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back to article 'Leccy-starved Reg hack: 'How I survive on 1.5kW'

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 …

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Re: 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.

Do you have a source for that? As I understand it, the installation cost still falls on the homeowner, although it can be partially offset against tax. EDF will sign a contract guaranteeing to buy the power from you for 20 years, that's all.

Until a year or so ago it was a good deal, the guaranteed income over 20 years would cover the costs, but between the reduction of the feed-in tariffs and the reduction of the maximum tax break from 50% to 25% there is now no guarantee of payback within 25 years. Since most solar installations are guaranteed for 25 years at max it has become a decidely dodgy proposition. Lots of solar energy installers are going out of business, since demand has collapsed.

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WTF?

Spain?

Pah!

Don't you know that you have to bribe the local electrician with a few bottles of (good) wine? It also helps to buy the local Mayor a couple of lunches (lots of wine too), for signing planning applications and permits and such.

You'd also do better to pop up a solar cell or three and power your lights from that too.

Had a friend who bought a farm house for restoration in rural Spain a few years ago - he was of the view that wine and lunch has magical (bribe) abilities to get things done. If your morals and ethics prevent you from doing that, move back to the first world, as Spain isn't there yet.

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Anonymous Coward

Easy...

A lot of people on canal boats survive on a regular power feed of less than 1.5kW. Its no big deal...

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1.5 kw? Luxury!

Ask a boater how it's done. But I have to admit to using other people's washing machines!

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Flame

You say "boletín" I say "Part P Certificate"

"the new installation would need a boletín: a certificate from a qualified Spanish sparks, who'd charge a handsome premium for his signature on the vital document."

Isn't this an EU-wide thing? In the UK, if you want to do anything more complicated than replacing a lightbulb now, you have to get a sparky to certify the work, for a fee that makes a DIY solution cost double what the sparky would charge to do the work in the first place. The theory of the Part P is to prevent amateur and cowboy cock-ups, but in practice, it means I can't sort out the dangerous spider web of 20 year old extension cables that the previous owner set up to supply the garage.

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Megaphone

Re: You say "boletín" I say "Part P Certificate"

Absolutley right. I have and electrical engineering degree, was trained by an electricity company to be a distribution engineer (able to work on 240v to 132,000v) and I still have to pay some half assed monkey to check my work.

That wouldn't be so bad, but when I moved into this house, 19 of the 23 light switches weren't wired correctly, and half of the lights in the place ran from a plug fed from the downstairs sockets ringmain. I know the person who lived here before, he doesn't even own a screwdriver and a hammer, so it wasn't him who did it, it was the original builders electrician and the "qualified idiots" that were hired afterwards.

When Part P was proposed, I looked up in the HSE website how many fatalities had been caused by DIY electrical work in the last 5 years, it was something like 3, more people died in Bagel related accidents than that.

Just paper for papers sake..

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Re: You say "boletín" I say "Part P Certificate"... I say (maybe) extortion

I am so glad, that in my home (US) state, a homeowner can legally do work on their home - subject to a municipal inspection.

In 1988, I needed to move the existing 125 amp service from a soon to be removed interior wall to an exterior garage wall, along with relocating the electric meter from the back of the garage to the side of the garage. (I wanted to free up the area behind the garage in the event I decided to expand the porch, and I knew that the local power company really hates to have their meters located inside a building, or an enclosed porch.)

Now, the fact that I was an electrician for 10 years didn't hurt either. Without telling the inspector who I had worked for, I ran past him what I was planning to do, and he didn't find any problems with the scope of the work planned.

Since I really hate to work things hot, I set things us so that I would remove the old meter and panel after the power company moved the drop to the new side of the house. Once the new panel was installed, and the circuits extended back to a 6" by 6" by 6" splice box in the attic, the only load the old service was supplying was a temporary 40 amp feed to the new service. The inspector came back out a second time to insure that the panel and service were properly installed, and that the grounding (earthing for you Brits) was done correctly. He then contacted the power company so they could move the drop. (In my area, the power company will not connect a service that has not been inspected.) I arranged to be home when the worker from the power company showed up, and cut loose the temporary feed, while he moved the drop. Done.

