Here's a provocative question for readers in these power-hungry times: could you survive in a house where the total power draw of all your electrical appliances and fittings at any one time can't exceed 1.5kW? An overloaded kilowatt meter Preposterous, we hear you cry. Stick a load in the washing machine and put the kettle on …
Re: Steam punk Lester?
Better still, get an old Army landrover that is classed as FFR - Fitted For Radio means that it has an extra 24v generator under the bonnet, and room in the back for a some fairly big lead-acid batteries.
Re: Steam punk Lester?
If you feel like putting up with the hassle from the EU, the US Army's selling off most of its old two and a half and five ton trucks since we replaced most of them with LMTVs and HEMTTs. I just marked about 12 for transfer to the General Services Administration at my unit alone a few weeks ago. Im sure there's quite a bit you could do with them power generation wise.
batteries: Redundant forklift truck / milk float
Automotive and "leisure batteries" are not that good for deep discgcharge. How about redundant forklift truck / milk float batteries (yeh, all right, maybe not in a milk float in Spain, but you get the idea.) The crumbling Spanish economy may throw up the odd liquidated factory asset.
Petrol / Diesel gennys also have an advantage: Lots of waste heat. Up a calorifier and store the hot water.
+ 1 about a clever inverter to do load topping on the mains.
ooooo a holiday home in the woods! Who needs anything more than the light, a fridge (to store the holiday food), a place too keep the ale at the correct temperature, a log fire, and a place to roleplay into the early hours of the morning.
At a push a power socket to slow charge the laptops/tablets/phones during the day / when we're asleep. Anything else is a bonus.
My friend just bought a Lister diesel engine (4KW?) for £150 and a 240V, 3KW generator for £50 on ebay.
You can run the engine on old vegetable oil.
Sure, but shipping it to Spain....? Serious wedge.
I manage on 300w total. If you want more power I would recommend you get a victron quattro inverter and some batteries, you should be able to draw upto 10kva then.
You have it easy these days.
In my youth one of the relatives lived in Kent - a part of the UK which had yet to be touched by AC mains electricity. The local mains was DC, at some silly low voltage and homeopathic levels of current-capacity. They also had a scary shed which was home to a bank of big open-topped-glass-case Lead-Acid batteries and a rather gothic single-cylinder generator. During the day the feeble 'mains' charged the batteries which could then deal with short-duration high current loads (yes, they had a 110-volt toaster and an AC/DC American valve radio).
It was fun for us kids to play "electric Buckaroo" - we'd switch on more and more electrical loads. Loser was the one who turned on the load which caused the generator to auto-start.
This was good training for life in my current abode: though I have a proper mains supply the power-feed to Scrotum Towers comes across the valley on overhead lines and I'm at the end - so if high winds in the forest trigger an arboreally-mediated transient service-interruption I'm good at guessing just how long a 24V 1KVA inverter will run off a 110amp/hour truck battery when powering different loads.
Do I detect some New Labour style spin here? "luxury mountaintop gaffe"? I think the word your looking for are:
"Evil Lair of doom"
Is the "complete rebuild" anything to do with the contstruction of the submarine base/rocket base/death ray underneath? If so, you'll definitely need more than 1.5kw. And a self destruction button.
Hmmm - it may be all coming together; didn't he do a piece in the summer about tunnelling into the living rock for the underground tunnels?
Forget the microwave
Just use gas to do all the cooking, although I'd stick with an electric kettle because I can't wait 20 minutes to get a cup of tea.
As for lighting, what about gravity power -
It's a con
As Iberdrola are offering to increase the capacity in exchange for certain monetary inducements and moving the meter etc.etc., is this not just a con to take more money from you and get you to do a load of work for them? Also, as Spain has a smart metering programme (albeit delayed like everyone elses), why does the meter need to be outside? Does it matter where it is? Me thinks this isn't so much to do with network capacity, but more about economics.
Re: It's a con
I imagine if you tried to do the same in the UK it would need to be outside too. It is simply the regs, new meter = outside.
Re: It's a con
Lester could always get his own back by moving the meter outside and then fitting a padlocked grill over it. :-)
Solar Water Heating
I'm impressed by your resourcefulness.
Solar Heated hot water can work quite well, and cheap versions can be knocked up with domestic radiators. Then a washing machine that has a hot fill could be used in the evenings (they may be more readily available in E. than they are now in the UK, where heating with 'lecy is seen as more efficient).
Re: Solar Water Heating
I've just installed a solar water heater panel on the roof of other house mentioned in the article. It sends heated water to a 200l tank which feeds a gas boiler especially designed to accept preheated water at 60 degs C.
