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Cost of Living

So we have been in PR now for about 20 months and I can't understand how low income earners survive here on the island with the high cost of living.

Ok, Dorado is pretty expensive so lets take rent out of the equation.

Our water bill is usually between 250-400$ per month. Ive heard this is double what most are charged. The AAA damaged our water pipes doing routine maintenance, left us without water for 6 weeks and charged us $800 for the pleasure. Do they just make it up based on location?

Our electricity is approx $300 per month and we run the A/C only when necessary and two room over night.

It's just me, my husband and small son who is 2. For groceries we spend approx $500 per month in Costco ( where we bulk buy our meat, cereal, toiletries etc) and then $150 a week for perishable goods. It's probably 5 times more expensive than Ireland. To be fair, I usually buy organic meat, fresh vegetables and as non processed food as possible. So I do understand that they tend to be more expensive but I do feel there's a huge amount of ripping off just based on location.

Thoughts?

Are you renting an apartment in a building with other apartments?  Is it possible you are getting charged more than your fair  share? My water bill is $56 a month. My electricity is $74 a month.

Most in PR use a fan at night and do not use anywhere close to your water or electricity.
Average food bill for two for a month is around 300 including perishables..
They do not go for organic anything and a pound of meat feeds 3.
Your level of comfort to the heat is different than theirs, your meat selection is different, you shopping days and hours are different. Your meals are different, they eat rice and beans, a small salad, some maduros and a small piece of cheap meat or an egg or two on top.

They been stretching their dollars all their life.
Water usage should be based on the meter but some months are calculated based on previous months usage. Any water lost before the meter should not count toward your water bill, only usage and lost after the meter regardless of whose fault will be in the bill.
You can fight it but I suggest you start taking pictures of the meter dials otherwise is your word against them.

Some places in Dorado will be more expensive to buy food but not by much, buy where the locals buy, buy what the locals buy and you will be closer to them in expenses.

You will not find too many Puerto Rican's buying a PorterHouse steak. Pork and Chicken are staples with occasional beef, normally a cheap thin cut for Bistec Ensebollao.

Different cultures, different bills.
Your water is excessive and electric may be excessive, hard to say not being there to see.

Double what Frogrock pays is probably what your bills should be, she been there a little longer than you and I seen her water and electric usage which is very close to most natives. Proud of her.

Maybe the neighbors are stealing your water and electricity?
Shut your water, shut your electricity completely, take pictures of the dials, go out for a several hours, your freezer will hold fine, come back and take another picture and compare. There should be zero usage.

If no usage and your neighbor says they lost electricity or water, you know who is likely stealing it.

I will agree with Rey and frogrock, you water and electric bill are way too hight. The only way I can even imagine a electricity that high will be if your are running AC 24/7. Contact both agencies and ask them for an inspection. Cosco is more expensive than the locals grocery stores. Look at the weekly specials and shop locally. As per for organic food, most produce farmed locally is organic, most small farmers don't use any chemicals, just go to the small produce stands around town and ger your greens from them.

We were out of town for 3 1/2 weeks one month and had a water bill of $200 for that month and $300+ for electricity. Nothing was running and we checked for any water leaks. Nobody knew anything about fixing it. I would agree with Siobhan that different people are being charged markedly differently. apparently with no recourse.

Well I don't understand that, it is not like the meter reader would get a commission. However he could be making the numbers up so he can visit his mistress instead of reading your meter. That is why I suggested taking picture of the reading.

I agree, the water bill is way too high. Either you have a leak or somebody is using your water. We pay like $30/month.
Electricity sounds high too, although A/C in two rooms overnight plus "when needed" will push the bill up quite a bit.
We don't have A/C, just a couple of fans. The office computers and server use quite some power but the electricity bill stays under $100. (it used to be around $120 a couple of years back but since they finally took the lower oil price in account we are under $100).

Kathryn what is you average KWH used per month?
Gary just posted his is around 479 KWH a month.
So his cost is around $93 a month which means his rate is around 0.19415 per kWh. Yours should close to the same. Devide the KWH used by your total electric bill and you should have a fairly similar rate.

This is what's weird. We have a $75 per month "fee" that was explained to us as due to the debt crisis. My own Spanish is likely limited enough to explain a misunderstanding, but my partner is fluent. Of course, we suspected that not everyone was suddenly paying this "fee" and then paying inflated rates for the water itself. This thread certainly confirms that -but I'll admit that I still don't know how to fix it. We have had no luck with the company itself.

