At last, we have hot water again in our kitchen and guest suite. For almost two months, we’ve been boiling water in the kettle to do the washing-up (the pots and pans that don’t fit in our counter-top dishwasher). But now the hot tap delivers as it should.
Different Types of Water Heater
Our new butane-powered water-heater is a calentador atmosférico. Our previous Saunier Duval heater was an acumulador. The latter heated and stored water to the set temperature, ready to supply hot water to the house within seconds. The new model heats water only at the turn of a hot tap. It takes a minute or two to get from ambient-temperature water (pretty cold in February) to hot.
The new Cronos Atmosférico Calentador a Gas (manufactured by Centro Confort) is smaller, neater, and easier to operate than our former water-heater. Maversa*, the Repsol agent we used in Manacor, chose it based on their representative’s visit to us and a discussion of our requirements.
No Go, No Flow
The técnicos did a neat job of the installation but, when it came to the crunch moment, they couldn’t make the thing work. Much head-scratching and instruction booklet-perusing ensued. We were on the cusp of having our problem solved … but not that day.
The two men were apologetic and suspected a manufacturing fault. They’d contact the company and let us know when there was a solution. As we watched them drive off, we wondered how long that would take.
So we were surprised to receive an early phone call the next morning. The técnicos were returning – somehow having solved the problem.
We’d have preferred an acumulador, but the price of a new one shocked us. Besides, when the warmer weather comes we won’t wait so long for hot water to flow from the taps. There comes a time each year – usually when I need to wash salad vegetables on a daily basis – when it’s impossible to get anything but hot water. Even from the cold taps.
Our two técnicos were very pleasant and, unlike any other workers who’ve come to our house in the past, they accepted my mid-morning offer of a coffee. One of them later asked if he could use the bathroom, because he needed hacer pis. He was, of course, welcome to use the loo … although I didn’t need to know why!
* Maversa‘s shop is on the Passeig Ferrocarril, in the vicinity of the Auditorium in Manacor (look for the Repsol name and branding). We found them helpful and tidy installers.
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?