Washing machines here only have one water input, so while having that connected to the hot supply might be ok for the wash cycle, it's not ideal for the rinse. I have mulled this plan, though, for a dishwasher.
Re: Solar Water Heating
My dishwasher worked just fine off the hot water supply for a number of years.
Re: Re: Solar Water Heating
Yup, I don't foresee any problems.
Re: Solar Water Heating
Should be fairly simple to wire in a relay & set of valves to switch between hot & cold externally to the machine in question, according to the demand of the given cycle.
Where's the El Reg spirit? *grin*
I see no reason why a (nominally) petrol-driven second-hand genny couldn't be run off the house's natural gas supply, with a bit of tweakage. It ought to be possible to fit it with a demand-triggered automatic start using a (non-intrusive) current meter clamp on the mains feed to detect potential over-runs (Arduino project?), and a small battery inverter combo to buffer the brief start-up delay. Providing you could plumb it into the gas without incurring the wrath of the Authorities, or unrighteous sums to placate them, it should be a do-able project for a pretty small budget.
Alternatively, lotsa roof-mounted solar panels (does Spain have a feed-in tariff?) that you can refit to the new house when you trash the old one?
Surely the easiest way is to gaffer tape the trip switch..........
Re: Gaffer tape.
I prefer the "bypass breaker" method, although a mate of mine got fined 2000 euros when they nabbed him for that one. Problem was, although you couldn't see he'd bypassed the switch, his total kWh consumption was greater than that possible with the nominal limit. He kind of overlooked that pitfall.
Re: Gaffer tape.
Surely then you complain that the meter is clearly faulty and they need to fix it...
Given a choice between plonking myself in front of the shit-pump or giving it six-nowt with a BFO electrickery-powered hammer I know which one I'd choose :-)
Mushroom cloud, 'cos that's invariably what would happen if I did any work on electrics ...
Sniff - we are in a similar boat
We're off grid here, and I run two inverters, (both Victrons, as pointed out by an earlier poster.) One is just 350w, which powers the lights, telly, hifi, bijour serverette (24 hours) ADSL router, AP, and laptops as well as charging sundry tablets. phones etc. The other is a 1.7kW which only runs the little fridge. What? you say. 1.7kW for a fridge? Well, the fridge only draws about 50-60w but to get the thing started - that's horrible thump, and the only was of doing it is using a larger supply.
Agree re the LEDs - they are now fine and the prices are getting to be where CFLs were a few years back.
Re the other suggestions, I'd be tempted to set up a hybrid system with solar panels and the grid feeding a largeish battery bank, but don't go down the earlier suggestion of "loads of car batteries" for a number of reasons. Feed 48V into a 5kW inverter, and you're away, and coping with any black/brown outs too.
It's not hard to manage on a supply like this, you just don't have the luxury of not having to think about your power use, no bad thing IMHO, though Snr Orlowski will no doubt have puppies at that thought.
Welcome to the world of the future..
..where smart grids will only allow you to make coffee and cook, when its blowing a gale outside.
And extended winter cold will result in no significant renewable energy being generated, so your boiler won't work either.
Turn off that telly we want popcorn?
Doesn't your cooker have gas?
In which case you could make popcorn on the hob like the old fashioned bloke you really are!
Easy, the only appliance I would struggle with would be the tumble drier. That being said im guessing you arent living with 3 kids so can happily "air dry". You have a gas cooker, so cook on the cooker. Microwaves arent needed and neither are kettles. Two small pans of water will boil quite quickly.
Our 37" sharp TV pulls just under 1A when running. My gaming pc pulls 2A. The washing machine is the biggest draw I can imagine. Our LG draws 6A at peak use (40 wash with warm fill) which wont leave you any headroom. That being said, just run the washing machine overnight or during the day. All these have been taken using OWLs. Tumble drier was 8A but I suspect that was a surge as the graph didnt show 8A continuous. Lights should be each. CFLs all round should be no more than 1A
What happens if you draw more than 6A then? Does it simply brown out or does it melt?
Pay the money, or find an alternative, rather than struggle along with something that's unsatisfactory.
I would be equally happy, in the same situation, to stump up for an external box and installation to it to the local sparky (who, buy him a beer, and he'll do it a lot cheaper than the usual tourist-idiot-quote). If you're worried about aesthetics, buy a load of stone of the same type and build an outhouse for it that blends in.
