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.