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Dealing with Brownouts

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Brownouts are a big part of our lives these days here in Davao, and for others around the Philippines. Especially in Mindanao where Davao is probably the most hard hit city.  That’s why I am writing about it again today.  Last week, Aaron wrote an article about Brownouts on Tuesday, and I wrote a sort of rebuttal to his article on Friday.  I am following up today with an article about what we are doing to deal with Brownouts.

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The brownout schedule has become almost unbearable here in Davao, but we are hoping that things will come to an end in a month or so, after the Presidential election.  That has been the case in the past where we have been hit by big brownouts leading up to a Presidential election, with the brownouts ending right after the election.  I don’t know why, but Filipinos seem to expect elections to be accompanied by brownouts!

Currently, we are being warned of up to 11 hours of brownout per day.  We are given a schedule of when those brownouts will happen in our neighborhoods.  The schedule includes a 5 hour brownout in the morning, another 5 hour brownout in the afternoon/evening, and then a supplemental 1 hour brownout some time in the day.  If you think about that, it means that we can have brownout during most waking hours!  The good news is that usually we only get one of those 5 hour brownouts each day, not both, so that is one good thing.  Still, even 5 or 6 hours of brownout is a lot, and you have to develop some plans on how you will deal with it.

Schedule your day

A great way to deal with long brownouts is to make plans.  Look at the brownout schedule, and plan your activities accordingly.  For example, Feyma often needs to go do shopping for groceries, or other items, each day.  If you look at what times the brownouts are scheduled, just go take care of your errands during those times.  I mean, the malls and most stores have air conditioning, and also have industrial scale generators, so if you are in the store when the brownout hits, you are really not affected in most cases.  So, if you have a list of errands to run, take care of those errands during the brownout hours

The Mall

The malls are a favorite brownout hangout for Filipinos.  One strategy that I like to employ is to schedule things like meetings during the brownout times.  If I need to meet people, I usually will meet them at a mall – a coffee shop like Starbucks normally.  So, if my brownout schedule is, say 8 until 12, I will schedule my meeting to start at 9am at the coffee shop.  I will then shower at 8 or so, and hit the road.  This way, I can be away from home for most of the brownout hours.  This is usually quite effective and may help me avoid 2 to 4 hours of brownout, depending on how long my meeting may last.

Rechargeable Lights

Most people use candles during brownouts.  Problem is, that can be quite dangerous.  I know that a number of people in Davao have died recently due to fires that have started from brownout candles.  A friend of a friend died this way just last week.  Quite sad.  We recently purchased some rechargeable LED lighting for the house. We purchased a total of 5 of these lighting units.  The light includes a total of 66 LEDs and it is very bright.  One light unit is plenty to light up an entire room.    The light units were only P350, but were actually on sale for P270, very cheap!

Flashlights

One thing that I do if we have a brownout at night is that I will go out walking for exercise during the brownout.  One of the problems I found with this, though, was that our street is just about totally black during a brownout at night, and I was unable to see a thing!  This is partly due to the eye problems that I have been telling you about, but also because of the darkness from brownout.  When we bought those rechargeable lights that I mentioned previously, they also had some sort of “mini flashlights”.  These are very portable, have around 20 LED lights in them, and are also rechargeable.  We bought 4 or 5 of them also, at P99.95 each.  They are great!  Perfect to carry on a walk around the neighborhood during darkness.

Battery fans

A couple of years ago when we had a month or so with regular brownouts, I purchased a USB powered fan.  You can plug this into a Laptop and run the fan off of your laptop battery, or anything that has a USB connection.  The fan is small, but I find it to be very effective in keeping me cool!  I sometimes feel a little guilty using it, because we only have one.  When I ask Feyma to let me share it with her, she says she does not need a fan.  Makes me feel bad to use it in front of her, but she insists!  I am close to convincing her to get one for herself as well.  At only about P150 for the fan, I feel that you just can’t go wrong!

