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  • Writer's pictureTim Robinson

Cost of being a missionary – electricity

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I know I know, we all take it for granted in the UK –  my friends from America are finding it amusing how much social media has had to say about the power cuts in the us in June.  Reality is, when you move to a third world country – even a city the electricity supply is problematic. Any thing we have plugged into a Nepa* outlet must have a voltage stabilizer plugged in first.  The stabilizer must be big enough to cope with the demand placed on it and there is no guarantee that if there is a spike in the supply, that the thing or what ever is plugged into it will survive.  We knew about the power situation, it wasn’t a surprise, but I guess I am minding it is one difference between short term trips where you are pretty much prepared to cope with almost anything and living long term.  Long term you have to put more things in place to cope.   2 weeks after arriving, we stumbled upon a house and moved in and bought the contents.  It save. A lot of running around and figuring out, part of that package was a battery back up system with two 12v deep cell batteries and chargers and inverters.  We never really heard of such systems let alone though about having one.  It was such a blessing, a bunch of lights attached (yes some rooms had 2 lights, 1 Nepa and 1 battery whose switch was in a cupboard down our corridor), and the ability to charge laptops and plug the fridge in was brilliant.  but they are only good if there is charge it he batteries.  We had them hooked up to charge from Nepa, so it was fine if you got a few hours of Nepa each day but 2/3 days without and the batteries aren’t any good to you.      We are lucky not to have lost any food out of our fridge or freezer yet, but a few months in we did decide to invest in a generator that wasn’t something we had previously considered needing.  Both these things have proved invaluable to us, but the up front investment, cost of running, upkeep and maintenance are a whole lot of grief.  It does mean I got wise when we moved house and engineered our battery system. Through our fuse board to power 1 light in each room, through the normal light switch, which means we don’t have to run down a corridor to trilogy’s on, and we don’t always have 1 bulb that is not in use :). We haven’t yet invested in solar charging system, nor a wind turbine like our neighbors (thought it’s brake keeps getting stuck on 🙁  )but there is still time for those additions.  Our projects however often don’t have power unless we buy a generator (small investment huge running costs now) or a solar system (large investment but as long as it works, zero running costs).

I’m not sure if it really counts as a cost, but the hassle involved here does take its toll and so I think that is a cost we pay.  I hope the real cost of losing a piece of equipment or an appliance is one that we will never have to face.

*Nepa is our power supplier it has such a bad reputation that a few years ago it changed it name to PHCN the Power Holding Company Nigeria.  However, everyone still refers to them as Nepa.  Among the numerous explanations of. The acronym is my favourite Never Ever Power Always.

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