During Mao's rule, buildings in areas North of the Yangtze River got heat in the winter, but the South did not. This regulation has been relaxed, but the effects are still noticeable. In general, Chinese use less heating, less building insulation, and more warm clothing than Westerners in comparable climates. In a school or an apartment or office building, even if the rooms are heated, the corridors are not. Students wear winter jackets in class, and long underwear is very common.
If renting, the Tenant usually pays gas, water, electricity, and telephone charges. Charges are dependent on personal consumption and building features (recent high-end construction includes energy saving technologies, but most properties lag behind northern European standards). Rates are higher during winter and summer.
A card with credit on it is used for payment. Many charges are billed monthly which can be confusing upon move in. Make sure your charges are kept separate from the tenet before you. Many people rely on an Ayi to monitor these charges. You should check the meter weekly to ensure proper reading and make sure you always have a card with credit on hand. Cards are refilled at convenient stores like Kedi, Lawson or Convenience 21. They can also be paid at the post office or the bank. Bring your bills and they will guide you through the process.
A gas card is used for payment. Gas may be billed bi-monthly. Most kitchen burners use gas, which may be the only gas consumption. Other properties use gas heaters for heating and hot-water so costs will be higher.
Charges are paid through a card similar to a credit card. This is inserted directly into the gas unit. A meter is on the unit showing charges. The card must be loaded (prepaid) with credit. The gas bill for a 2-3 person household should be around 70-150 RMB for stove use only, and about 200-400 RMB for heating.
Cost: RMB 2.15/m3.
Electricity is 220 volts/50 hz. Two-pin European and North American, as well as three-pin Australian style plugs are generally supported. Be careful to read the voltage information on your devices to ensure they accept 220V (twice the 120V used in many countries) before plugging them in. Universal extension cords that can handle a wide variety of plug shapes (including British) are widely used.
Electricity is pre-paid at most properties. It is billed monthly, but actually needs to be prepaid by card. In order not to have the services interrupted, you must pay attention to paying the bills. Again, costs are dependent on consumption, especially if you have an air conditioner. With air conditioning, costs are around 600-1,000 RMB in the summer.
Cost: RMB 0.50 per kWh
Public central heating is measured on a per square meter basis for the year, irrespective of energy consumption. For some older properties, the only thermostat is an open window. Public central heating is turned on each year from the 15th of November to the 15th of March. If the weather is exceptionally cold, the authorities may turn it on a few days early. Immediately prior to and after this period, many residents rely on electric heating to get them through the chilly evenings and mornings. As a rule, the fixed public central heating fee is included in the rent.
Cost: RMB 24.00/m2
Water is not potable in China. Always boil before drinking. Many people buy water, which is inexpensive, for all their needs. You may employ a service with a hot and cold water dispenser.
Water is billed bi-monthly and paid for with a hot water card. Costs are low, usually around 80-100 RMB per 2 months.
Cost: RMB 3.70/m3 (cold water) and RMB 13.00/m3 (hot water)
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