Tag Archives: Spanish Electrical


Dave Bull’s Guide to Utility Companies in Spain


Dave Bull’s guide to…
…and Movistar



firstly let me say that it is NOT LIKE BACK HOME when you deal with the utility companies here – especially bleeding Movistar, but don’t let me get started on them or we’ll be here all day. I thought we’d put together a little info that you may or may not already know – about the big utility companies that we have to deal with here. Now did I mention Movistar…?

When dealing with utilities the normal method is to settle bills via direct debit and believe me, it’s better to arrange for itemised bills to be sent in so you can check them and sort out problems straight away. Also regularly check that the bills are actually getting paid because they don’t hang around out here if they are going to disconnect you.

Most properties get their water from one of the main water companies here in Spain and that company is responsible for the infrastructure of the supply and must maintain it. That means it’s the same as the UK where they are responsible up to the meter.
You will usually get your bill every two months, although some companies invoice quarterly while others do it only twice a year (know how they feel…).

Not a lot of people know that…

What a lot of people do not know is that if you should have a problem with a leak and you’re left with a hefty bill – go and talk to the Aguagest office because if it is your side of the meter (and in reality – your problem) you can get an official plumbers receipt and claim up to 30% of the cost of the bill back! Be warned though that it must be a proper (licensed) plumber – not that dodgy bloke in the tatty car….

The whole of the Costa Blanca can turn its lights on in the evening and say ‘thanks’ to Iberdrola who are the only supplier. Whether you actually want to say thank you or not, they will bill you every two months for the power you have used and an additional standing charge for, well, being a good customer…?

Many small companies are beginning to spring up since de-regulation but, unfortunately for you, you will, more than likely, have to deal with Movistar at some point. Now, Movistar, where do I start? Well, perhaps their motto should be ‘don’t hold your breath’ because once you’ve dealt with them that is what you will say to the next person who asks your advice about contacting Movistar.

Quite frankly, Movistar is one of the most unprofessional, disorganized, inept companies every to grace the planet – and that’s the good bit… people have waited months and sometimes, years for a telephone line with no customer service to help them out. The have a customer service line (1004) which is about as useful as a bacon slicer at a Bar Mitzvah and if you want to speak to someone in English? Forget it, especially if it is a fault or complaint that you’re calling up about. If I had a choice, I’d sooner put my hand in a blender (again) than deal with Movistar.

The gas bottles that we use here are supplied by Repsol (orange) and Cepsa (silver) and contain butano mostly. Both companies have either depots or outlets such as garages where customers can exchange their empty bottles and in some areas home deliveries are made every week.

Mains gas is now arriving on the scene but with the relatively small demand for gas (especially in the summer) take up on that option is slow and the majority of homes still use the bottles.

For any appliances that use gas – you must use an approved plumber or risk losing your supply (and/or life).

If you are cut-off by any of the utility companies it is an absolute pain in the culo to get switched on again. You’ll be asked to pay into a bank account – at a certain time of day – then they’ll want you to fax the payment and all your account details to their office. Then it is understood they sit on it for a couple of days before, hopefully, you get switched back on within the promised ’48 hours.’ Oh, and then they’ll add a ‘reconnection charge’ on your next bill which is usually well out of proportion to the work involved. Trust me, don’t get disconnected – keep an eye on the bills and when they are due to make sure they get paid.

Solar and Battery Power Packs

Be safe, portable power packs are a must have

Solar and Battery Power Packs

Solar and Battery Power Packs

Expats know that many of the countries we move to don’t have reliable electrical supply, of course we all know about the dangers of relying on electricity in African or Latin American nations where brownouts occur frequently, but expats moving to Spain should also be aware of the less than perfect electrical supply in some parts. Making sure we have surge protection, or portable power packs available is essential.

In the major cities brownouts are less common, but in the smaller villages or out ‘in the campo’, the Spanish name for rural districts, you can expect regular brownouts, perhaps even as often as several times per week. Brownouts are momentary blips in the supply of electricity, the lights might flash or dim, and you’ll hear machines like fridges shudder or slow and kick back on again.

Blackouts are full power outages, and luckily occur less often, but when they do, power can be disrupted for minutes to hours and in some parts of Spain might be frequent occurrences. Around Ronda and inland Andalucía, perhaps even parts of the Costa del Sol, you can expect a lot of brownouts, and during the winter rainy season frequent blackouts in the rural districts pretty much everywhere. The larger villages such as Arriate, Olvera, or Gaucín tend to get more maintenance work so their services are better.