I don't have that fee on my bill. That sounds fishy to me. You may need to request an audit, they have to provide an interpreter or bring your own.

My bill has 4 positions:

Tarifa Basica   $ 24.17 (that's the basic fee)
Tarifa Provisional  $ 6.22 [$ 0.01299/kWh (temporary fee, that's because of the crisis I assume) ]
Compra De Combustible $44.12 --  $ 0.085837/kWh - that's for buying fuel
Compra de Energia $ 21.74 -- $0.04538  - that's for buying the energy.

I don't know exactly how they do this but in the end I pay around 20 cts for a kWh..

Oops, I see now that I should check my water bill. Will do that later, I gotta go to a client right now..

They are required to be able to explain every fee.
75 dollar fee is very funny you should have it explained why yours is that and somebody else is 6 dollars. Sometimes is based on usage, if you use a lot your rate is higher.
But any way you need to investigate why you spending so much. Switch to LED, replace old air conditioners with more efficient models, etc.

The water bill looks even more complicated than the electricity bill.
There are five different positions:
Cargos for agua - that's how much you pay for the water.  Further down on the bill there's a table "detalles" where it shows how they calculated how much you pay. The idea is the more you use the more you pay per cubic meter.
Cargos por alcantarillado - this is a fee you pay for the size of the water line to your house. The bigger the line, the more you pay.
Cargo Fijo - that's a fixed $2 fee, only to be paid if your water is not supplied by AAA but another entity. (??)
CCAR is a relatively new fee, it's the Environmental Compliance and Regulatory fee, it's meant to comply with EPA rules.
Cargo Especial - a special fee, I couldn't find an explanation for this one.

Ever since the last two extra fees have been implemented in the summer of 2013 people have been complaining, water bills got a lot higher for some people  and others are only paying a little bit more without reasonable explanation.
For instance, my bill about doubled from around $15 to $25-$30 for a usage of around 14 m3/month
My brother in law who lives 20 minutes from us uses about the same but he is paying around $70.
Now, we don't pay for the water line, maybe because it's old and has already been paid for? That saves us $9.11 per month. I checked old bills back to 2009, on none we had to pay for the line.

On the website there's a lot about the fees with tables etc. Unfortunately it's all in Spanish and it still doesn't explain all the differences. Here's the part about the fees: http://www.acueductospr.com/TARIFA/index.html

The new fees from 2013 were imposed because the AAA (like the rest of the government of the island) got themselves is a debt they could never pay off. Here's the official paper where the new fees were announced (Spanish, too) http://www.acueductospr.com/TARIFA/down … OS_1y2.pdf

The bottom line is that they make consumers pay for their mismanagement and the way they made the new fees is not really transparent and understandable.

Now, the most important advice if you water bill is very high is: check how much you use according to the bill, check if that is the same amount as on your water meter.
Compare your bill with neighbors. If you pay for a bigger water line than your neighbor something is wrong.
Then, compare usage. We are two people, we shower at least once per day each, not very long. We do our own laundry, wash dishes by hand and we don't flush the toilet for every leak. There's no pool and I'm no frequent car washer, once every two months is fine for me. Our usage is around 15 m3 per month. That should give you an indication. Maybe others who live here could post there usage and bill here, too.

So here's my last bill:
Cargos por agua: $ 14.98 (13.5 m3)
Cargos pro alcantarillado $0.00
Cargo Fijo $ 0.00
CCAR: $ 6.50
Cargo Especial: $2.00
Total $ 23.48 for 13.5 m3 or $ 1.74 / m3

By the way, did you know that almost 60% of the water they pump in the lines never makes it (officially - many people steal water) to the consumers? In a "normal" country those losses are less than 5%.

Alcantarillado is sewer. Assuming you have one

Ah! There is the explanation.  - we have a septic tank in the back down the hill. Thanks, Rey!

No, that can't be.. The alcantarillado fees start for 1/2" and 5/8" lines. It has to be water lines.

Gary :

No, that can't be.. The alcantarillado fees start for 1/2" and 5/8" lines. It has to be water lines.

Weird, unless they have their own definition http://www.wordreference.com/definicion/alcantarillado

Strange indeed. Now, I asked my (Puerto Rican) wife because I never heard the word before and she said it's the water line.

Don't you love it? If they get fined for not obeying the law or need to make repairs, or pay too much, or take a bribe, consumers pay. Nice racket.

