30 April 2013

How to Upgrade an Electricity Supply

UPGRADING AN electricity supply is required when you need more power than you are currently contracted for with Iberdrola, or your electricity supplier. This is evident when the electricity supply constantly cuts off when using electrical appliances. This is caused by having too many switched on at the same time, and this produces an overload to the system. It indicates that the amount of electrical power required to work all of the appliances is insufficient for your consumption needs. Hence you need to upgrade the electrical installation in order for Iberdrola to permit an increase to the contracted power supply. 

Your contracted power supply (potencia contratada) is stated in kilowatts (kW) on your contract and electricity bill. This is the amount of electrical power that you sign up for with Iberdrola, when moving in to the property. It is the maximum amount of electrical power you are allowed under the terms and conditions of your contract. A standing charge for the contracted power supply is calculated by the contracted power supply x the daily supply rate (€/kW dia). The more power that you are contracted for, the higher the standing charge will be. 

ICP penalty charge for  a 3.3 kW contracted supply 

The contracted power supply is controlled by a power limiter switch called an Interrupter de Control de Potencia, most commonly referred to as an ICP. Failure to comply and fit an ICP, if instructed to do so by Iberdrola, will result in a penalty charge on your electricity bill. Currently there are three types of ICPs for domestic dwellings in operation: 

1. ICP(A) – old automatic type, housed in the meter cupboard (discontinued) 

2. ICP(M) – manual type, housed in, or next to, the Consumer Unit (current) 

3. ICP(A) – automatic type, integral part of the new digital Smart Meter (new) 

Smart Meters will replace the traditional electric meters all across Spain by the end of 2018. They are fitted with an integral ICP, which will supercede the old ICP(A) and ICP(M), making them redundant. A possible consequence of having a Smart Meter fitted may result in owners having to arrange an upgrade to the electricity supply. The introduction of Smart Meters prevents the malpractice of illegal upgrades. 

An illegal upgrade is one where the ICP has been subject to tampering. It will have been disconnected, by-passed or changed without the authorisation of Iberdrola, normally evident by the seal being removed or tampered with on the ICP box, next to, or part of, the Consumer Unit. To legally upgrade an electricity supply an electrician must be employed to supply a BIE aka boletin (electrical installation certificate). The boletin is then presented to Iberdrola so that a new contract for an increased power supply can be arranged. The boletin is also presented to the regional industrial department of the government by the electrician. 

New homes built after 2003 are generally provided with a 5.5 kW or 5.75 kW (25 Amps) contracted power supply on completion, which is generally a sufficient amount of electrical power for running an average home. This is arranged by the developer, and it is currently the minimum requirement by regulation for a domestic dwelling. If an owner requires additional electrical power, then the onus is on them to arrange an upgrade. 

Homes built before 2003 had a minimum requirement of 3.3 kW (15 Amps), and are generally those which need to upgrade their electricity supply. This was the minimum amount developers were obligated to provide before the current regulation, and again, it would be up to the owner to arrange a power supply upgrade if required. This low amount of contracted power can cause a lot of overloading problems with the ever increasing demand of new electrical appliances. To give you a better idea of the problem, a 15 Amp electricity supply is 75% less than the standard 60 Amp electricity supply you would receive in a UK home. It’s not uncommon for old properties in rural areas to have a 2.2 kW, a 1.5 kW, or even a 1.0 kW contracted supply. Running a modern day home in Spain with only 3.3 kW or less electric power available is practically impossible, and those who do, have to supplement gas appliances for cooking, heating and the production of hot water. 

Smart Meter alongside traditional electric meter

A legal contracted power supply for an electrical installation is one where the rating of the ICP(M) or ICP(A) does not exceed the amount stated on the contract. For an installation where a Smart Meter is fitted, the legal process for contracted power is done automatically. 

If you currently still have the traditional electric meter and are on a contracted supply of 3.3 kW or less, you should evaluate your electricity consumption to consider whether or not to upgrade your electricity supply in the near future. The automatic ICP in a Smart Meter, operates digitally with zero tolerance, unlike the IPA(M). Once your Smart Meter is fitted, you may find out that you are not contracted for sufficient electrical power to run all of your appliances.

Warning: Do not allow unqualified persons to upgrade Circuit Breakers. Only a trained professional will understand the correct circumstances when a Circuit Breaker can be upgraded. Insurance companies will not cover claims for an electrical fire proven to be caused by an illegal upgrade. An authorised upgrade must be covered by a valid boletin.

