5 things to know when buying a rural property in Mallorca (Part 3)

If you’re reading this blog for the first time, welcome. You’ll find the other three things to know about (water supply, waste water disposal, and disposal of rubbish) on the previous two posts. This last part focuses on electricity and gas – two essentials.  We lived for eight months with limited electricity: no usable plug sockets and only two hours of lighting a night (if the sun had shone), courtesy of a small rooftop solar panel. I’m not sorry we did it, as it has made us more careful about using electricity – and it was quite romantic in its own way. But I’ll always remember the day when the electrician who was completing the installation declared that we finally had power. So will he: I went up to him and gave him a big smacking kiss on the cheek . . .

You’ve got the power?

Our bank of solar panels – a sight that took some getting used to!

Rural properties are often too far from a GESA sub-station to make it viable to be connected to mains electricity. That was the case with our finca. So we had to seek an alternative. We decided against wind turbines (too noisy for our liking) and opted for solar power. After all, Mallorca has 300 days of sunshine a year, so it’s a plentiful resource here.

If you’re looking at a rural property with no existing power supply, the first step in deciding what type and size of solar power system you need is to make a list of everything electrical that you’re likely to use. Armed with this information, a specialist in solar power will be able to work out the specifications for a system tailored to your needs.  A system basically comprises solar panels, batteries (charged by the sun) and an invertor. You’ll also need a generator, for those occasions when the sun doesn’t contribute enough to keep it all going, and a tank to hold the diesel that fuels it. As you’ll have gathered by now, all of these things (except the panels) will need to be housed somewhere secure and weather-proof; in our case, it’s an outbuilding.

So, there is a considerable upfront outlay, but at least you won’t be receiving electricity bills from GESA. And if you’re careful with your electricity usage, you can keep generator running costs down.

My top tips:

  • Don’t underestimate your electricity requirements. It’s cheaper to have the correct sized system installed at the outset.
  • Buy the best panels and batteries you can afford.
  • Talk to at least two solar power companies and compare their prices and specifications. Ask about the life expectancy of the individual components. Our first invertor caught fire and had to be replaced.
  • If you have to build something in which to store the system components, make sure you have planning permission (one day I’ll tell you the sorry tale of our own building)
  • Be sure that you’ll be happy with the siting of the panels. Our engineer’s first suggestion would have completely blocked our view of the valley, so we opted for a different site. As it happens, we don’t think the first location would have been as good anyway.
  • If possible, spend some time with someone else who has a solar power system so you can learn from their experiences.
  • Once the system is installed and up and running, turn it all off in the event of a thunderstorm close by. Our second invertor was struck by lightning just a few weeks after it was installed!

Going for gas

A trip to the gas depot for refills

You won’t find mains gas in the Mallorcan countryside, but almost everyone uses butano to power their oven and hob, and water heaters (although solar-powered water heaters are increasingly popular). In towns and villages, you’ll often see the orange gas canisters being delivered by truck, but don’t expect that service to be available in rural areas. Instead, you’ll need to go to  the nearest Repsol butano depot with your empty canister(s), which will be exchanged for full ones at a cost (currently) of 16,50 euros a canister. If the property has no existing canisters (which should be left behind when the current occupiers leave), you’ll need to head to a Repsol office to get the necessary paperwork. You cannot just turn up empty-handed and buy a canister of gas.

It is possible in some circumstances to have a large butano tank installed on your property, but there are certain conditions that must be met for this service to be available. Speak to a Repsol office if you are interested. It certainly saves lugging the containers around (the standard size holds 12,5 kg of butano).

My top tips:

  • Check the rubber hoses that connect the gas to the appliances – they have a limited life (an expiry date is printed on the hose) and it can be dangerous not to replace them. The efficient householder will make a diary note so that replacing out-of-date hoses isn’t overlooked.
  • Get yourself a sack barrow to manouevre the canisters about. They’re pretty heavy.
  • Save the hassle, and find an alternative, eg solar-powered water heating and electric oven/hob.

I always cooked with gas in the UK, but my Smeg oven (bought here) is very unreliable temperature-wise. Could it be the gas, I wonder?

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11 thoughts on “5 things to know when buying a rural property in Mallorca (Part 3)

  1. One thing to consider when using the bigger butano tanks is that the prize for filling a normal size tank is regulated. The price for filling the bigger ones is not, which makes the butano in big tanks more expensive.
    Anders

  2. The bigger butano tanks do not have a regulated price and are therefore more expensive to change. The same applies to the small blue ones used for lamps and small heaters. They cost almost as much as a standard tank to change.

  3. Just noticed new comments on this issue and decided to add a little more.
    To buy new butano bottles you need proof that your gas installation has been inspected and approved. To have this inspection your house must have a cédula de habitabilidad which is a document from the local government saying that that you house is fit for living in.
    All this cost money and an easier way is just buying the bottles at the nearest flea market!
    There are small cheap barrows designed to transport butano bottles.
    A solar collector to heat the water is a good but not cheap option. However the sun is not always shining, not even on Mallorca!
    Anders

    • Useful comments, thanks, Anders. We inherited our gas bottles with the house – thankfully. I like to
      think our house is fit for habitation 🙂 but the local government may have a different view! Thank you
      Anders.

      • We used a gestor to get the cédula de habitabilidad. It involved photos of the house and inspectors from the Ajuntament came and looked. We have not bothered to have the gas inspection and bought our bottles at flea markets instead. If you are adventourus and very experieced you can fill the small blue bottles from a big one. But then you must really know what you are doing! A small blue cost as much to fill as the big orange!
        Anders

      • One day I guess we’ll have to get that certificate sorted, although The Boss prefers to tackle
        these things himself, rather than use a gestor. Me, I’m all for the easy life! I don’t think
        we’d tackle the filling of bottles that you describe . . . not brave enough. Thanks for your
        comments, as always, Anders.

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