Shocked by the size of the bill we’d received from a local electrician – for what had seemed to be a very basic check of our finca wiring (and his sustained electric shock into the bargain) – we decided to use a different company to undertake the major work of installing additional switches, sockets and wiring for our future electricity supply.
We’d been determined to use Mallorcan labour for any major jobs around the place but, when our two new electricians eventually arrived with their toolboxes and huge reels of cable, we discovered they were actually Argentinian. No matter; they were also efficient, tidy and seemingly shock-proof – unlike our previous electrician. We were happy to leave them to get on with the job, while we solved the problem of sourcing some electricity.
Easy . . . or watt?
GESA didn’t want to know us: we were too far away from the nearest mains source for it to be viable to connect our property. Like most of our neighbours, we would be getting our power from the sun, via a solar energy system, with a generator for back-up. Now, doesn’t that sound easy?
Knowing nothing at all about the subject, we placed ourselves at the mercy of a company specialising in these things. All we had to do was give them a list of our electrical appliances and a rough idea of usage, then they came up with a solution.
That solution involved 16 solar panels, 21 batteries, an invertor and – of course – a decent-sized generator. All except the solar panels would be housed in the little casita we had built without previous permission, but had had legalized (at considerable cost). The panels themselves were to be mounted on a rack, cemented into a base. What we gave no thought to at that time was where we’d actually put what would end up looking like a sunbathing version of the Angel of the North . . .
Living without electricity for eight months was not part of the grand plan for our move to live in Mallorca. Although the notion of candlelit evenings had been a romantic one when we’d first bought the finca and during our subsequent holidays here, it didn’t take long for the reality check to arrive once we’d actually moved in.
How was I going to style my hair without a hairdryer? How would we manage to do our laundry and ironing? And, as someone who’d given up a good career to become a freelance writer, how was I going to do that seriously when I had no means of charging the battery on my laptop? Even the old typewriter I’d had before I bought a computer was an electric one and, if you saw my handwriting, you’d know why writing with a pen and paper wasn’t really an option.
Socket To Us
To be strictly accurate, we weren’t entirely without electricity. We had one small solar panel mounted on the roof and an old battery which, on a good sunny day, provided us with a 12-volt power system. It was just enough to give us about two hours of lighting daily – as long as we had only one light on at a time and continued to use what were probably the world’s first low-energy lightbulbs. Trust me, it was brighter by candlelight.
In preparation for the installation of solar power (which would take a lot longer than we thought), we decided to get the light switches and the few existing sockets in the house checked out for safety, and enlisted the services of Señor Gomilla – a local electrician who’d only just returned to work after open-heart surgery and whose angry-looking scar was visible through the jungle of grey hair exposed by his unbuttoned shirt.
He was not too impressed with what lurked within our walls. I think it was something to do with the electric shock he got while probing beneath the yellowing old plastic switchplates, and the tangle of rather charred wires. Luckily it was only a 12-volt system . . .
And we weren’t too impressed when we received the bill for his services. He clearly charged extra for electric shocks sustained.
Jan Edwards ©2012