Thursday, May 11th 2023

Electricity in Mexico

Written by

Rafael Bracho

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Electricity in Mexico

There’s a lot to tackle in an article about electricity in Mexico. You’re probably wondering, What’s the voltage like in Mexico? Or, How do I deal with power outages in Mexico? In this article, we’ll be covering all these issues, and giving you the basic rundown so that you can feel confident—especially if you’re working from home and need to rely on steady power.

The most important thing to note about electricity in Mexico is that it’s nationalized, unlike in the United States. The Federal Electricity Commission (Comisión Federal de Electricidad, orCFE) manages all electricity throughout the country. You can expect a bill from the CFE once every two months—and some of your bill is actually subsidized by the government. They’ll let you know exactly how much on your statement. A lot of this federal subsidy depends on your usage and your income.

Because the Mexican government offers economic incentives to lower your usage, Mexicans are far more conscious of their daily power consumption. They turn off the lights when they leave a room and will even unplug appliances when they aren’t being used.

Power Surges and Voltage in Mexico

Electricity in Mexico

The voltage in the US is 120V, and it isn’t that different in Mexico; Mexican voltage is set to 127V and 60Hz. And the outlets are the same, don’t worry. This means that your US electronics and appliances will work in Mexico—if only it were that simple, right?

In short, American appliances should work, but the rest of the world will likely need a voltage converter because they operate on 220V – 240V. If that wasn’t enough, there are surges and brownouts that can affect the way your appliances operate. Also, if you lose electricity in Mexico, when the power comes back online, the voltage can be higher than normal—which could damage your computer.

*For a complete guide to everything you could ever want to know about the power outlets in Mexico, click here.

This can also put stress on your appliances and lead to costly repairs. This happened to my fan last year. I had an American fan (which I actually bought from Costco in Mexico) and its motor blew out because of high voltage—even though I didn’t use it often, only during the hot season. I took it to a repair-all shop on the corner and they replaced the burnt-out component with a Mexican counterpart. Since then, it’s worked fine.

The problem with Mexican electricity is that it fluctuates, which is no surprise considering the infrastructure–Mexico is a developing country after all. Also, Mexico has fewer regulations on electricity than in developed nations, and because of this, many homes have yet to be retrofitted with ground wiring. (You can tell whether it has been by the third prong on the plug which ground unused electricity safely to the earth.) Of course cheap converters exist to help you plug your three-pronged appliances into two-slot outlets, but that doesn’t make it safe. You can burn out your appliances or melt the socket if you aren’t careful.

Voltage Regulators in Mexico

Electricity in Mexico

The best thing you can do is get a voltage regulator for your home. Voltage regulators are kind of like surge protectors, but they differ in the sense that surge protectors cut the power to whatever is plugged in whenever the voltage goes up far enough to put that device in danger.

Voltage regulators are far more complex. They continually monitor the voltage flowing through it, using conduction through a shunt to give the right amount of voltage to your appliance. You really want to get a voltage regulator for your most expensive appliances like televisions and computers. Basic voltage regulators aren’t expensive. You can expect to pay about $30 – $40 USD for one, and they’re well worth the price considering they protect far more expensive equipment.

There are more expensive voltage regulators that will have a Uninterruptible Power Source (UPS) battery system in case your power unexpectedly cuts out. Mostly, these voltage regulators are for computers. They’re rather expensive—about $300 USD—but if you can afford it, you can be sure that you won’t lose your data in your computer if the electricity suddenly cuts out in Mexico. Instead, the voltage regulator will power your device long enough for your to safely shut down without losing your data.


Power Outages in Mexico

Electricity in Mexico

Power outages are a common problem in Mexico. They’re most likely to occur during strong thunderstorms—which occur fairly often in the summer months, but can occur at any time depending on where you live. High winds and lightning can blow out local transformers and disrupt electricity sub-stations.

Power cuts generally last for only a few minutes, but sometimes can be a lot longer. Larger cities generally have the infrastructure to reroute power through another transformer—and you could have power in a matter of minutes. However, if you’re in a sleepy, forgotten beach village, you could be without power for hours—or even days–before the local CFE technicians come to repair the damage. (It’s always a good idea to have a backup generator in case you’re in a high risk area for power outages.) That said, usually the power will come back in a few hours if not less.

There are a lot of issues that arise when the power goes out in Mexico, and trust me, they can affect your daily routine. Beyond losing internet during Netflix-and-chill, a lot of issues can happen when a power outage lasts longer than a few minutes. Traffic lights can go off—which increases traffic—and shops will often stop accepting cards for purchase. (They might even close down entirely.) Food in your refrigerator can spoil if the outage lasts for too long.

Many homes have gasoline generators that can power homes in the event of a power outage that lasts days. However, that doesn’t help you when you’re working on an important document and the power suddenly cuts out.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself from these inconveniences is to buy a UPS . These are basically batteries that will keep your devices going between 30 minutes and 2 hours in the event of a power outage. They have larger industrial versions that can power a home for days, but that’s more often for industrial and commercial use than residential use.

Brownouts in Mexico

Electricity in Mexico

Sometimes you don’t lose power, but instead have a “brownout”. This is a term for when electricity is weaker than normal, but you have a tiny bit of current running through your outlet. You can tell that lights will seem far weaker than normal. Some of them may not turn on while others do. Your fan might turn on, but run at a very slow rate to where it isn’t even generating wind. If this happens, be sure to disconnect your expensive electronic devices like computers and televisions. Brownouts are very bad for your sensitive equipment. (For those of you who want a technical explanation, the drop in voltage will increase the amperage.)


Electricity in Mexico

The short of it is that power outages do happen in Mexico. Trust me, the good far outweighs the bad—especially if you’re prepared for the worst case scenario. Buying a voltage regulator with a built-in UPS is probably the best thing you can do to protect your electronic devices and continue working during an emergency.

If that’s too high-tech, a gas generator will likely do fine—just be sure you have a ground on your outlet. Stocking up on items in case of an emergency is always a good idea; that way you don’t have to go anywhere when the power does go out and everyone is scrambling for basic supplies. Overall, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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