Electricity in Kathmandu (and other utilities)

Today (April 21), we learned the weekly schedule for power outages in our neighborhood.  This gave us a feeling of “enlightenment” because, until now, the times when our refrigerator would switch on or off seemed quite sporadic.   As advertised, the outages last 12 hours per day. Ironically, almost all twelve are waking hours.

Sun 5-noon & 4-9pm (i.e., no power during the most useful hours)

Mon 4-10am & 2-8pm (almost as bad as Sunday)

Tue 3-9am & noon-6pm (best day of the week; we get power right after sunset)

Wed 10am-5pm & 8pm-1am (not a good day to work from home!)

Thu 9am-4pm & 7pm-mid (another killer day)

Fri 7am-2pm & 6-11pm (perfect excuse to go out for dinner)

Sat 6am-1pm & 5-10pm (much like Sunday)

During the power outages, we can operate a few lights in each room, 1 socket in the living room, and all ceiling fans using our inverter/battery system.  But the refrigerator is off, as is the water purifier, and all kitchen lights (the tube lights are supposed to work on the invertor, but don’t). We get hot water around the clock because it’s heated by solar power. This may not work as well during the monsoon season due to cloudiness.

Solar panels and tank on the terrace of our apartment building

Solar panels and tank on the terrace of our apartment building

Nita had received some good advice to purchase solar-powered lanterns before coming here, so we’ve begun using those during the power outages and on evening walks.

Waka Waka and Luci

Waka Waka and Luci

— Prakash

It has been almost a month since we’ve arrived in Kathmandu!  Getting used to the electricity outages has been easier than I anticipated.  Largely due to our new best friend – our invertor!

The invertor in our apartment.

The invertor in our apartment.

When the electricity is on, the invertor gets charged up ; when the electricity goes out, whatever is connected to the invertor can still be operated.  There have been only 3 incidents where the power was out and the invertor ran out of supply.  Having only candlelight, solar lanterns and NO ceiling fans was a bit tough.  However, we are the lucky ones who have an invertor (along with the vast majority of other expats and most middle class and above Nepalis).  This past Saturday, after returning home around 8pm from a concert (will post about that soon!), I noticed how dark it was while walking down our street…  Many families do not have invertors and rely solely on candlelight during blackouts.

We have seen numerous houses while searching for one to rent and there is a broad range of the number of invertors some families have!  We have seen 0 – 8!  Some are fine managing without electricity when the rest of KTM doesn’t have power.  And another wanted to have their refrigerator and AC / heating system and all other lights and sockets working 24 hours a day!  Our apt has 1 invertor and so far, we are managing okay.  The house that we will rent (will also post soon about our exciting home search!) will have 4 invertors (and is about double of this apt), so will feel quite luxurious compared to just 1 over here!

Much of the electricity in KTM is provided by hydro-power.  Thus, in the rainy season, the outages are shorter (I believe around 8 hours per day).  And in winter, the outages are at their peak with up to 16 hours of outage!  We’ll have to precisely time when we charge up our lifelines (ie cell phone, laptop, tablet)!

Internet – THANKFULLY we have internet connection around the clock!  Our connection is provided by the landlord who has the modem connected to his invertor.  Speed is moderate.  Totally adequate for emailing and blogging, but a bit slow for watching videos.  Intolerable compared to USA standards, but A-OK in a developing country.

Let me briefly talk about the other utilities – gas and water.  Direct gas lines are non-existent in Nepal (just like India).  So there are large red cylinders (about 2 feet tall and 1 feet diameter) that each house has to operate any gas appliances (stove and space heaters).  When the tank depletes, you take it to a filling station.  I’ve heard an estimate of filling the tank for the stove about 3 times per year.  Water is in short supply here in Nepal (ironic because there is plentiful snow melt so nearby…).  Water comes from wells (some houses have small wells on their property), the government (pumped into a tank that is kept in or around your house approximately weekly), or by private tankers (large tanker trucks pump water from the truck into a tank at your house – this can be costly).

Our neighbors solar panels and 2 water tanks of an apartment building in the next lane.

Our neighbors solar panels and 2 water tanks of an apartment building in the next lane.

Once we move to our own house, we’ll have the pleasure of experiencing all of this — filling up gas cylinders, filling up water tanks, making sure the electricity is on before trying to pump the water!!  Now, in this furnished, serviced apartment, all of this is taken care of for us (this is as close as it gets to Marriott Residence Inn in Nepal!!)

Looking forward to reading your comments and questions 🙂


2 thoughts on “Electricity in Kathmandu (and other utilities)

  1. 12 hours a day without power! And that too most are waking hours. Kudos to you all for taking it in your stride and working around it without a complaint!

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