Most people are confused when the white and green CFE bills comes and have no idea how they magically come up with the amount you owe. Here is a (hopefully) simple explanation of how to read this bill and some simple things you can do to conserve energy in your home so the bill is not too large. This is important since electricity is the most expensive utility in Mexico.
CFE in Mexico-Your electric company
CFE stands for the Federal Commission of Electricity. This is the same company that supplies all of Mexico the power, so no matter where you move you will have a CFE bill. The CFE supplies power to 35.3 million customers, which represents almost 100 million people with about 1 million new customers a year as the middle class expands and young people move into new homes.
Note: This is why your CFE bill is so important. Not only is it what you owe for electricity but is acts like an id. Many government agency’s will require you to have a recent copy of it when going for services. Also, businesses like your bank and cable company will use the CFE bill as a confirmation of your address. Always save you bills and make current copies for use when opening other accounts or even immigration. Even if the bill is not in your name (for example you are renting), it is just a requirement to see something with an address. Of course if you own your own place, it is good to change it into your name.
CFE and Rates
Since CFE is the electric company for Mexico, the entire country is divided up in to areas with different electric rates. This is actually pretty fair because different regions of Mexico are hotter then others and you get a lower rate in a hotter place since you need to use more to keep cool. From the map on the below you can see we are in tarifa 1b. Since Playa Del Carmen is in 1b area, the energy rates are as follows. For more information about electric bills you can visit the official CFE website here.
The hot season is from April to September and then rates can jump 3 times higher for October to March. So enjoy the government subsidies during the hotter months. Many people use roughly the same amount of energy throughout the year. So when the subsidies are taken away, bills can jump up and surprise people.
Note: There is a slight difference in summer rates and don’t forget IVA(tax) is added on to your bill. Bills come every two months or every month depending on where you live.
Basico: up to the first 250 Kwh the price is o.713
Intermedio: from 250-450 kwh the price is .838
Excedente: over 450 kwh the price is 2.862
So the more power you use, the more you will pay. This seems fair and for most people living a more simple life this means energy is more affordable. People that use air conditioning all the time will pay more and usually people that do use it can afford to pay for the service. Most Mexican households or apartments are paying around 800-1000 pesos for a two month bill. For people that use a lot of air conditioning expect bills to be from 1000-6000 pesos a month. That is a big range, so lets look at the rates and how to keep your bill low.
DAC electricity rate
DAC stands for high domestic consumption. If you have DAC rate on your bill (see the categories below) you will be paying more for electricity. The bad thing about getting into this rate chart is the fact you will be paying more and you don’t get to take advantage of the government subsidy for electric.
Below is the official explanation from the CFE website.
High Consumption Domestic Tariff
This rate applies when the average bimonthly consumption recorded in the last 12 months is higher according to the following table:
Limit to enter high consumption tariff
500 kWh / bimonthly
600 kWh / bimonthly
800 kWh / bimonthly
1,700 kWh / bimonthly
2,000 kWh / bimonthly
4,000 kWh / bimonthly
5,000 kWh / bimonthly
My electric bill is so high!!!! Why?
Is your bill looking a little higher then you think it should be? Here are several things you need to look at:
- Do you have the dreaded DAC rate?
- Do you have “domestico” under “Uso” on your bill? You don’t want to be paying as a business. Some apartments in mixed use buildings can be miscategorized.
- Have your meter checked. It could be faulty.
- Make sure it is your bill. It may be in an old name or the owners name of your apartment so you don’t catch it if there are multiple address under that name.
- Check to see if the numbers of usage are what your meter say.
- If you are in an apartment building are you sure that only your stuff is hooked up to your meter? This is going to be hard to check. You can turn off all your circuit breakers and if the lights in the hall or that air conditioner that is always running stops, then you might have a hint of what is going on (or turn everything off and unplug everything and see if your meter is still moving). That is going to be a conversation you are going to have to have with your landlord.
Conservation and Money Saving Tips for your electric bill in Mexico
Saving money on your electric bills starts before you move into your apartment or house. (see our article on Considerations when looking at property in Playa Del Carmen for more information). If you are looking to rent an apartment, knowing what you are going to be paying should be important for you because it actually effects the price of your rental. A good tip is ask to see the previous bills to see what people have been paying. Of course everyone has different usage of electricity but if the rate is the Dac rate then you know that you will be paying the premium price for electricity until it comes back down.