The problem areas include isolated houses, small groups of campo houses, and several of the smaller villages, and brownouts may be a weekly occurrence, rising to daily occurrences during winter. Montejaque and Benaojan for example, two of the more popular expat villages tend to get less brownouts, but in the rainy season frequent blackouts can be a problem.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan a move to the Serranía or Spain, we believe most rural parts of Spain suffer from the same problem. It does mean however that taking precautions to protect sensitive electrical equipment should be a must. And dare I say it, if you choose to live in these areas, some kind of portable power pack that uses batteries or solar power should be considered a necessary investment.

A simple project you can do yourself is to buy a truck battery, and inverter, and a battery charging device. During blackouts this should be sufficient to power a lamp, laptop computer, or low powered cooking device. The downside is that if you don’t know what you’re doing you could electrocute yourself.

Considering how easy and practical gas cooking, heating and lighting is, most expats simply keep a spare bombona (gas tank) which can be used with a BBQ or camping lamp. The challenge is how to recharge mobile phones or laptop batteries when the power goes off, or when you’re travelling. I prefer a complete solution that doesn’t require any knowledge of voltages, or polarity, and doesn’t give my nearest and dearest heart palpitations when I connect electrical devices to it.

The most affordable battery/solar device we’ve seen in these parts that is capable of fully charging a mobile phone/blackberry/iphone, a laptop computer, or digital camera can be bought from Mobi Power Packs on the Costa del Sol, talk to Chris or Simone and tell them Ronda Today mentioned them to you. I believe they also have a helpline in the UK for expats who travel between Spain and the UK.

Devices that include batteries and solar panels for charging mobile phones or laptops seem to be marketed at travellers, the military, or aid agencies operating in third world countries, but my advise would be to ignore the marketing showing soldiers in full camo gear, and think about your own comfort and peace of mind. Believe me, I’ve lived in a small village, and a lone house in the campo, and I can assure when the power goes off you’ll be glad of the ability to recharge a mobile phone, especially if like many expats you don’t or can’t get a landline connected.

Pricing for these sorts of devices is very reasonable, in fact they’re price competitive with computer UPS devices or surge protection devices you could buy from high street retailers, and are not restricted to use in the home, they can be use in the car as well. Other manufacturers offer similar devices but I’ve yet to see them sold in Spain, which concerns me even if their prices are similar. Call me old fashioned but I want to be able to talk to them for the price of a local call.

Ronda Hard Disk Repair

Arunda Data Recovery Services

Ronda Hard Disk Repair

We are lucky in Ronda and the Serranía, to have the expert services of Arunda Data Recovery (ADR), a consultancy that is in most cases able to retrieve important data from failed computer hard drives, portable devices such as iPods, and USB pen drives.

With over 50 years combined experience in the computer industry, the team at ADR are very familiar with most problems their clients will encounter, and have solutions for most. From restoring family photo albums when a computer dies, to recovering important financial documents and accounting files, or retrieving personal documents in Word or Excel format.

Arunda Data Recovery use combinations of specialist equipment, some of it similar to the tools used by police and intelligence services, in addition to some repair of hard drives, to get your data off the old drive, and onto a new drive and in turn back onto your computer so that you can use it.

Working closely with several local computer retailers in Ronda and on the coast, Arunda Data Recovery have proved their abilities time and again, and are now able to offer their service direct to the public, although if your computer hard drive is still within it’s warranty period they recommend checking with your retailer first to see what can be done.

The procedure for recovering your data is simple, call ADR and tell them what happened. They’ll tell you right there on the phone how to proceed. Once the hard drive can be inspected a quote to retrieve the data is prepared, and on your agreement, your data is extracted and placed onto a second hard drive or DVD according to your needs.

ADR can also build custom computers for select clients, specifically when a computer is required to perform some specialist task that a retailer might find difficult to source. To contact the team at ADR, phone or email them, their contact details are below. Arunda Data Recovery are happy to deal with clients throughout Andalucía, and further afield.