That weekend, with the old meter and service now dead, I ripped it from the wall. One last inspection, and job done.

Other than materials and a building permit fee, that job didn't cost too much. Just my time.

Bootnote: It was on the last inspection, did the inspector ask me: "Didn't you used to work for ........" "Yep, sure did."

Now, during my time as an electrician, I got to know many inspectors from the numerous municipalities in my area, and have heard some of the horror stories about stupid shit being done by homeowners. Today, I bet a youtube search will bring up hundreds, if not thousands of videos of absolutely shitty attempts at electrical work, most of them quite dangerous.

If you know what you are doing, and use the proper materials and perform the work in accordance with your local codes, then that is one thing. Taking shortcuts, is something completely different. Some people will do work without an inspection, and especially when it comes to electricity, doing uninspected work is quick grounds for you to find out about some deeply buried cancellation or claim refusal provisions in your home fire insurance policy that come with (financially) painful consequences.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You say "boletín" I say "Part P Certificate"... I say (maybe) extortion

> I am so glad, that in my home (US) state, a homeowner can legally do work on their home - subject to a municipal inspection.

That's also the case in the UK, and is an alternative to paying a "Part P" certified moneky to do the work.

Of course, the cost of getting the inspection done by the building approval people is far higher than the cost of paying the aforesaid monkey, so you're screwed either way.

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NXM

Re: You say "boletín" I say "Part P Certificate"

I too have an electrical engineering degree, plus 25 years experience in things like controls engineering and 3-phase panel wiring, and I'm not allowed to wire my own house.

However a numpty kitchen fitter can wire your kitchen, after "training" (picking his nose in boredom at the back of a classroom for a week, more like).

When they brought Part P in, it was clearly to provide jobs to huge numbers of trainers, while preventing people who already knew what they were doing from doing it. The last thing a politician likes is someone who know what they're doing. No, it was all about keeping people in training for as long as possible, to keep them off the dole queues so the politicians could crow about how great they were at running the economy.

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GBE

an advanced 21st century Western civilisation

"Dad, this is utterly preposterous in an advanced 21st century Western civilisation."

I'm confused. I thought the house was in Spain.

<ducks>

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Gas Fridge?

Can you still get gas fridges?

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Re: Gas Fridge?

http://www.camperlands.co.uk/dometic-combicool-rc-2200.html

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Re: Gas Fridge?

You can also get gas tumble-dryers.

ggiyf

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Pint

Re: Gas Fridge?

Cheers!

We used to have a gas fridge back in the 1970s, useful with the powercuts.

I was the one who had to crawl under the sink to relight the pilot if it ever went out!

As an aside I've never seen an advert with so many spelling mistakes coming from a UK company.

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J P

Re: Gas Fridge?

Dometic is (nominally) a Swedish group - although you'd have hoped the UK distributors might have checked the copy before posting it...

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No Problemo

I would just go to Harbor Freight Tools and buy a cheapo generator, or else rent one for the temporary job. Then set it outside and fire it up, and remember to keep a can of gas (petrol) handy when it gets low. A few longer extension cords should complete the installation. Just remember to roll them back and stow them up so the local thieves don't steal them for copper.

Or if you have a bit if money, put solar water heating panels on the roof. Or maybe use the exhaust heat to heat the water.

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Tools

Lester, if you are having problems fitting the outside electricity box you are not using the right tools.

I had to do that job for a client here over the border in France. The only difference was that it was for the water meter. The complete job took just over half an hour including the channel up the wall for the water pipe.

Tools used, a hand held motorised diamond saw and a large jack-hammer powered from a generator. The walls are made of stone and where this had to go just under a metre thick. The channel was 10cm wide and had to go below ground level by 75cm. All of the outside work was easy, the fun part was drilling the 6cm hole through the wall.

All fun and games with these lovely thick stone walled houses.

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Joke

Why do Reg Hacks live on the edge of society?

There's one who seems live up a mountain in Scotland and now Lester lives up a mountain in Spain. Are they trying to hide from someone?

