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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  1. 96percentchimp


    Don't ask me how, but could you have buffered the 1.5kW supply through some kind of storage device, allowing you to exceed the cap internally while the external supply never draws more than 1.5kW?

    1. Martin 71 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Buffering?

      That could be done with lead acid batteries and an inverter of some description, but the initial cost of those, and the ongoing maintenance of them, would make it borderline I would think. But I'd certainly be looking at it if I were in that situation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Buffering?

        "That could be done with lead acid batteries and an inverter of some description"

        I thought that said: "That could be done with lead acid batteries and an inventor of some description"

      2. Stoneshop

        Re: Buffering?

        That could be done with lead acid batteries and an inverter of some description,

        Commonly referred to as UPS. And there are these nifty load switchers that switch off one socket the moment you draw power from the other, kind like an inverted master-slave power strip. Meant to run your washing machine and your dryer, or a dishwasher and an under-the-sink kitchen boiler, off a single socket.

        Judicious use of a couple of the above devices may keep the total load below the maximum available power, while the UPSes take care of keeping the essentials powered during popcorn-making or cement-mixing sessions.

        BTW, the indicated microwave power is what is effectively radiated into your food; what is drawn from the mains can be double that.

    2. CaptainHook

      Re: Buffering?

      Thats what I was thinking.

      A big stack of car batteries and an inverter to gvie you a bit of extra peak capacity juice

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Steve Foster

          Re: Buffering?

          Never mind in Spain, I have solar panels here in good ole' Blighty, albeit only 1.1kW peak (that being as much as they thought they could safely fit on the south facing portion of my roof), and for much of last year, could gloriously watch as my main electricity meter span backwards during the day*. And I have a server, a PC and a laptop on 24x7 (along with assorted paraphernalia).

          * except anytime I switched my 3kW kettle on :).

      2. gromm

        Re: Buffering?

        Actually, car batteries are completely unsuitable for storage of electricity that you intend to use for more than about 10 minutes at a time. Car batteries are designed for short bursts of high output, namely starting your car. Deep-cycle or marine batteries are what you're looking for.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Buffering?

          I use 8D rebuildable "fire engine" batteries.

          As a side-note, a fuel-sipping Generac QuietSource 22 kW generator can be had for under US$8750, in your choice of LPG or town gas, and easily converted from Town to LPG in a disaster bad enough to disable the Town gas supply. That's new, with full warranty, delivered, but not installed. We installed one for a friend a few months ago.

          1. Great Bu

            Re: Buffering?

            Just tape the breaker shut. As long as you stay below about 20kW there should be fairly little supra-requirement exothermic activity.

            1. Katie Saucey
              Thumb Up

              Re: Buffering?

              ..tape it shut..

              Yup, my old fuse box was jammed full of pennies (The landlord may have been a bit dim in hindsight).

            2. Mussie (Ed)
              Thumb Up

              Re: Buffering?


              I like your thinking... Its Nuts but i like it

      3. Graham Wilson

        @CaptainHook -- Re: Buffering?

        Easy and cheaply. Get a set of *old* forklift batteries for free (new ones cost a fortune). Forklift batteries are excellent as they've solid plates and even when sulphated and abused and no longer suitable for a forklift, they'll deliver many, many kilowatts.

        Of course, you have to know how to 'load' them into the system. Helps muchly if you are an electronics nerd or know one.

        1. Simon Harris

          Re: @CaptainHook -- Buffering?

          Easy and cheaply. Get a set of *old* forklift batteries for free (new ones cost a fortune).

          Is hijacking a milk-float an option?

  2. Scott Mckenzie


    ....a not as great picture but much more efficient LED TV would help, rather than the hungry beast that is a Plasma!

  3. Callam McMillan

    1.5KW will barely run my computer setup... And printing using my laser printer would definately be out of the question. If I was rewiring a house, I would be looking to have a 100 amp 3-phase supply installed because running out of capacity is just primitive!

    1. Zaphod.Beeblebrox

      Only 100 amp? Hardly seems worth the effort to convert to 3-phase if that's all you are going to install. I'd be looking at 200 amp minimum were I to go that direction, but as I've never felt constrained by my 100 amp standard residential service I don't really see ever needing to. Of course, if I ever decide to put in that machine shop in the garage, that would be a different matter.

      1. Smudger 1

        That's 100A per phase...

        or the equivalent of a 300A single phase supply. A 200A three-phase supply (equivalent to a 600A single phase supply or 140kW) would be suitable for a medium sized light industrial unit (say 30,000 - 100,000 sq feet).

        Also, your 100A residential service is probably only 80A or 60A. 100A is the rating of the fuse carrier. Most residences do not have a 100A fuse fitted. Many newer small houses in the UK with gas central heating, hot water and cooking have only a 40A supply (9.2kW).


        1. Mayhem

          Re: That's 100A per phase...

          And after a sparky got impatient and yanked the leftover cable through the distribution box, my previous company learned that (1) you get one hell of a bang when you cross the phases on a 200amp supply and (2) it turns out that mid-70s vintage 200amp ceramic fuses are extremely hard to get hold of now in the UK - our maintenence guy was scouring second hand electrical suppliers for some time.

          They do however generally power an office building fairly well, until the fuse goes.

        2. Callam McMillan

          Re: That's 100A per phase...

