Families operate on ‘power save mode’

By Pham Nga   June 6, 2023 | 03:21 pm PT
Thu Thanh’s family decided to cut a hole in the wall between their home’s two bedrooms so that both rooms can benefit from only one air-conditioner.

"We only need our room temperature to be about five to seven degrees Celsius lower than the outdoor temperature," said the 30-year-old woman from Hanoi.

Thanh’s family is extremely serious about saving power.

On their front door, her father-in-law has placed a note that says: "Remember to turn all electrical appliances off before going out."

And to prevent the family from opening and closing the fridge too many times, Thanh also stuck a note on their refrigerator door: "Think carefully about what to take out at one time."

A note reminding members ỉn Thanh’s family to use the refrigerator efficiently. Photo courtesy of Thanh

A note reminding members in Thanh’s family to use the refrigerator efficiently. Photo courtesy of Thanh

Thanks to these measures, Thanh's household’s electric bill in May was only slightly higher than average, while price hikes and heatwaves meant that many of her neighbors had to pay five times the amount they normally pay for other months.

As summer hits the northern and central regions of Vietnam, families are stuck in a conundrum: it’s harder to get through the day without using electrical appliances like fans and air-conditioners, but energy shortages and price hikes are also making electricity harder to afford.

According to the National Center for Hydrometeorology Forecasting, hotter-than-average heat waves have been cooking the northwestern and northern-central regions of Vietnam.

On May 6, the Hoi Xuan weather station in Thanh Hoa recorded temperatures of 44.1 degrees Celsius, a record high nationwide. High temperatures are projected from now through August, and experts say that other new records are also likely to be set.

On top of that, a government-issued 3% hike in average retail electricity prices launched last month has pushed already-high electricity bills out of reach for many families.

Households are coming up with clever ways to cut down on power consumption.

To save power, Hong An's family in Da Nang city has employed a similar approach to Thanh's.

Benefiting from the house’s coastal location and plentiful windows, the 35-year-old woman's family takes advantage of the wind and has never installed an air-conditioner. During hot days, they simply open all the windows to let the air circulate.

Technicians maintain air-conditioners during hot days in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Technicians maintain air-conditioners during hot days in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

An said the whole family has also reduced its usage of the refrigerator and other electrical appliances.

Instead of buying large stocks of groceries and stocking them in the family fridge, An makes smaller daily shopping runs, bringing home just enough food for the family's needs that day.

She mainly steams or boils the food she cooks, so not many electrical appliances are needed, and meals could be kept at room temperature for a day without needing to be stored in a refrigerator.

Power shortage

A survey by the Ministry of Industry and Trade revealed that over 85% of the population in Vietnam understands the benefits of saving power and knows about power saving measures.

Vietnam Electricity Corporation (EVN) said that around 37 billion kWh of power was saved during the period between 2020 and 2021, a total value of VND 66.7 trillion. The amount of power saved rose over the years, and the average amount saved accounted for about 2% of annual production.

International analysis company Nielsen has classified Vietnam as one of the most energy-economical countries in the world. Electricity and water resources are both used economically in Vietnam, with around 70% of annual production saved every year, according to Nielsen.

However, EVN has predicted that between May and July, the northern region’s grid will lack around 1,600 to 4,900 MIW of power.

In order to solve the problem, authorities are encouraging people to save energy. Twenty-seven cities and provinces nationwide have issued regulations compelling individuals and businesses to save power.

HCMC is encouraging workers to avoid wearing suits and formal clothes if unnecessary, and to set AC temperatures above 26 degrees Celsius.

Doctor Nguyen Cong Trang, a professor in the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Department at Ton Duc Thang University, said people should use appliances classified as "power efficient" and in accordance with the room’s area. ACs should be set above 26 degrees Celsius, and only between five to six degrees Celsius different from the outdoor temperature.

"A degree higher will save you 2-3% of power consumption," said Trang.

Thanh said acquaintances had lauded her idea of installing an air-conditioner for both rooms, as well as other power saving measures her family has been applying. On the other hand, some also said her family was "too calculating."

"Everyone in our family is comfortable, so we don’t care what others might think about us," she said. "The most important thing to us is not having to pay too much."

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