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Mushroom

Re: Why do Reg Hacks live on the edge of society?

> Are they trying to hide from someone?

Commentards.

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Boffin

Re: Why do Reg Hacks live on the edge of society?

The SPB are planning to fly a paper plane from one mountain-top to the other.

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No problem.

My parents have a beach cottage in Massachusetts. No utility service is available, so the whole house runs from a 2kW inverter on batteries with PV solar charging supplemented by a 4kW generator. I re-built the electrical system in the place last summer. Living on limited electricity isn't that hard if you make some smart choices along the way.

We use a gas-fired refrigerator and water heater, the heat is by passive vented gas furnace and woodstove. No air conditioning. Electrical usage is really just for lighting, entertainment gadgets, power tools for constant maintenance in the marine climate, and water pumping from the well.

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Spain? An advanced 21st Century civilisation? When did that happen?

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Carbon tipi toes

It may seem a drag but how many kids actually have a grasp on energy use unless forced by circumstances.

It’s a valuable lesson and one that could quietly repay over generations.

Plasma’s need nuking due to both the power the RF noise they generate not to mention the amount of brain cells they kill every day.

Proof? I see a strong correlation.

You know you are in the last phase of Plasma degenerative disease when the fridge seems a long way off and your lower clothing has stripes down the sides.

===

For people who REALLY get the energy use thing see http://groups.yahoo.com/group/90PercentReduction/

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Just...

...hook up a dynamo to Steve Jobs' corpse, and you can harness the power of him turning in his grave about the budget iPhone stories!

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Joke

Re: Just...

Alternatively, wait for Margaret Thatcher to die and put a Dance Dance revolution type game on her grave, use the profits to pay for any work needed.

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Kettle and Microwave.

Perhaps I am a barbarian American, but for tea, I always heated water on the stove, and for many years I did popcorn on covered pan on the stove.

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Re: Kettle and Microwave.

Perhaps I am a barbarian American, but for tea, I always heated water on the stove

Probably are! I spent time in California in 1996 and 1998-2000. On first 6 month visit we went to local electrocal retailer (Fry's) and searched for a kettle ... found nothing and salesbods had no idea of what we were talking about. Just before I returned to UK branch of Bloomingdale's opened in Stanford shopping centre and I spotted a mini kettle there for .... $99! 2 years later when were were back for almost 3 years things had moved forward a bit and found an "electric water heater" for $20 in Walmart which was basically a 2 mug kettle which saw us through ... though at 110V it took forever to boil.

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1500 Watts? Colour me impressed

It's great that you've managed to get your power consumption down to that level.

If the bank will lend me the money, I'm having solar panels installed later this year. (They are getting less expensive all the time.) It'll be very nice to be able to go to the corner shop, hand over my meter key and them give me money .....

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Facepalm

Re: 1500 Watts? Colour me impressed

".....It'll be very nice to be able to go to the corner shop, hand over my meter key and them give me money ....." Not when the rebates disappear.

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Meh

Re: 1500 Watts? Colour me impressed

I can still generate more than I can use, thanks to frugality (if not quite of Hainesian proportions) and the sheer, blind luck to live in a house with a decent amount of space on a South-facing roof with the right pitch. As long as the feed-in tariff remains at or above the retail price of electricity, I'm up on the deal. Anyway, the electricity companies are obliged, under longer-standing regulations (dating back to before privatisation) to pay at least the wholesale rate for anything suitable for feeding into the grid that anyone can generate, as long as their kit is type-approved.

In the worst case, I'll just tell E-on to F-off, and invest in some used batteries that can still just hold a charge well enough to make up the time lag between the daytime (when I'm generating my electricity) and the evening (when I'm there to use it). I'll still be better off, by the amount I used to spend on electricity.

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NXM

Generators & Batteries

Re everyone who suggests using an inverter & batteries - its not as simple as it seems!

We moved to a house with no supply in the middle of a field. I fitted a generator, deep-cycle batteries, sinewave inverter, and clever charger. What I found was...

1. Batteries deliver nowhere near the capacity they're supposed to. No idea why, but they hold maybe 1/10 the rated charge.