Address c/ San Juan Bosco, 9
29400 Ronda (Málaga)
Telephone 952 874 610 or 669 412 298
Email info@arunda-data-rec.es
Website www.arunda-data-rec.es

Using a British TV in Spain

Television in Ronda

Television in Ronda

British TVs and Spanish TVs are more or less compatible, except for older models. Technically, the UK uses a broadcasting standard known as Pal-I, whereas Spain uses Pal-B/G, and the difference is in the way the sound is transmitted.

Older TVs from the UK will be able to receive a Spanish picture but may not be able to tune into the sound. Most modern TVs should work equally well on both systems, so, check with the manufacturer of your model of TV before bringing it to Spain.

Televisions imported from France, the French cantons of Switzerland, most of the Middle East, and Francophone Africa use the SECAM standard, whereas televisions from most of the Americas and Japan use the NTSC standard. These are not directly compatible with the PAL system used in Spain but can be made to work if a multi-standard video recorder is used to receive the signal although the quality of the picture may suffer slightly in the conversion process, but will allow imported DVDs and videos to be played.

Be sure to read our Sky TV in Spain and Ronda page for more information about watching English language TV. If you do bring an older TV with you, it will be capable of getting the Spanish audio channel if a multi-standard video recorder is attached to it.

DVD players bought in the UK or in Spain will both be configured as region 2 (Western Europe and other places) and will work perfectly in either place, as will DVD drives/players in computers or games consoles with DVD drives. Most video recorders manufactured in the last decade should work, but check the specifications of your recorder to ensure it supports Pal-I and Pal-B/G.

Using a UK DVD player or video recorder with a Spanish TV should not be a problem, again, if your equipment is more than a few years old check with the supplier. DVDs imported from outside region 2 can only be played with multi-region equipment unless you bring your old DVD player with you. For example DVDs purchased in North America are not compatible with European DVD players.

In 2010 Spain expects to fully convert to digital TV and will be using the DVB standard. British digital TVs and digital decoders are fully compatible with this new standard.

<h3>Terrestrial Channels in Ronda</h3>

Ronda is currently rolling out digital transmission services, and within the town it is possible to receive test transmissions, however the campo surrounding Ronda is still restricted to old analogue signals.

At present analogue transmissions in Ronda are available from Localia (Radio TV Ronda), Canal Sur, Canal Sur 2, RTVE 1, RTVE 2, Antena 3, Cuatro, Telecinco. All channels are in Spanish, and all foreign language programmes are usually dubbed into Spanish which is great for learning Spanish.

Digital DVB-T broadcasts are available in Ronda, and you will currently get about 20 channels, all in Spanish, but in some cases, the original language audio is broadcast as well on a separate channel, particularly on Disney, Canal Sur 2, La Sexta, Neox, and Sony Channel.

Simply changing the audio channel should allow you to watch most American films or TV shows in English. Very few British programmes are broadcast, and if this is absolutely necessary for you then Sky Satellite TV is your best option.

<h3>Sky Satellite TV in Spain</h3>

Arranging to get Sky TV installed in Spain will almost certainly suit most of your viewing needs, a dish is placed on the roof of your house, or on a side wall facing south, and usually the cabling can be connected using the same conduit used for your terrestrial aerial so there should be no need for mess or costly plastering to cover up new openings.

Choose an installer with a good reputation, unfortunately there are a few not so good installers who will leave you high and dry when things go wrong. A professional installer should be able to align your dish perfectly using a signal analysing instrument. Any installer who tells you isn’t needed should be avoided. Your dish needs to be very securely fitted because even a slight misalignment will affect signal or drop it altogether.

Most reputable installers recommend a dish of at least 1.2 metres diameter for Sky TV, but if you only want free to air broadcasts as from the Astra satellites you may need to consider a bigger dish.

Sky TV in Spain also requires you have an account with Sky in the UK, which sadly also means having a UK billing address. If this isn’t available to you then ask your installer if they can provide a Sky card on your behalf. Be prepared to pay a little more for the convenience.

Using British Electrical Appliances in your Spanish property

TVs, DVDs, Computers

TVs, DVDs, Computers

Welcome to Spain, and the joys of using British electrical appliances in Spain. We all know the move to Spain isn’t cheap, but the great news is that most of the appliances you bought in the UK will work here in your new Spanish property, and you don’t need to be concerned about the different voltage in most cases.

