger picture:
- Question 1: What is it that you’re trying to do again? :- You want to calculate the cost per day and month to use a particular appliance.
- Question 2: OK great, looking at the bill, what’s the unit that is used to bill you? :- It says energy rate is calculated in RM/kWh units.
Great. So now, we need to convert whatever is on the energy label to kWh. The closest unit we have to kWh is Power (W). So we should only be concerned about this in our calculations.
- Converting W to kW: Simply divide the Power (W) by 1,000.
- Converting kW to kWh: Multiply the kW from step 1 to how many hours you use this device in a day.
- Directly calculating the cost for that 1 hour: I always look at the worst rate tariff block on the bill. It is always best to overbudget than underbudget in my book. So that would be the 3rd Tariff Block at RM 0.516 per kWh. Multiply your kWh from step 2 with RM 0.516
- Calculating the cost in a month: Multiply the cost in step 3 with 30 days.
Example: Calculating Energy Cost of My AC Unit
I suspect that my AC usage affects my electric bill the most. My partner (who is not used to the tropical weather paradise of Malaysia) always wants to sleep with the AC on. I share the same enthusiasm, however, since I am the one paying for stuff around here, the bill really concerns me.
The golden question is this: If we want to sleep and wake up in utter luxury, constantly being blanketed by the cool comforting soft breeze of the AC throughout our entire sleep, how much will it cost me per month or night?
So let’s start by taking a look at the energy label on the side of my AC (indoor unit):
As explained earlier, all you need to know is the Power rating measured in Watts (W). So this particular AC model consumes a max power of 1,105 W.
STEP 1: Converting W to kWh: 1,105 W divided by 1,000 = 1.105 kWh
STEP 2: Converting kW to kWh: How many hours do I use this every night? We sleep at 1 AM and wake up at 8 AM. So that would be 7 hours of sleep with the AC on. Let’s pop the numbers in: 1.105 kW x 7 hours a day = 7.735 kWh. This is the energy my AC consumes in 1 day at 7 hours of use.
STEP 3: Calculating the Usage Cost in a Day: 7.735 kWh x RM0.218 / kWh = RM 1.69. So the AC costs me this much at 7 hours of use each night.
STEP 4: Calculating the Usage Cost in a Month: RM 1.69 x 30 = RM 50.59 a month.
Is this cheap or expensive? This is subjective and needs to be seen in relation to other stuff you use in your house. For me, paying RM50.59 a month Or RM 1.69 a night for me and my partner to sleep in luxurious comfort is a good deal.
Knowing this, I won’t be too stingy when allowing my partner to use the AC almost every night.
What Appliances Uses the Most Energy in My Home?
I ignored all the energy articles estimates online and manually calculated the Power rating and typical usage hours of all of my appliances in question. All calculations will be based on the cheapest tariff of RM 0.218/ kWh:
per day (h)
|Desktop PC &
|150 + 80 = 230||12||82.8||18.05|
|6 + 6 = 12||24||8.64||1.88|
It’s quite interesting to see how much it costs you for each appliance in your home. I use them every day but have no idea how much it actually costs to run them.
As suspected the AC is the biggest energy consumer. But if I break it down to cost per night, it only cost me RM1.45 a night. I think it is a small price to pay for sleeping in luxurious comfort. Do note that my AC has inverter energy-saving technology.
The fan, TV, fridge, and router all consume marginal amounts of energy that is not worth doing anything about as compared to other appliances.
Some Items that surprised me:
- Since I run an Airbnb Vacation Rental business, I do quite a lot of ironing and my powerful steam iron makes ironing thick cotton duvet sheets a breeze. But I had no idea that it is the second most expensive energy user in my house after the AC.
- My desktop consumes 18 times more energy than my laptop.
- It is hot and humid in Kuala Lumpur and I always have the powerful industrial fan running almost constantly. The cost is very minimal and I do not feel bad at all about letting it run all the time.
Tips if you Rent a Room in a 3 or 4 bedrooms Apartment
I once visited a friend who is renting a bedroom in a 4 bedroom condominium. Each room with it’s individual AC unit. Although he had his private bedroom and bathroom, he had to share the kitchen including the fridge with the other housemates.
Since his other housemates are women, the common areas are stacked with boxes, shoes, and junk. It reminded me of my living conditions in my early 20’s. It was a horrific memory that I do not want to be reminded of:
The electricity bill is collected by the owner at the end of the month and split equally by all 3 tenants. My friend complained that it is not fair as he is rarely home, while the other housemate works at home and use the AC way almost 24 hours a day.
He complained to the landlord and they came up with a solution to install individual electric meters for each AC in the unit. This way, the landlord will calculate the electric bill according to each unit’s usage:
This is an ingenious solution to a commonly shared housing dispute. Luckily the landlord is responsive to his tenant’s feedback and complaints.
