May 9, 2018
We’ve now experienced all four seasons here in Yukiguni, and part of the challenge in acclimating to our new home was learning just how crazy the fluctuation in utilities costs prove to be out here. It actually proved to be quite the budgeting challenge for us, so I want to share some lessons from our experience here.
Just a few notes for context: my wife and I have two small children and live in a stand-alone house. The house was built in the eighties and has all of the trappings of a home built in that era--poor insulation, no central heating, wall-mounted AC units, etc. Half the rooms are Japanese style with tatami, and half are Western Style with laminate flooring. There are no carpets in the house.
Electricity costs were relatively high in the summer months on account of the need for air conditioning. While we could have survived keeping it a little warmer, we were more concerned with keeping our clothes and linens free of mildew. You'll also need to use electricity for de-humidifiers and fans.
Gas (Propane and Kerosene)
Gas was not even a consideration for us in the first few months of living here. It was only a couple thousand yen a month.
Tips: Take advantage of the snow-melt sourced cold water that flows through the city. The water stays ice cold, making it good for rinsing off, a cool drink, or even placing certain foods for quick and effective storage (watermelon is one example).
Autumn was a fantastic season for the electric bill. Our total utilities costs decreased by about 25%-50% from the summer.
Gas was constant from the summer season, so no worries...yet. Little did we know what winter would bring...
We expected the electricity bill to increase in Winter, but double what it cost in summer was quite a shock. We used the electricity for things like space heaters, heated carpets, and humidifiers.
The biggest shock this past year was the price of kerosene and just how expensive it would be to heat the house. Granted, it was still cheaper and more effective than electricity, so we weren't complaining, but a 1500% increase in gas bill is flabbergasting, right? Still, it's necessary out here in Yukiguni to stave off the bitter cold.
Tips: Try to cover your windows in plastic to increase the insulation. Also, do lots of cooking with your propane stove--propane is far cheaper than kerosene and the heat from the stove will help warm your kitchen and living areas.
Spring was not quite a friendly to our electric bill as Autumn, since the nights and mornings were still chilly enough . Still, a 50% drop-off from the winter rates is significant. There wasn't quite the sustained decline as the gas bill since as the days got warmer, the air conditioning and fans started to become necessary.
The warming days meant less of a requirement to use the heavy-duty kerosene heaters. Our gas bill went down by 50% in the first month of Spring after those huge winter bills, and steadily declined thereafter.
A note on trash:
Fortunately, we did not experience a wide change in our garbage production on account of the winter, I will note that you have to be very careful about food waste in the summer. Winters in Yukiguni just mean that your entire kitchen turns into a refrigerators, but while the cold helps preserve your food, the heat of the summers does the opposite. Just be aware that the hot and humid summers will force you to make food storage and purchase considerations that you simply don't have to worry about in the winter months.
A note on water:
Our water bill was the one constant across the entire year. My wife and I were worried that the water pumped for the snow removal system on the house would cause our water bill to sky rocket, but that water is a service provided by the city. Phew!
Any questions on utilities costs out in yukiguni? Any extra tips for readers out there? Feel free to use the comments section below!
Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.
Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).
@genkidesuka: I read each section of your post slowly while letting out huge sighs of relief! Here I was thinking that something must have been wrong with our utility consumption especially during the winter season. My gas bill increased times 4, electricity pretty much the same and water remained constant. I also noticed that despite trying to conserve with both gas and electricity.... batch cooking, no hot water running unnecessarily... unplugging and turning off stuff, changing bulbs to energy savers etc, the bills still went up north. My greatest shocker though was the high in food consumption! I just couldn’t feed my family (husband, teenage daughter and my recently-had-a-baby-constantly-hungry self)! Everyone ate twice as much on any given day. Snacks went out as quickly as if they never arrived! Man I’m glad winter is over. I’m now hoping that by the end of this month my bills will continue with their downward trend and return to normal rates.
@Candiajia1 it is a huge shock, isn't it? I forgot to mention the food consumption, but that is also a major factor! Like you, I'm super glad winter is over. Congrats on the new baby, by the way!