2. Inverters won't run fridges unless they're very high output ones, ie more than 1500W. That's because the compressor motor draws a huge amount of current at startup, which it does several times an hour, compared with about 50W after its started going. That's why the lights dim slightly in most houses when the fridge starts. The only way to run fridges and freezers is directly off the generator.

3. If you have a large output inverter, you'll need bloody massive cables off the battery to carry all that current. 1500W + 15% converter inefficiency = 143A out of a 12v battery!

4. Charging the batteries requires the generator to be running for hours, because you can't charge them too quickly or they'll boil all the water off.

5. Maintenance. If anything breaks, you're in the poo till you personally fix it. Never mind if its raining and you can't quite fit in the generator shed so your back gets wet, never mind if its freezing and you've been at the lager, never mind if you have to be somewhere. YOU have to fix it.

6. You can't go anywhere. If you do, the freezer will defrost and all that lovely steak is ruined.

7. You can't trust anyone else to run the generator. When they forget, your steak is ruined, they'll titter apolgetically then walk away as if its some kind of joke. You'll never trust them again.

8. You can't skimp on kit. If you buy a modified sinewave inverter, all of your electronics will self-destruct. Cheap battery chargers will wreck the batteries. Cheap batteries are even worse than deep-cycle ones. You have to suffer expensive and crap, or suffer slightly cheaper and too-crap-to-use.

9. Running costs are huge. Generator petrol is taxed at the government's maximum nose-bleed rates in case we melt the planet. You can choose gas if your generator will run off it, which reduces fuel costs by 3/4 - but its nowhere near as cheap as mains electricity.

10. Whatever you do with the power system, cooking with electricity just isn't viable. You put in gallons of fuel, and you get out a tiny bit of heat in the cooker. Much better to cook with gas. Therefore you'll need an LPG cooker and boiler on top of all the power gubbins.

On the plus side, now we've got proper power, we have a large online UPS which kicks in whenever the mains fails - like it did last winter when an overhead line pole snapped off in the wind. Essentials like the TV, cooker and boiler (you need mains for the oven valve and boiler pump + control system) and some lights use the UPS, while everyone else in our area stumbles around looking for candles. Ha!

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You can always make popcorn on the Gas Stove!

Cover the bottom of a pasta pot with oil

Put 3 popcorn kernels in the pot << This is the trick!

Put on medium fire and wait until they pop

Cover the bottom of the pot wih a single layer of popcorn

Place lid on pot

Wait until all the popcorn are popped, shaking occasionally at the end.

Enjoy wth salt or butter and honey

Try with rosemary and butter

Try with hot milk in the morning instead of corn flakes

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Anonymous Coward

1.5kw? No problem...

...My PSU is 450w. Add a couple of 22in monitors and an amp, mixer and turntables into the mix, and I think I would be under 1.5kw.

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Haines, The Next Generation

"They'll thank me one day for organising these family bonding exercises, I have no doubt."

I am probably stating the obvious when I point out that they are more likely to send for brochures from retirement homes as soon as they become of age. If you are lucky. ;)

That aside, I thoroughly enjoyed your story. My apartment in Sweden can't handle me running the washing machine and the dishwasher at the same time. Coming from electricity-rich Norway, that was something of a cultural shock to me. I would probably have freaked out had I been in your shoes (what size do you wear?).

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just stick a bigger MCB in

As long as you don't exceed the 1.5kw for an extended period of time then you will be OK, kettle/microwave will only be running for 4/5 minuites at a time.

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Just so long as the Missus doesn't have a shower we seldom exceed 1.5kW in our house. Don't really see the problem.

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We have less than that when working at events in the summer...

I get through quite a lot of the summer using less electric than that as I work for an events firm, and just plugging anything other than a light bulb in is likely to blow the fuse as there are normally about 10-15 caravans all running off one box with splitters.

Wouldn't installing some kind of extra generator be allowed, like maybe a temporary diesel generator, or even solar panels in the garden or on the roof - if it's in Spain it's not like they don't have enough sun.

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