Electrical Supply in Spain

Spain is part of Europe, and whilst Andalucians may pride themselves on being autonomous, we shouldn’t forget that in Europe we have a generally common set of standards. As such, Spain (and Ronda) uses 220-230v at 50Hz, fairly similar to the UK, where 230-240v at 50Hz is used. Most appliances you buy in the UK or in Spain are rated between 220-240v so should work equally well in either country.

Older appliances that are rated at a fixed 240v should still be OK in Spain allowing for the normal 10% variance inherent in electrical items. In fact, any appliance rated at 220v, 230v, or 240v should work quite well in any country that uses one of these voltages but be aware that fixed 220v rated equipment in a socket or nation rated at upto 240v may operate at the top end of tolerance at times.

Whilst this is generally considered safe, you may want to place a surge protector between the power outlet and the appliance especially if it is not easy to replace, for example older audio equipment with vacuum tubes or valves instead of transistors.

Electric plugs in Spain use the same format as other European nations, namely the two round prong design. All plugs and wall sockets include a third position for earthing which is built into the socket, whilst some plugs on appliances might include a hole for a prong from the socket to slide into. In cases like these the plug can only be inserted one way, just like the UK.

People planning to settle in Spain from North America or Japan will need to install a voltage converter between any imported appliances and the wall socket. Your electrical appliances are rated at 110v, or between 100v-127v, and plugging these directly into a Spanish outlet will damage the appliance and has been known to cause fires. Laptop computer and shaving equipment power supplies are often designed to work at all ratings but please confirm this with the manufacturer before taking the risk.

Electrical gotchas when buying Spanish property

Many vendors of pisos, fincas, cortijos, and other Spanish property will have done repairs to property wiring themselves, and it would be prudent to insist on a wiring, plumbing and general building inspection before settling a home purchase.

A qualified electrician should always be consulted, and in particular, make sure they check the number and capacity of circuits within the property wiring. Often an amateur will add too many sockets or light switches to a circuit, or worse, add stoves, hot water systems, or air conditioning to a general circuit.

Most real estate agents (typical when looking at Ronda property) prefer to keep quiet about anything to do with power or plumbing, you may need to ask them directly, and if you don’t get a satisfactory reply, then insist they ask the vendor. Simply testing the various light switches yourself is not a good enough examination of the wiring in a house.

Older buildings in Spain may have a different style of socket that looks more like an American socket and in this case you can count on the wiring being old, this should be your cue to arrange an electrical inspection and potentially budget to replace all the wiring.

Adaptors, Transformers, and Surge Protectors in Spain

Power in Spain is generally reliable, but during storms or if you live in the campo, you should expect regular brown outs, and the occasional black out. For this reason it is wise to take precautions with sensitive equipment, and if buying a property here make sure you get a licensed electrician to check the wiring in your new home, and get them to double check for shorting and test the earth leakage system.

As mentioned above, don’t replace plugs on electrical items, bring plenty of adaptors with you. These are only a couple of pounds (See Euro Pound Conversion Rates) from any decent high street electrical store, and will ensure the warranty on your appliances won’t be void. Discount stores in Ronda sell universal adaptors for under one Euro. Appliances with a surge fuse built-in to the plug are especially vulnerable to Spanish power surges, and that fuse may be all that stands between continued use of your appliance or needing to replace it.

Spanish sockets don’t include an on/off switch, which can be a bit disconcerting the first few times you use them. In kitchens and bathrooms where water can be present it would be prudent to make sure surfaces and floors are dry before using any electrical appliance. A further difference you’ll notice with Spanish appliances is the lack of a surge fuse built into the plug. When relocating to Spain do NOT change plugs for their Spanish variant, instead bring plenty of travel adaptors with you and perhaps a spare set of fuses.

Surge protectors in Spain should be considered a necessary expense, particularly with items such as computers, DVD players, televisions, etc. If possible, a surge protector with it’s own backup battery for your computer should be considered. A momentary brown out could literally shut down your computer thus losing any work you hadn’t saved. We regularly here of people whose entire computer becomes unusable after a power surge, and then requiring the services of a specialist to recover their data including photos, documents, and business accounts.

It is common in Spanish property to have an outdoor socket, often several, and whilst many are under cover, some are not. Generally most outdoor sockets in Spain will have a flap that lifts up allowing access for the plug, but be warned these are NOT rain proof, so only use your outdoor socket when it is dry, and check for water residue in the lip of the socket before using it.