Or, similarly, to just tell the electrical company "No thanks, then" and cut off the supply entirely. I'd probably then ring round their competitors and see who could hook me back up with a decent amount of power. Failing some corporate back-pedalling, I'd then just buy a couple of solar panels or a genny and go off-grid. Seriously, if you're paying every month to be struggling with only 1.5KW, you might as well do it on your own terms and without reliance on someone else. 1.5KW is not a lot of instantaneous power to generate and you won't be doing it 24/7 (hell, I bet any modern house only pulls that when you have tools or appliances or heaters turned on, and you don't have something on for 24 hours a day except possibly lighting and background electronics like clocks, alarms, TV etc.) - hell, if you're living there permanently you don't want the hassle of the power problem and if you're living there sporadically (e.g. holiday home) you win big time by just doing it yourself.
Honestly, if it was that prohibitive, I'd find an alternative and not suffer it even as a fallback (why, if they provide such pathetic service?). If it's not that prohibitive, then you should just pay it. It's not like the £10,000 that some ADSL ISP's want to charge some people because they are 20km from the nearest town and they have no cables that way - there's a reason there that costs, and if they seriously are charging too much, why would you faff about with a dial-up that cuts out every hour when you could just go with a satellite or wireless provider?
Honestly, I think you're being a cheapskate and then whinging because of it. And if you're not a cheapskate, shell out the not-a-fortune on your own power independence and solve the problem once and for all.
What a clever dad!
"Earn your keep child, or I shall sell you for scientific experiments!"
"An unexpected benefit of this is, for me anyway, that instead of dossing in front of the idiot's lantern, the children get to enjoy the great outdoors helping dad mix concrete, or break stones. They'll thank me one day for organising these family bonding exercises, I have no doubt."
Actually I am getting by on ~900W of solar......
Clever, imaginative, resourceful, and no wasting time doing stupid mentally defective activities.
PC - 5 - 8 hours a day.... (seasonal)
Solar hot water....
Books, reading, studying, etc...
Calculators and pencils are cheap to run.
Gotta love the footnote:
Do users have enough power? Take part in The Register's latest survey!
(BTW, I got bored half way through that one, sorry)
Definitely scrap the kettle
Definitely scrap the electric kettle and get one for the gas hob. You'll find it cheaper as gas is about one third the price of electricity per kWh. I've done that in the UK (even with my 100A supply).
advanced 21st century Western civilisation ???
No, this is Spain in the sticks.
May I politely suggest making popcorn the old fashioned way? Might make movie time a little easier and it should be cheaper.
21st Century Luxury
Having been bought up in in the 60s in a little corner of the west of Ireland called Bundorragha - no electricity, no phone, and no radio or tv reception - I am inclined to worry that your kids are wallowing in luxury that will do them no favours in the long term. We used wood and turf for fuel, we had a bottle-gas powered fridge, the nearest shop was in the one-shop village of Leenane some 7 miles away. My father eventually managed to listen in to international shipping channels (but nothing else) when he purchased a Zenith radio and strung up a 300 foot wire half-way up the mountain as a makeshift aerial.
Honestly, kids today! - microwaves, plasma tvs, concrete mixers, electric kettles and lights, washing machines, (the list seems endless) and sometimes even two of these running at the same time.
Re: 21st Century Luxury
for those suggesting the re-use of UPS systems watch out if you are using to go between on and off grid.
I use several smaller UPS systems here to keep systems running during the frequent power cuts (joys of overhead power lines in the middle of nowhere)
the ups systems handle the loss of grid fine, they also quite happily accept the diesel generator starting up and switching in to replace the grid even though the mains frequency is all over the place as loads change.
what they don't handle very well is switching back from generator to grid, 1 time in three they will shut down.
the sequence is this...
generator off (ups systems kick back in)
10 second delay
grid on (ups systems shut down, lots of beeping and flashing lights and no power to the systems the ups was meant to keep running)
I can only assume that they don't like the supply coming back on completely out of phase
> stumping a huge wad for some electrician to sign a piece of paper
But that's what the whole spanish (black) economy runs on. When we got our casa a few years back, Endesa (the local power company) told us that the mere act of buying the house required an outside meter box to be installed - there being only a sticky-out box on the outside wall and the "new" regulations required this to be flush with the wall. Oh, and we had to get a boletin, too.
In practice, the Boletin meant that "an amigo of an amigo" popped round, slapped a steel box into the hole I'd prepared, yeso'd it in place (all spanish houses are held together with yeso: a sort of industrial strength plaster) cast a furtive eyeball over with wiring, stamped his stamp and charged €350 for the half-hour job. Another visit to the Endesa office, clutching said Boletin, resulted a day or two later in a man in a van arriving with the shiny new meter that was duly installed in the box and the classic phrase: Let there be light came true. Luckily in our part of Spain, the "potencia" comes in 3.3kW (15 Amps), 4.4kW (20A) or 5.5kW steps - though actually getting the 220 Volts needed to drive these levels is often a hit and miss affair. 180 -190 Volts being closer to the norm.