Power Banks

Power banks are a necessity!  We currently have 3 power banks in the house.  I have one small one that I bought a couple of years ago, but like I say it is quite small and lasts a maximum of a couple hours.  When Aaron was in the States last year, he bought two large capacity power banks that are great.  Those power banks will hold out, I would say, for about 10 hours of use.  I don’t know how long for sure, because they have never run dry.  After a 5 hour brownout, I recharge them to “top off the tanks” for the next long brownout.

We use these power banks to run the USB fan and also to recharge our cell phones during brownouts.  With our cellphones we can get Internet (although it is not very good), Facebook, Spotify to play some music, and that kind of thing.  The Globe 3G mobile Internet works fairly well for Facebook and for Spotify, but for general Internet it just is not too good.

The power banks that we have include two USB ports, a micor USB charging port and an LED flashlight.

Shower

One thing that I have been doing that has been great is that when there is an hour or less until the brownout should end, I will take a shower.  This serves a couple purposes.

  1. It cools me down.
  2. If I have been out getting some exercise during the brownout, it gets me not only cool, but clean too.

Also, if you extend your shower to at least 30 minutes or so, that is 30 brownout minutes when you are comfortable!  It works great for me.

Getting through it

So, we are getting through these long brownouts, and these are some of the strategies that we are using to do it.  Do you have other strategies or ideas?  If so, share them with us so that others can benefit!

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Bob Martin

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur. Bob is an American who lived in Mindanao from 2000 until 2019. Bob has now relocated back to the USA.

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Mac Mckay
Guest

Thanks Bob I have related these to my fiance living there just outside of Davao, I have sent to her a solar radio with USB port to charge her phone but she says it has not arrived yet, is this power outatages effecting the post there as it has been 3 weeks since sending

Bob Martin
Guest

The power situation should not affect postage time. 3 Weeks is nothing, it can take several months for packages from overseas to arrive here, so best to just be patient! 🙂 There is good news, the coal fire plant has been repaired, so the amount of brownout in Davao should be greatly decreased starting today!

Byron Watts
Guest

That is good news

Bob Martin
Guest

I hope it turns out to be as good as it seems, Byron!

Peter Bell
Guest
Peter Bell

One of the big concerns during a lengthy brownout is that the fridge/freezer warm up and the stored food deteriorates. I’m not sure why you feel that Davao is the worst hit – Tagum, and the rural areas around here, have always been badly affected by power cuts. Having lived here for a little over eight years, I am already on my second generator. I will run the generator for power cuts during darkness, so that we have light and my students can study, During daylight I will only run the generator if absolutely necessary – to maintain fridge/freezer temperature… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi Peter – I am not overly concerned about the refrigeration at this point. If the brownouts went longer it would be a concern. Modern refrigerators, though, can handle being off for a number of hours if they are not being opened. So, it is not a huge concern for me, at least not now. The news is that Davao City has been hit worst. Another commenter “TagumTim” says that brownouts in Tagum are only 2 hours, and ours have been at least 5, so that is worse… maybe Tim and the news are wrong? If so, let me know… Read more »

Peter Bell
Guest
Peter Bell

In the last week, our cuts have only been for a couple of hours, but before that we had about a month of 2 hour plus 3 hour cuts each day.

Indeed, a good ref, unopened, can maintain reasonable temperatures. However, with longer powercuts, it’s more than likely to span a mealtime, and I haven’t yet managed to convince the Filipinos about the importance of minimising ref opening!

As for the emergency lights – PHP3000 may be cheap, but I find it hard to justify throwing it away after six months just because a PHP200 battery has expired.

MindanaoBob
Guest

The lights are not PHP3000. They are PHP300. Big difference. I don’t want to throw them away, but if the batteries cannot be recharged and they can’t be replaced, what choice is there?