Look here: http://www.acueductospr.com/TARIFA/nuevaestructura.html

It show fees for alcantarillado from 1/2" to 12"
I never saw a sewer line coming from a house less than 3" (and that's kinda small for a sewer line, right?)

So I suppose they really mean the water lines..

But, whatever it is, I don't pay it. :D

Gary :

Strange indeed. Now, I asked my (Puerto Rican) wife because I never heard the word before and she said it's the water line.

Well they have their own definition then, their name is Departamento de Aqueductos (water supply) y Alcantarillados (sewer). You don't pay for it because they don't have a sewer to your property. Look it up Spanish English dictionary. So they have their own meaning, it is PR after all.

ReyP :

Don't you love it? If they get fined for not obeying the law or need to make repairs, or pay too much, or take a bribe, consumers pay. Nice racket.

Yup, that's Puerto Rico.
Now, try to not pay their bill. They cut you off and you have to pay a $40 fee to get reconnected (used to be $10, in 2014 it became $20, in 2015 $ $30 and this year $40. Next year it will be $50 I guess.)

I don't recall, the property to the left of mine is considered a farm and Hacienda taxes are low. I think mine is also considered farm land. I wonder if that may affect the water bill also.

If they rule it's not residential you're going to pay more, both for water and electricity....
That's something many complain about. Instead of giving businesses better rates for utilities, here businesses pay more. Also telephone and internet is more expensive for businesses.

That's how we try to stimulate the economy  [/sarcasm]

We have a weird situation, at least I think it is, with the water bill.

While we are not in PR right now, we are fixing up the house we bought with the supervision of my g/f's family who live in Humacao. The house is in Caguas and we are still paying monthly utility bills even though we are not there. It sucks but we have to do it.

Here is the weird part. Instead of the house paying for the water it uses singularly, it is part of cooperative of some sort that gets one big water bill and splits it amongst the neighborhood. I have no idea how many houses are in the cooperative.

It's just the two of us. No pool. Conservative water use. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

One other member in Ponce has something like that a cooperative. People don't always have the money so the others pay more. If someone waste money everyone pays extra

richvide0 :

Here is the weird part. Instead of the house paying for the water it uses singularly, it is part of cooperative of some sort that gets one big water bill and splits it amongst the neighborhood. I have no idea how many houses are in the cooperative.

Economists call this the "tragedy of the commons".  In short, you are encouraged to be wasteful because the costs are distributed.  Seems to be a good idea in theory, but winds up being not so good in practice.

Thank you for all the replies - the inconsistency is interesting.

I do understand that our water bill should be slightly higher than most. We both shower twice a day, not long ones but still.

We have a dishwasher that we use every day.

We do our own laundry - usually 5/6 loads a week.

We have a pool.

It all adds up.

The problem i have is not having water for 6 weeks and then an $800 bill. It's like they just decided to bill me for the repairs that they had to do when they damaged the pipes.

Hugely helpful FrogRock! We are considering a condo there in Palmas and a house in Humacao. I've been wondering where to look for information about electric and water. My sister lives on Surfside but with solar panels and the details of her house it doesn't translate well to my circumstance. I am looking at real estate next month to make the full time move next year!

There are a lot of horror stories out there regarding water bills, and electric too. A few days ago people were talking about it on a different group. Someone in Rincon received a $2800 water bill for a home they hadn't occupied in 9 months..somehow their name was switched to a different account. Someone else received a $3400 water bill because apparently the water company couldn't find the water meter for several years..and when they did, they charged the person for several years back. Other people randomly getting $600+ bills for no apparent reason. Lots more stories that than. The system is broken! I've only been here 2 months and my first water bill was for 1 week and it was like $2. I'm counting on getting another bill any day..

I very recently received my first bill for electricity for 1 complete month. I was very worried about how high it was going to be. There are 3 of us living in a 3 br 2 ba house. Master br has inverter AC running nearly 24/7 set at 74-75 degrees. 2nd br (my office) has same inverter AC running for about 7 hours a day during daytime hours at 75-76 degrees. 3rd br has an energy star window AC ran for maybe a couple hours, if that, per day.. the kid would rather be hot than be bothered by the noise. I'm ok with that. We frequently have computers running and a TV on. We have fans running in the house as well. My bill was $146 for 781 kwh. I know that is very high compared to anyone else living on the island for awhile, but I was pleased. I was expecting a $400 bill.

Your electric bill was a little cheaper than Gary. Based on KWH cost, so it is reasonable.

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