Thursday, 21 March 2013

Yeah...electricity!

When we first bought this house we had no electricity other than the generator and that costs money to run as petrol has been at an all time high here. We knew that we wanted solar power but we knew absolutely nothing about it. Luckily for us we came across a second hand system that we had installed and this was the beginning of our journey.

We had everything installed in the cupboard of the spare room. At this time we were still living 200km away and visiting at weekends. While we were away we had the panels on the roof stolen. This was a major problem, no electricity again, no running water again! A friend lent us 2 small panels to ensure we had electricity for the pump.
We had to go to the Guardia and report the theft. This was difficult to say the least as mine and Kev's spanish was not very good. They were very patient with us, we drew pictures and used our pigeon spanish and within a hour they were at the house looking at the damage.
Luckily for us when we bought the house I took out house insurance with the bank. Now knowing the bank manager on a first name basis, all we had to do was go to the bank and they sorted all the insurance out for us.
Within 4 weeks everything was sorted. The insurance had paid up and now all we had to do was find some solar panels.
We used to frequent a bar and the owner had become our friend. One day when we went up there he gave us a card of a man selling solar panels cheap. We rang him and that afternoon he came out to see us. He checked over our system and advised us to buy 180w panels. We bought 2 there and then. Within the week we had them fitted and we were up and running again...so we thought.
Every so often the alarm would ring and the power would go off. We put this down to having visitors as normally this happened when people were here. We were running the generator any time anything was plugged in except for the laptop, but it still happened on a regular basis. Unfortunately because we didn't really understand the system and how it worked we didn't ever question why.
One day we rang the supplier of the solar panels (as he had now become a good friend too) and questioned why this kept happening. He came out and checked the system and advised us to buy a battery charger...similar to a car one and use that with the generator to charge the batteries direct to stop it from happening. He thought it was to do with the invertor as they don't last for ever!
We carried on happily for about a year with this set up, but we were still running the generator for everything, except lights and laptop.
We had talked about getting a wind turbine. We did lots of research about start up speeds and dump loads. I found one that had an automatic shut off if the batteries were full, so as not to over charge them. My parents came to visit and my Dad and Kev installed the turbine on the roof. It is only a 400w turbine but it works most days even in the lightest winds. This means that most nights we have a trickle feed of electricity going into the batteries.
About 6 months ago we decdied to double the power by buying 4 new panels to go on the roof. We had to wait to have them fitted as we wanted to get a frame for them. Trouble was last time we were robbed they took the frame as well. This time it was agreed that they would be welded, bolted and concreted to the roof. If anyone wanted to steal these they would have to bring a disc cutter and generator with them!
While we were waiting for the frame, we were robbed again. They took the batteries this time. We had 2 banks and they took only one. We think they were disturbed or perhaps our German Shepherd had seen them off. What ever happened we were very worried that they would come back and take the other bank. Kev set about changing the space above the generator cupboard into Fortnox. It took him a week but again it will take someone a while to get into it and they would need to bring good tools with them.
Cupboard blocked up
 

Metal door fitted
 

block work rendered...one day it will be painted white
 


We also chose to have CCTV installed around the property. Now we can watch as people go past and I can access it remotely while I am at work or off the property. I think it is sad that we have to go to such measures but living alcampo as we do it is a must.