Bata at SM Makati

Bring the family to Meralco’s Liwanag Park this Christmas season

Looking for some place to bring the family this Christmas aside from the malls? Check out Liwanag Park, Meralco’s annual Maliwanag ang Pasko tradition on the grounds of Meralco’s head office in Ortigas. The lighting up of the park fronting the main building has been an annual tradition for years and a popular Christmas destination for families and tourists in Metro Manila.

Continue reading “Bring the family to Meralco’s Liwanag Park this Christmas season”

Bata at SM Makati

Meralco opens more digital doors to its customers

I still remember the days of old when I was growing up. Whenever we had a power outage in our area, it was a challenge to reach Meralco. Phone lines were jammed all the time. We had to tune in to radio stations via our portable radio to find out what areas were affected and how soon power would be restored. No one had any idea if their area would be affected by maintenance of power lines. Basically, Meralco customers were pretty much in the dark (pun intended).

A new Meralco, however, has been emerging from its corporate shell. Going beyond its official website which was then a one-way, company-to-customers information dissemination tool, it began engaging the public on social media by creating a Twitter account (@meralco) and a Facebook page. Suddenly, access to Meralco widened beyond the capacity of phone lines as maintenance schedules were posted online and inquiries from customers were answered more rapidly.

In continuing plans to better inform the public and to improve public service, Meralco has revamped its website to make it more responsive to the public’s needs.

Homepage

When you land on its homepage, it gives you two different portals. FOR CUSTOMERS provides answers to customers’ concerns including electricity consumption, bill-related matters and new account applications. THE COMPANY is where you find corporate information like annual reports, business partnerships, stakeholder relations and investor information.

Since most of us are consumers, I’ll focus on the FOR CUSTOMERS portal. Here’s what you get when you choose that option.

The navigation bar on the topmost part lists the website’s main sections. At the bottom are links to frequently accessed information. The Quick Links on left sidebar provide more detailed information for customers and the center area is reserved for the most recent videos, photos and articles for customers to know.

The Meralco Appliance Calculator (AppCal for short), which is a link under Quick Links, brings you to a web application where customers can compute and gauge their electricity consumption based on the different appliances they use at home. Computations can be specific to the type of appliance, corresponding wattage, and frequency of usage. The AppCal calculates cost per hour, day, week, and month. The AppCal also takes into account the prevailing generation charge for the month.

For those with smartphones and tablets, AppCal is now a FREE downloadable app. I’ve downloaded it on my ipad.

Meralco is setting up more innovative plans, one of which is offering prepaid electricity, much like a mobile phone’s prepaid load feature. Their other innovation plans can be read in my post HERE.
Find Meralco in these digital areas:

Bata at SM Makati

Meralco: Innovating to Empower

Who ever thought utilities could ever be exciting? 
During my corporate life years back, discussions about electricity had always been a little over my head although for a while, I was knee-deep in power discussions (financial and legal) because my employer had a joint venture with an American power company to put up a diesel power plant on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) arrangement and I was one of those in the front line. When people discussed the computations to arrive at the charge to consumers per kilowatt hour, I tended to tune out often. Talking electricity was not exactly the most exciting topic I could think of.

But a few days ago, a handful of us bloggers were invited to come see how Meralco was innovating, using available technology to empower its consumers and shape a world-class standard of living. We got a glimpse of what they are looking into to employ digital technology and incorporate it into home living.

As a consumer of electricity, walk through these possibilities with me and see which ones you’d like to see Meralco introduce soon to your home.

Innovation #1: Meralco’s Current Distribution Automation

Think of this situation. A power outage suddenly occurs somewhere in Meralco’s web of grids. In real-time, using information on their screen, they are able to pinpoint the source of the outage, shut down that malfunctioning grid, and even re-route power, if needed. The red and green icons on the screen reflect where the grids are closed or open. With these equipment, Meralco can monitor and control distribution systems from remote locations, including the overall health of the electric grid. All in real time.