The only sensible way to think of the process, isn't to scowl at the inefficiency of the system, or the cost of the paltry amount of work, or the illogical regulations. You just have to take a deep breath, smile sweetly, hand over the cash and consider the whole thing philosophically as the hoops you have to jump through if you want electricity.
1.5 KW shouldn't be a major problem. For the past two years, I've been living in a travel trailer (caravan to the right pondians), using a single 20 Amp, 117 Volt electrical feed. That's not a lot of power. Yeah, I have to turn off the space heater when I turn on the microwave oven. Plus, I have a Propane stove and a Propane furnace, for when the weather gets really nasty (0F/-18C). But, you do learn to conserve power. :-) I've thought that such a lifestyle might be good training for a mission to Mars (After all, spacecraft are remarkably similar to travel trailers/caravans, and have a limited power budget, too!).
P.S. I'll get my coat. It's the one with the heavy gauge extension cord in the pocket.
Replacement for "bypass breaker"?
Here in the 120 volt world (actually 240 volts with a center tap), the recommended method of bypass was to use pennies (nicely made from copper until they added some zinc) in the bottom of Edison based fuses. Worked wonders for additional current carrying capacity.
As for 1.5 kW (12.5 amps at our specified 120 volt level), it seems that ON AVERAGE that is what my house currently consumes. At least that is what the local power company (PG&E) tells us. Unfortunately that is not the peak demand. Sometimes the wife likes to have the shower room a little warmer after a chilling (45F) night and turns on the small space heater that in addition to only taking the chill off, does dim the lights while it runs. I suspect that it is around 1kW all by itself. Thankfully the house uses utility provided methane (again PG&E) to heat and cook. The main furnace does have a blower motor which is around 1HP or so (750 watts) but I haven't measured it.
And so it goes for us people around 37.5 degrees north latitude, which is near to what it is in Spain.
Re: Replacement for "bypass breaker"?
Well, where I live (65 degrees North) we like a sauna occasionally. The 'stove' (kiuas) to heat it is 3-phase, takes half an hour to heat to our preferred 85 degs. Celcius. About 5 KW on startup. (Needless to say, it's a twice-monthly treat - costs a bloody fortune!)
Bet Lester's glad he never bought my PDP-11. Two RL01 disks, don't press the 'start' button on each at the same time, else it was a trip to the shop for some new house fuses.....
(There! IT angle sorted...)
Might I say, yikes? My desktop alone - a great beast of a machine built back when I had time to indulge in high end PC games - takes 1200w. And yes, it actually does use it all (I upgraded from a 1000w power supply at some point because it wasn't giving me enough juice). Add in the monitor and the printer and I probably pull more than 1.5kw just sitting down at my desk.
You should sit down with a scrap of paper and work out how quickly a cheapy modern ~100W PC would pay itself back...
This is how Greenpeace want EVERYONE to live.
Instead of thinking "how can I improve the leccy supply in my house", they want us all foraging for donkey dung to use on the hearth and using hand-powered washing machines. There is no technical reason why every house in Europe could have as much electricity as it wants.
Re: This is how Greenpeace want EVERYONE to live.
You could probably invert your tinfoil hat to create some type of solar collector.
Re: This is how Greenpeace want EVERYONE to live.
I'm currently working on this project (below)
The idea is to make this building as self-supporting as it can possibly be. I'm currently on the dole, but I get about £50/week to cycle 3 miles in the freezing cold every day, to sit in a nearby office, and somewhat responsible for:
Power-savings (for which I'm grateful for Lester's article)
Trying to work out Joomla!
Then maybe, for fun, I'll have an argument with our service provider who allows old versions of Win-XP to connect to the internet, allows a Linux Mint 13 to connect, but somehow won't allow an installed version to connect (Fortunately, I have a 3G dongle, that does)
Reindeer-dung - now you're talking!!!!
Making the Silo power-self-sufficient (But I'm of the opinion that won't happen, when we get a load of visitors when it opens est. 2015)
while many comments have been helpful advice about how to get more power, few if any have congratulated the man on living frugally. Given that energy costs money, this is an example of living within his means (or more accurately his capacity) and one that others could emulate.
I'm not saying I fancy the idea of going without abundant electricity, but a week or two on limited kW through physical rather than monetary constraint might be a way for people to grasp what it means to live in the modern world. Might be a bit fun too.
Pity you're not in France
EDF has finally started installing huge solar arrays and shiny new connection box free for all and sundry as long as you sign up to giving them the power for say twenty years. I would have thought that the Spanish companies would have started something similar as they have even more incentive to change both generation and usage: electricity is still heavily subsidised and struggles to meet the rising peak demands in summer. Nice way of boosting rural economies with all the manual labour involved.