If you are in a similar situation as my friend, you can also ask your landlord to do the same. Let’s just hope that the other tenants are not that much of an asshole and won’t tamper with their meter.
How to Strike the Right Balance of Usage and Economy
AC Tip #1:
A simple trick I do to fool my partner regarding sleeping with the AC: Before I go to bed, I turn on both the wall fan and the AC together. However, I use a Timer Off function on the AC to automatically turn off the AC after 2 hours of use.
At which point, we both will most likely be deep in sleep. The temperature of the room is typically cool enough throughout the night for the wall fan to circulate around.
I experimented this for 2 weeks and she couldn’t tell the difference when she woke up in the morning. So I can recalculate the AC usage to be based on only 2 hours a day instead of 7. Smart! But don’t tell her.
AC Tip #2:
It is a good idea to clean the AC filter every month and chemical clean once every 6 months. Open the indoor unit cover and take a look at how much dust accumulated on the filters. Just take these out and hose them off in your garden or bathroom.
If the filter and the radiator are blanketed with dust, it acts like a sweater and makes it hard for the AC to exchange heat. Thus reducing the efficiency and increasing energy consumption.
AC Tip #3:
Get the lowest hp rating for your room size as possible. Do your own research and don’t trust the salesperson. Of course, they want to sell you their most expensive product.
A 400sf studio is efficiently cooled with only a 1.5 hp AC (the guy at the store said I need at least 2hp. Nice try pal).
AC Tip #4:
If you need to get a new AC, consider getting one with Inverter technology. A normal AC compressor either turns on or off. What inverter technology brings is basically having a compressor with varying speeds.
Thus, providing a more consistent cooling whilst using less energy. Think of it like riding a fixie bike with 1 gear vs a road bike with 10 gears. Which is easier to pedal in varying load conditions?
Consider upgrading your wall fan from a normal plastic blade to a more powerful industrial fan with a metal blade. The energy cost increase is trivial compared to the cooling power that is gained. Sometimes it’s so powerful, you might not even need to use your AC.
If you have regular lightbulbs, Don’t change all to LED’s just yet. The energy-saving does not justify the upfront costs to replace all of your lightbulbs with LEDs. Instead, I only recommend you to replace LED lightbulbs if any of your existing ones burn out (and yes they will).
Instead of cooking every day, strategize, schedule, do batch cooking and freeze so you save both time and money.
Since desktops use significantly more power than a laptop, I try to use my phone and laptop for mundane everyday tasks like emails, social media and writing blog posts. I only use the desktop for intensive computing such as video and photo editing.
How to Appeal for a Tariff Change to TNB (from Commercial to Residential)
Most new apartment properties in Klang Valley are built on commercial land titles so most will be on commercial rate by default.
I own a service apartment (home-office, it can either be a home or an office type of property). By definition, the property is constructed on commercial titled land and the TNB tariff is reflected as such.
However, I am and will always be using my property as residential use (at the moment, I am renting the place out to a local lecturer for her to stay) in the future, I will be staying there myself.
I have heard from the management office of the building that some other owners have applied for the TNB tariff change. A quick telephone call to TNB customer careline explained to me what I have to do:
- Prepare photos of the premise (outside and inside) printed on A4 paper. They want to see that you are in fact using the property as a residence and not for some sort of business or office.
- Take pictures of your interior, the more homy your interior looks, the more convincing it is to them a little home decor would convince them very well.
- The requested outside premise is to take a picture of the door with the unit number clearly shown and another one with your door including the corridor or walkway (they want to see that there are no business signs on the walls etc).
- Your original and a copy of your first-month or latest TNB bill.
- You need a copy of the property owner’s IC (Malaysian ID Card) back and forth on 1 page.
- You need to write an appeal letter to TNB stating your intentions. Sample in this guy’s blog.
- Now you got all the documents in order, Google Map “TNB Customer Service near me”. If you are still unsure, just head down to the management office and simply ask them, “where is the nearest branch that handles this apartment?”.
- Now head over to the TNB Customer Service Center with all your documents and take a number. When it is your turn, they will inspect your document and you will have to fill in a tariff change request form.
It will take about a month for the process to go through and reflected on your next bill. They will be sending a guy over to inspect your home from the outside (they won’t be coming in).
The point of this is to verify that you are not using the place for business. I was wondering how can they verify this without coming in? I guess the logic is, if you are using it as a business, it would be pretty obvious with all the signboards and people coming in and out perhaps.
Wrapping It Up
So now you know:
- How to calculate individual usage costs
- Which appliance to reduce or eliminate
- How to enjoy using the AC whilst saving money
- How to settle common electric bill disputes between housemates
- How to change your commercial rate home to residential
Hope this has been helpful for you to settle in Malaysia.