But, the lights claim to have a lifetime of 500 recharges. If that is the case, it would be probably a few years before they go bad. Since this is my first experience with them, we’ll see how they do.

Peter Bell
Guest
Peter Bell

Okay, well I hope that your PHP300 lights last better than my PHP3,000 lights!

Rusty Bowers
Guest
Rusty Bowers

Peter, why do you live there? I live in visyan Bohol but we don’t have nearly the problems you have. We were without electricity for a month during Yolanda but who wasn’t hit. Plus we had the earthquake problems.

The malls were a popular hangout as they are in Davao during brownouts. But the brownouts here are infrequent. The power supply is pretty stable.

Rusty

Cordillera Cowboy
Guest

Hello again Bob. Got to agree that contingency plans are great for both emergencies and inconveniences no matter were you are. I suppose that it was just blind luck, but my wife’s family are from Luzon. Not so many brownouts there. I believe there are more than I notice, but I’m outside most of the time. None of the houses we stay in have air conditioning, but I don’t notice. Mother-in-Law’s farmhouse can get stuffy, but there’s a covered dirty kitchen and some nice shade trees out back. Our boarding house in town has very high ceilings and skylights. It’s… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi Pete – I think that at this point it is wise to stay on grid but have gadgets that will keep you going for brownouts. Unless the current brownout situation becomes the norm, I see no reason to buy a generator or invest in solar power. The costs are just too high.

TagumCityTim
Guest
TagumCityTim

Hello Bob,

I have two solar rechargeable lights that I use during night brownouts. Other than that I just live with it because here in Tagum City the brownouts have only been 2 hours mostly.

My only complaint is that the schedule here with DANECO (Davao Del Norte Electrical Cooperative) seems a bit chaotic at times coming at all times of the day and night. We even had an hour brownout one night at midnight.

MindanaoBob
Guest

Hi Tim – Thanks for commenting and sharing your Tagum experience. Luckily for us here in the City, the published brownout schedules have been pretty good and accurate, it is kind of a lifesaver to know when it is likely to be coming. We have had plenty of middle of the night brownouts too, but they are scheduled, so we expected them. 🙂

PalawanBob
Guest
PalawanBob

A million pesos for a solar system? One 100W solar panel = P 3500 One 2500W inverter = P 17000 One 100 a/h battery = P 5400 One 20 A charge controller = P 1000 One metre of #10 wire = P 36 Add to these, say 20% miscellaneous. Hire the brother-in-law to install. Conclusion: for less than P 200 k, you have a decent size (say 2000W) system. This requires doing the purchasing, transport, building the solar shed etc. All by yourself with some help. It’s not that hard to do, plus it’s very interesting. All of these prices… Read more »

MindanaoBob
Guest

OK, Bob, thanks. I’ll file that with my bug out plan for your predictions. 😉

PalawanBob
Guest
PalawanBob

Better take all the precautions (back ups) to be out of business for several months due to lack of electricity, Internet and other possible issues.
I want to see LIP operating again next year.

MindanaoBob
Guest

Yeah, I want it up all the time! 😉

Cordillera Cowboy
Guest

Nice breakdown Palawan Bob. But, since I know nothing about wiring a house, or electronic components, I’d have no way of knowing that I’m buying the right stuff. Or that what I’m buying is not junk. I have no in-laws that I would trust wiring a place that I intend to sleep at night. So, I priced out commercial systems, and $20,000, or a million pesos seemed to be the average cost for a system that would run a small farmhouse. A very few lights, a refrigerator, computer, fans and such. Getting the individual solar gadgetry makes more sense for… Read more »

Mike Mcgeshick Bottea
Guest

From California to Manila a package delivery is 10 to 15 days

Bob Martin
Guest

He did not ask about Manila, though. Completely different situation.

Tom Nixon
Guest

Bob Martin It is. When it’s going to Davao from Manila, I believe they use water buffalo. 🙂

Bob Martin
Guest

Ha ha, could be Tom. 😉

Tom Nixon
Guest

I remember shipping something to a friend working in the Philippines (but not in Manila) and it took an amazing amount of time to get there.