They are now looking into other innovations that may be introduced to consumers. These innovations try to take advantage of existing and developing technologies to empower the consumer to manage his own energy consumption by making this information accessible even when the consumer is away from home.
I know that in North America, in particular, many green homes are already equipped with these technologies. Let’s take a look at some innovations.


Innovation #2: The Smart Meter

Think prepaid load. If it can be done with mobile phones, why not power? If you can top up your phone via SMS, it can now be done for electricity as well. Here’s how it works:

The lighted meter has load while the unlighted one does not.

Software allows you to monitor your usage and load

A light’s energy consumption reflects on this devic

Simply send out an SMS indicating how much you want to top up. 
When you’re done, this is the confirmation you see on your phone

Innovation #3: The Energy Management Portal

Imagine that now, you can have a device in your home that is able to check your energy consumption (by room or per appliance), compare your consumption to a previous month or previous year — all in real time. Via an energy management portal on a computer, you can analyze your consumption so you can turn appliances on and off to meet your power budget.

Illustration of what a smart home could look like

From your device, monitor your energy consumption timeline…

…and your utility consumption — in real-time

Innovation #4: The Smart Home

Here’s what a future smart home would look like. Add a “smart plug” to your TV, DVD player, ref or any other appliance and you can program it to switch on and off. Use your computer at home or when you’re away, use your phone or tablet to manage which devices at home turn on and off. All in real-time.

The demo below showed that with the device, you can actually set an electrical budget, say for a month. And by means of the software, lights and other pre-programmed devices can be turned off when it nears your electric budget.

Innovation #5: The Home Area Network

The prospect of a home totally controlled with the flick of a remote control was quite fascinating as I spoke with the people from Cisco. They walked us through different ways you could control your home in terms of security, entertainment and energy remotely. Your handheld device, whether it is an iPad, iPhone, Androids, etc can be transformed into control devices.

The pictures below show that by attaching a security camera (the one above costs around P800 only) to your gate or front door (or wherever you please), combined with the right software, you can actually see who is ringing your doorbell. Some security cams can be made to move around to give you a wider view. With a special door lock (they said it costs around P8,000 at hardware stores), you can open/close the door with your handheld, manually input a code to open it, or use an actual key to open the door.
The same software, via your handheld, can also act as a remote to activate your entertainment system so you can choose the movie you want to watch without physically having to go near your DVD player.

3 ways to open the door: 1) remotely via iPad 2) manually by inputting a code
3) manually with the use of a normal key
A control panel on this iPad allows you to turn lights on and off or simply dim them.
This light switch with options for Home, Away and Vacation allow you to program lights to turn on/off depending on which option you choose.
I was told that the Twin Oaks Condominium by Greenfields District along Shaw Boulevard which is being constructed, will be the first smart and green high-rise condominium that will employ this energy system. In the near future, I think many planned high-rises as well as homes will be considering these energy-saving home systems too.
Innovation #6: Meralco Apps
Got an iPad, iPhone or Android-powered device? You could have a lot more information at the tips of your fingers and available on the fly. Some time back, I wrote about the Meralco Appliance Calculator, accessible via Meralco’s website, which helps you calculate which appliances are responsible for most of your energy bill. Now the Meralco Appliance Calculator is a FREE app downloadable from the App Store. 
Meralco Appliance Calculator as seen in the App Store

