One of the very best things about traveling is the most wonderful experience of taking a long, HOT shower or bath and cranking the heat up to “extra crispy”. On our first Spain trip, it was still warm outside and I had no idea what was to come. I say that, but of course I knew what would be coming would be colder weather. I even packed for some snow.
What I didn’t know was the outrageous cost of heat (electrical) and the odd ball heater/hot water configurations we would need to figure out. I thought I understood. I had some written down “cliff” notes even. I’ve determined I probably don’t understand.
Throughout the house there are electrical outlets that are programmed by the electrical company to come on only during the non-peak hours and thus less-expensive night-time hours. There is one in every room and the heaters are each plugged into them. The electricity flows from about 11pm – 11am. Each heater has a “charge” and a “discharge” switch.
So if you want heat, you need to first charge the heater on the level desired. * is the lowest amount. Then once the heater has heat stored (charged) you can then choose the level of heat you would like it discharged at. I was also told it was best to turn off the breakers to the bedrooms during the day and turn off the breakers to the living room/dining room during the night. I get it. I understand the reasoning behind this. I program my our thermostats back in Washington to operate the same way. Now here, I figured that once the heater is fully charged at the “1” level then it would stop sucking electricity as it was “full”. And this may be true or it may not be. Or maybe this is where my error is, assuming. If the heater has a charge in it, then you can discharge at the level desired. The higher the discharge number, the quicker the heat is released and the quicker it will run out of heat. I do know that the heater will discharge it’s heat without needing electricity because if you unplug them, they will continue discharging heat for awhile. With this understanding, I set the living room heaters to charge at 1 and would put it on * discharge for the night. And actually, most of the day. Around 3pm when the sun goes down and it gets cold I would switch it to discharge 1 while maintaining the charge of 1. I figured this would allow some heat to remain in the heater and therefore not need a full charge (and use less electricity) during the next night. With the bedroom heaters, I would charge on 1 in the night and discharge on 1 in the night. When I got up, I turned off the breakers so they would not continue charging for the remaining 4-5 hours that the electrical outlet was functioning. And for the playroom? Once, it started getting cold we moved Amelia into the other bedroom with her sisters and just stopped heating this room altogether. Now, I explained this in English. No, really it was. I had it explained as if it was a charades game with one person speaking Spanish and another translating into English a heating process for which she had never used.
Onto the hot water! The hot water heater works the same way. The electrical outlet turns on at night, heats the water in the tank and then that’s the hot water you have until the next evening when it charges again. Now, one bonus is that if for some reason you need hot water NOW there is a normal electrical outlet to heat your hot water with. In no uncertain terms, Spanish, English or charades it was explained that this is VERY expensive. We have yet to declare an emergency and plug the heater into the normal outlet. There is a hot water gauge on the tank, so at least you know the likelihood of having a hot shower.
I think ideally, you would have a couple of people take showers in the morning while the opportunity for the heater to reheat is the way to go. Except, we don’t have a hair dryer (and it’s too cold to go outside with wet hair) and at this point it seems maybe you’d have to sell your soul to pay for electricity to run a hair dryer after each shower for four girls. So we take turns, alternating days for which folks take showers, saving the bath water between kids. But as a bonus, there is no heat in the bathrooms. The main bath is a rather large spacious room with tall ceilings completely finished in tile. We all use this shower as the master bathroom could instead be used as a walk-in cooler.
When we toured this apartment we were told that the heat could run 400 euros a month in the winter IF you used a lot of electricity and heat. I thought I was being conservative. We were also told to test it out and adjust as necessary. EXCEPT THE ELECTRIC COMPANY ONLY BILLS EVERY TWO MONTHS! And, by the time you receive your bill you are a month into the next TWO month billing cycle. How are you suppose to adjust for that?!? We moved in the beginning of October. Our first bill came January 6th and it covered 10/3-12/9. It was $730 (US). Our rent is $460 (US). It was a rather unexpected and disheartening blow to my rather tenuous thoughts about living here in Spain and I could nearly hear my gas fireplace in Washington taunting me. I started plotting my under the cover of darkness abandonment of Spain.
And then it got cold. Really cold. There is actually an “Extreme Temperature” alert on the weather channel. It snowed. The kids loved the snow. They don’t like our cold house. I don’t like our cold house. It’s not even kinda warm. We turned off the heat to the living room & dining room entirely and closed the door. We moved the coffee table into the playroom (which has a futon) and have set up shop in there. It (hopefully) will be easier and cheaper to heat. We hang out in the kitchen where it gets warm quickly as we cook. I’m making hearty winter foods. We’ve started going to bed early – it’s too cold to stay up. And we wear hats in our house all day. Oh, how nice it was to be at a hotel/motel/hostel taking a long shower and slowly getting myself dressed for the day. You can also read Jeff’s take on the cold!