29 April 2013

Energy Efficiency Certificate - frequently asked questions

Who does the new property law apply to?

The new law regarding energy efficiency in buildings comes into force on 1st June 2013. A Certificado de Eficiencia Energética is mandatory for everybody selling a home and must be obtained before a property is advertised. Rental properties that are occupied for more than 4 months of the year must obtain an EEC for prospective tenants. This applies to real estate agents, rental agents and private individuals. Detached properties with a total floor area of less than 50 square metres are exempt. The certificate is valid for 10 years. READ MORE >>>

What is a Certificado de Eficiencia Energética?

The English translation is Energy Efficiency Certificate, in the UK they are referred to as an Energy Performance Certificate. The certificate provides a rating for a building about energy efficiency and carbon monoxide emissions using an A to G scale. Think of your house like a new fridge freezer, in order to sell it you must display a EEC to a prospective buyer or tenant. READ MORE >>>

Why is the EEC being introduced into Spain?

The Spanish government is obligated by the European Parliament directive on the energy efficiency of buildings to reduce CO2 emissions. Following several years of delays, the EEC is about to be implemented on 1st June 2013. The new law will help, in part, to achieve Spain’s pledge to the Kyoto ProtocolREAD MORE >>>

Who can issue a EEC?

A valid EEC must be issued by an architect, engineer, or a qualified technician who is authorised to undertake building projects and thermal installations for buildings. The individual will have completed a special government training course on Existing Building Energy Certification, and be trained in the software designed to issue the certificate. They will belong to an official provincial association (colegio oficial) and have a member number.

Sparks work closely with a local architect in order to issue EECs. Our architect is registered at the Colegio de Arquitectos de Alicante having graduated with honours obtaining a Bachelor's Degree in Architecture, so you can rest assured our Energy Efficiency Certificates are fully authorised. READ MORE >>>

What is the penalty if you don’t have a EEC?

Failure to comply will be considered an infringement on the law for certification of the energy performance of buildings. Moreover the offense is punishable under Consumer Protection LawSignificant fines will apply to real estate agents, rental agents, as well as private individuals in the region of 300 to 6,000 euros depending whether the infringement is considered minor, serious or very serious.

AVEN (Agencia Valenciana de la Energía) is the registry of the Comunidad Valenciana which shall be responsible for EEC inspection and control. The Region of Murcia will create a registry for its own Autonomous Community. The registries will establish and implement a system of independent monitoring. READS MORE >>>

How much does it cost?

The price is calculated on the total floor area of the property. GET A QUOTE FROM SPARKS >>>

19 April 2013

Top 5 energy saving tips

1. The Day & Night Energy Plan 

The number one way to save energy and lower your electricity bill is to sign up for the Day & Night Energy Plan with your electricity supplier. It offers up to 50% off the standard rate for a unit of electricity for 14 hours of the day. Using your appliances wisely will knock euros off your electricity bill. 

What IBERDROLA don’t tell you

There are two types of Day & Night Energy Plan, the Home Plan and the Time-of-day Rates Plan. If you don’t stipulate which plan you want, you will automatically get put onto the Home Plan. Why? Because there is an insurance plan attached to the Home Plan. Bright Sparks choose the Time-of-day Rates Plan which has the cheapest rates. 

2. Conventional Storage Hot Water Tank

To use a timer or not to use a timer, that is the question! Whether it’s more economical to heat the water once a day or top up the heat as and when the temperature drops, something called “standby heat loss”. The latest generation of water tanks are very well insulated. A full tank of hot water will hold a good temperature even when switched off for twenty four hours. 

The most effective way to save money heating water

Bright Sparks on the Day & Night Energy Plan achieve considerable savings heating their water during the cheap rate times using a timer. If you replace your water tank, install one with high thermal resistance to minimize the standby heat loss. Turn the thermostat down a tad; you probably don’t need the water to be as hot as it is currently set at. Select a shower head with a lower flow rate and only fill the kettle with the amount of water that you need when making a brew. 

3. Heating 

Appliances that provide heat or have heating elements are the number one consumer of electricity in the home, portable heaters being high up in the energy consumption stakes. When considering how to heat your home, choose heaters that takes advantage of the cheap rate offered with the Day & Night Energy Plan, like the Gabarron ADS night storage heater (pictured left). With this type of heater you’re basically getting heating for half price. 

What they don’t tell you at the electrical store

Using two or more portable electric heaters rated at three kilowatts will probably cause an overload to your electrical system. 