But aside from this app, there are more apps coming to your device. Take a look…

Power Maintenance Schedule – Find out if there is a maintenance schedule in your area.
Business Office Directory – Locate the nearest Meralco Business Center.
Meralco e-Bill – No need to wait for the bill to be delivered to your home. Get the details right away online.
After I finished the walkthrough, I actually felt excited to test out, for real, the energy innovations shown to us. Of course, I realize not all of these can be implemented all at the same time but being a bit geeky, I really appreciate the ease with which energy management and conservation can be done both online and remotely. But for these innovations to work, there needs to be a critical mass that will be willing to pay the price for the convenience. That is the magic number that Meralco still needs to work out.
Considering the present Philippine demographics, with many still living below the poverty line, the innovation that will be most helpful and probably most used across society classes will be the prepaid load concept. I think the prepaid concept just naturally clicks with those on a very tight budget and many Filipinos are unfortunately in that situation. By allowing them to consciously top up based on their own budgets, it also makes them more conscious of energy conservation.
How about you? Which innovation did you like best?
Bata at SM Makati

Meet M.A.C. – Your Friendly Meralco Appliance Calculator

Having friends in Meralco is a boon. For years now, these friends have given our family advice on many things, including the type of appliances to buy so we use electricity efficiently. My friend Alex would even hand out Meralco brochures that give friendly consumer advice on how to save on energy costs. And I remember instances in friends’ houses when Alex would spend time explaining to us the impact of how we use our appliances on our bills.

Being web-addicted connected, I long discovered M.A.C. (Meralco Appliance Calculator) on the Meralco website. In fact, the MAC (I’ve removed the periods just to make it easier as I type this post)  has been on their website since 2003. Unfortunately, not many consumers knew about the existence of MAC. And honestly, while I did tinker around with MAC a bit, trying to put in some info on our appliances and usage patterns, I never really got to use it as a real tool for electricity savings.

Till now.

Meralco is relaunching M.A.C. with new and improved features so that it can really become your electricity budget buddy. Let’s meet M.A.C. –

Fig. 1 Portal to MAC
The image you see in Fig. 1 is the first thing you see when you click the MAC link on the Meralco homepage. Before you can use MAC, you need to click on “Agreement” and clicking “I Agree” after reading the terms. The new feature on this portal is the “Formula” link. According to Meralco, they got a lot of feedback from the older MAC version as to how the energy costs were computed so they decided to add this link to the formulas.
When you choose My Appliance Calculator, you get this screen:
Fig. 2 Home screen of MAC

Tabs run across the top (General Appliances, Aircon, Ref, etc.) Clicking on those tabs bring dropdown menus to further narrow down your type of appliance. The average wattage of this appliance is filled out automatically. Put in the number of hours, days and weeks the appliance is used and MAC will calculate for you how much that appliance contributes to your bill per day/week/month. Of course, these are all rough estimates. Wattage can change depending on the brand and model of the appliance. But this gives you an initial feel already which are the energy guzzlers in your home.

Another innovation to MAC is My Bill Manager which allows you to estimate your monthly electric bill by filling up a table. You can even see which appliances consume more electricity. Just enter all the appliances and types of lights you have at home, your usage (hours, days, weeks used). You have the option to change the wattage although an estimate is automatically provided.
Fig. 3 My Bill Manager

Click on Fig. 3 to get a bigger image. I put in an example – one aircon, 1.0 horsepower, running 9 hours daily for a month. Imagine, that appliance alone costs you over P2,300 per month! Yikes!
Fill out as much as you can and you will see monthly estimates of your electric bill adding up. 
At the bottom of the spreadsheet are 3 other features. Consumption Manager gives you the top 6 appliances that contribute to your electric bill, in pesos and percentage and presents these in pie chart form.

Fig. 4 Consumption Manager



Energy Efficiency Adviser gives you handy tips to save energy consumption.

Fig. 5 Energy Efficiency Adviser

Target Bill Amount Estimator lets you set your desired target bill amount, then it tells you just how many kilowatt hours you should consume to stay within that target amount.

Fig. 6 Target Bill Amount Estimator

And when you’re done, you can even share your results via email, Facebook or Twitter or select the Print button (see Fig. 4). And the Feedback button allows you to email Meralco with suggestions as well.
Fig. 7

To begin using M.A.C., visit Meralco’s website at http://meralco.com.ph.