Besides looking at the previous bills, look at the home or apartment with energy in mind. Here is what to look for:
- Are the exterior walls in full sun during the day?
- Are there trees around that shade your place?
- Does the place have an old window unit for AC or a more efficient mini split air conditioner?
- If a dryer comes with the unit, is it gas or electric? (gas being cheaper of the two)
- How is the hot water heated and cooking done? Electric is always a lot more expensive.
- Are the ceilings low so hot air is not able to rise and keep the living space cooler?
- If the apartment a lot style with a split level? These are really bad for energy because the upper level is always hot since heat rises and cold air falls.
- Does the stove have a vent above it to evacuate hot air? Many do not surprisingly.
- Does the bathroom have good ventilation? This is good if you like hot showers and don’t want to work the air conditioning more.
Here are some tips to conserve energy for your CFE bill in Mexico
- Use florescent or led light bulbs. These have come a long way since the stark white lights that they used to be. You can get warm lights or use lamp shades that buffer the white light. Not only do old light bulbs give off heat (which makes your home hotter and you have to use more ac to cool it) but they use 4-10 times more energy!
- Painting your house outside a light color will reflect light and keep your home cooler. Painting it a light color inside will keep your home brighter and you will need less energy to illuminate the interior.
- Use air conditioning when you are home or just in the bedroom. Air conditioning is one of the most expensive things to use here. If you own your home you should consider steps to insulate your home better to save in the long run on energy. Insulation here is not really used and walls are often just concrete blocks. Keep your filters clean on air-conditioning units for better energy usage. Consider a year maintenance check perhaps at the beginning of the hot season in May. Air conditioners have different settings on the remote. There is the cooling mode and also a dehumidifying mode. The dehumidifying mode cools more slowly, but can be sufficient and also saves a lot of energy. This can be good for sleeping.
- Use fans rather then air conditioning. A good fan can move a lot of air and you will not have the high contrast to the heat and the cold in the house. This can help you adapt to the climate better here. Also clean fans to make them work more efficiently. It is amazing how much dust and oil from the air collect on your fan and how it affects efficiency. You can choose between ceiling fans and floor fans. Ceiling fans can push down hot air and that is not what you want.
- If you have a pool, consider using a timer to run your pump only and hour or two a day.
- When choosing appliances look at the yearly energy consumption. Refrigerators being the most important thing to consider since they consume the most electricity. This is usually that yellow tag. Many appliances in Mexico are not rated very good and many Mexicans are not educated about the energy saving factor.
- Keep your refrigerator away from the stove and make sure it is not in direct sunlight. Clean the seals on the door and make sure the temperature setting is overly cool. Since your refrigerator gives off heat, you may consider putting it in a space that will allow this heat to escape. Clean the back of the refrigerator. Don’t put hot food in the refrigerator. Let it cool outside so the refrigerator does not have to work so hard in cooling it down.
- Close your curtains during the day to block out the sun. Floors can absorb the heat and reflect it back into the room later.
- Open your windows at night to let the slightly cooler air in.
- Don’t use appliances, air conditions, pool pumps that are too big for what you need.
Tip: Make sure you get your bill. As stated above it is an important document and you want to have it in order to pay on time. The mail delivery system is very different here and many homes do not have a mail box. What few things are hand delivered are often stuck in a door or even a bush. So learn about when your bill comes and look for it. Also know where it is usually placed. If you live in a condo complex sometimes they get all of them and hand deliver to the individual condos.
How to pay your CFE bill
You can pay your bill up until two days in advance your due date at a convenience store. There is a small commission you pay for the service *about 7-10 pesos). At the office of CFE there is a drive up window and automatic machines that you can use to pay your bill. The machines are relatively easy to use. You scan your bill, insert money and you get your change and a receipt.
Tip: when paying online, most foreign credit cards do not work. Some that live outside of Mexico for part of the year have found some apps that pay bills are the best option.
Sometimes there are lines to use the machines and if you like self torture you go inside and stand in line to pay your bill.
The main CFE office in Playa Del Carmen is 15th Avenue and 6th Street.