4. Air Conditioning

After heating, refrigeration is next on the list for high energy consumption. For a low energy efficient system you need a air conditioning unit with an inverter. The inverter is used to control the speed of the compressor motor to allow continuously regulated temperature, it works on a principle like a thermostat with a brain. By contrast, traditional air conditioners regulate temperature by using a compressor that is periodically either working at maximum capacity or switched off entirely. When purchasing an air conditioning unit (plus any white goods) use the energy efficiency certificate on display to make comparisons. Generally, you will find the cheapest units are the least efficient. With air conditioning units you get what you pay for in the energy consumption stakes. 

But Sparks, what about rentals? They leave the air conditioning on 24/7

There are a few options available on the market to prevent air con abuse. Fitting a card or coin meter is the most common method. I prefer the Airconomy system which works in the same way as a hotel key card system. 

5. Lighting

Replace light bulbs with low energy lamps. To help spread the cost, let the bulbs complete their life circle, then replace them as they blow. LED lamps are the most efficient achieving an energy saving of up to 80-90%. They are followed by CFLs that offer around a 60-70% saving, then the new generation of halogen lamps that look similar to traditional light bulbs, with a 30-40% energy saving. 

What they don’t tell you at the ferreteria

CFLs have a tendency to blow if switched on and off a lot. This is because they are fitted with a small transistor that can be a little erratic (a bit like Mrs Sparks).

12 April 2013

New Iberdrola Facebook Page in English

LOVE 'EM or hate 'em Iberdrola is a monster company. It has a workforce of around 31,330 employees in dozens of countries on four continents serving around 31,67 million customers.

Subsidiaries include Scottish Power (Scotland), Iberdrola USA (United States) and Elektro (Brazil), among others. The company ended the first quarter of 2013 with 58% of its worldwide output free of CO2 emissions. Iberdrola carry out some magnificent technical projects all over the world...

...the 404 megawatt Peñascal Wind Farm in Texas, USA
... the Dardanelos hydroelectric power plant in Brazil
... the Votkinskaya substation 500 kilovolt renovation project in Russia
... and the hydroelectric power plant in Galicia, Spain
If you are a tech-head with limited language skills, like myself, you might like the follow Iberdrola's new Facebook page in English >>> CLICK HERE

09 April 2013

Homebuyers Electrical Survey

IN THE current economic climate it is not surprising to find that people are bypassing electrical surveys in a bid to save money. Spanish electrical regulations recommend a domestic installation should be checked every 10 years. These are difficult times, and whilst not having a survey done before committing your hard-earned cash to a property purchase is a short-term saving, it could result in unexpected problems and legal issues.

Electrics, like everything else, deteriorate with age. Many Spanish properties have been illegally upgraded, and it’s not uncommon to find over rated circuit breakers creating potential fire hazards. Tripping out problems is the last thing you want after moving in.

It’s unwise for property buyers to ignore the condition of the electrical system until after moving in. Chances are you are going to get more than just an aftershock, more likely a seismic event that hits your wallet.

That’s why it is recommended to get the electrics checked out before you buy, especially in old Spanish properties. Our Homebuyers Electrical Survey is designed to assess the condition of the installation, plus it can help with the negotiations of the sale.

Three things you need to know about a property… before you buy;

1.    Properties built prior to 2002 are commonly found to have their power supply illegally upgraded. This was common practice to avoid the cost of the legal process allowing the consumer to draw additional power. The introduction of ICPs (Interrupter Control de Potencia) and SmartMeters has made illegal upgrades impossible. If the property is illegally upgraded you will have to carry improvement work and obtain a Boletin (Certificadode Instalacion Electrica de Baja Tension).

2. Properties built before 2002 are wired to antiquated Spanish electrical regulations with questionable earthing practices. This is a major cause for concern that increases the risk of electric shock. For safety, you need to ensure that improvements have been carried out to the earthing system.

3. If the existing Boletin is over 20 years old you will need a new Boletin before Iberdrola will grant you a contract for an electrical supply. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s simply a matter to change over the owner’s names.

Our Homebuyers Electrical Survey is based upon the Electrical Installation Condition Report published by the Institute of Electrical Engineers for periodic inspection and testing adapted to the Spanish electrical wiring regulations. It covers a thorough check of the installation using specialist test instruments. The survey includes a report along with recommendations for repairs and energy saving improvements. It highlights safety issues and legal requirements, useful knowledge for the buyer before the actual purchase.

To obtain a quote, email Sparks submitting information about the type and age of the property.

This survey is not exclusive to home buyers. A periodic test and inspection is recommended every 10 years.