Bob Martin
Guest

Yeah, it’s crazy!

Mike Mcgeshick Bottea
Guest

When I send something from here to cdo it takes 10 to 15 then another 5 days or so from there to cdo

Bob Martin
Guest

If you are sending from CDO much better to use a courier service like LBC, it can usually arrive overnight.

Mike Mcgeshick Bottea
Guest

I use usps bob from here USA to there but I know it stops for costumes in Manila then goes cdo

Mike Mcgeshick Bottea
Guest

After us clearance

Bob Martin
Guest

I am confused. When I read it I thought you were shipping from CDO, which is why I said that. Sorry I misread it. I have some eye problems that I am fighting right now.

Mike Mcgeshick Bottea
Guest

Well I did put at top for example California to Manila right arrival in Philippines for international mail.

AJ UK
Guest
AJ UK

There are things that people can do to save the battery on the mobile phone during a brownout.

First of all, turn of the WIFI. The more your phone is searching for WIFI, the more your battery will run down. Lets face it, if your WIFI in the house is using the same electricity supply it is not going to be working.

Secondly, turn of the location services (Privacy on an Iphone) as this uses an incredible amount of battery life.

Carry out these 2 small items then you should be able to make any phone last a 5 hour brownout.

MindanaoBob
Guest

Indeed. There are lots of services you can turn off, of course the two that you mentioned are major power savers.

Mike Mcgeshick Bottea
Guest

That’s were overseas mail goes to before anywhere else in Philippines central processing

Bob Martin
Guest

Yes, I am aware. I told Mac that it takes months to get to Davao, which is where he is sending it to. And, it does take months. Even if it gets to Manila in a day, it still takes months! 🙂

Luke Tynan
Guest

Great ideas and I will use a few, I am surprised that you do not use a generator. They are not that expensive and allow most functions to continue without trouble. And u do not need to buy one that covers everything in the house. When ours is operating we do not iron cloths, not hot showers and the hot water dispenser in the kitchen is turned off and AC unit is used only limited if any. That way we did not need a large unit. other than the generator only item needed is a good switch that disconnects the… Read more »

Bob Martin
Guest

HI Luke – I have been over the generator thing many times, perhaps you did not see it. On average, in DAvao, we get about 15 minutes per year of brownouts. I just can’t see spending P50k to P150k on a generator to save myself from 15 minutes of inconvenience each year.

Luke Tynan
Guest

I would agree on a 15 min brown out per year but here where I live it is normally 2 to 4 hours every few days, and sometime several times in a day and night. Plus I need a CPAP to sleep or I have health issues.

Bob Martin
Guest

Yeah, but I make my purchase decision based on where I live. Hopefully we will be back to normal soon.

Phil Halbrook
Guest

As an fyi, I found a couple of silent generators on lazada, one pumps out between 4.5 to 5, while the other one 5 to 5.5. It’s really more than enough for a house! but you’re right, at 50k php its a pretty penny. I plan to purchase one as its not only my vehicle for income but also a source of entertainment. Who knows when you/ a friend/family needs one in an emergency? If you can afford it, it’s a good investment. Either way, thanks for the article sir. As always highly enlightening. As an aside, I hope you… Read more »

Bob Martin
Guest

Thanks Phil. I don’t have any plan to buy a generator though. ☺

Steve
Guest
Steve

I live in Luzon, so don’t have to suffer the same frequent or extended “brownouts” that Bob is describing in Mindanao.
We do still get the occasional power interruption, so I invested in a neat little 5kVa Honda diesel generator and diverter switch.
The total cost was a little under PhP. 25,000 and provides all power we need at the push of a button. Works great, easy to install and the running costs are tiny.

MindanaoBob
Guest

Thankfully normally we also have few brownouts.

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