          The other consideration is that while you can probably fit a 100A supply onto the existing grid, with a 200A supply, unless you live next door to a substation or industrial park, it's highly likely that you'd need to have the local transformer upgraded at (partially) your expense. Plus as I understood it the last time I looked, if you have more than a 100KW supply, then you have to have half-hourly metering.

          When you say 300A equivalent, that's assuming 300A of phase-neutral loads which is insane, although I would love to see it in a domestic property! I would want it so that I can run a small workshop with proper equipment and perhaps a heat recovery A/C system.

        3. Steve the Cynic

          Re: That's 100A per phase...

          You lot remind me of what my uncle did in the 1970s. He moved to an old farmhouse in a small village on the Lincolnshire coast and set up a shop selling pottery and various craft knick-knacks.

          He is the only person I've ever known with three-phase electricity in his house, because the pottery kiln in the workshop in the back consumes more electricity than the rest of the village put together, or so I was told when I was much younger than I am now. The point being, so they say, that the electricity company has to balance the load on the three phases, so the kiln has to be spread across all three.

          1. Callam McMillan

            Re: That's 100A per phase...

            Aside from distributing the load across the phases, the other advantage is that you can get more power through a given size of cable. Take the 100A vs. 300A discussion. Using a table I found at, If I want to move 100A over a standard 70 degree armoured cable then I would need a cross section of 25 but to move 300A over the same cable I would need a 95 cable. Nearly four times the area to carry three times the current. This would be extremely expensive and would make wiring stuff very difficult (Try manipulating even a cable into a distribution board)

            1. Stacy

              Re: That's 100A per phase...

              I don't know what that would cost in the UK, but over here in Holland it's prohibitively expensive! We just had the three phase wired into the house (it was built with 3 phase, but only one is attached by default) as our new hob needs 480v.

              The cost of the upgrade was not too bad at +-700 euros (you have to pay the network company for that). That comes with 3*25 amp fuses. If you want more than that (the next step is 3*80) then you have what they call 'KrachtStroom'. Then your monthly standing charge goes from 18 euros per month to 180 euros per month.

              We stayed with 3*25 obviously! (Though with what we run on 3*25 amps, I can't imagine the electricity bill if we did need to triple our capacity ;p)

              1. Stoneshop

                Re: That's 100A per phase...

                That comes with 3*25 amp fuses. If you want more than that (the next step is 3*80)

                Liander has a few inbetween steps and offer 3x35, 3x50 and 3x63 as well.

                1. Stacy
                  Thumb Up

                  Re: That's 100A per phase...

                  @Stoneshop! What! They never told me that (then again in the beginning they never said that there was anything other then the 3*80 either!)

                  Thanks, something to bear in mind should we add any other big kit :)

    2. Fatman

      RE: 100 amp 3-phase supply installed

      Why would you want three phase for a residential load????

      WRT the US, the common residential 3 phase voltages are 120/208 Volt Wye, or 120/240 Volt Delta.

      If you are provisioned with a Delta service, then that third phase is useless for a single phase load, as it sits at 208 volts above ground.

      If you are provisioned with a 208 volt Wye service, then any "240" volt loads are only going to see 208 volts phase to phase, an approximate 13% voltage drop from their nameplate rating with a correspondingly HIGHER current draw.

      In some high rise buildings, a residence may be supplied by two phases tapped from a three phase Wye service.

      You would be far better off using a 200 or 225 Amp 120/240 volt single phase service - unless you has a specific three phase load that had to be fed.

      1. Callam McMillan

        Re: RE: 100 amp 3-phase supply installed

        Im not sure about the US, but in the UK, three phase is 415 volts phase-phase and 240 volts phase-neutral for all three phases. The 4-bed detached house I live in for reference gets by just fine on a 60A single-phase supply.

        If I was building a house though, I would want to add in certain luxuries that require three-phase power such as heat-recovery A/C (You can cool one room and heat another using the A/C system) and a workshop with professional tools (Decent metalworking lathes tend to be 3-ph even where they only have a 3hp motor)

        1. Chris Fox

          Mainland UK officially 230V not 240V, and earthing is an issue

          For many years now, the official mainland UK domestic single phase supply has been rated as a nominal 230V (with various tolerances, +10%/-6%, +/-6%, or +/-10%) rather than 240V. This is the same as the nominal supply for big chunks of continental Europe, whose nominal rating was increased from 220V to 230V at around the same time (perhaps with widened tolerances). Some overseas territories are still on 240V and 220V supplies.

          (In practice, the measured supply at the socket is still likely to be closer to 240V in the UK, and 220V in much of the rest of Europe. Older UK equipment may specify a nominal supply of 240V. Equipment to be attached to the UK supply has to tolerate more than 250V. These ratings plates may explain why many think the official UK supply voltage is either 240V or 250V. Three phase supply is now supposedly 400V, although most three-phase warning plates still seem to refer to 415V.)

          The article mentions adding a new earth. Adding a local copper earth to a modern PME supply can introduce lots of "interesting" high-current failure modes in the event that the supply cable develops a fault. It is always worth taking advice from the supply company and/or a qualified electrician before adding new earths and bonding points to a mains supply. Some earthing techniques that used to be common practice until quite recently are potentially lethal with a modern supply.

        2. Gideon 1

          Re: RE: 100 amp 3-phase supply installed

          Decent metalworking lathes are typically run from a single to three phase invertor these days. You do not need or even want the high power availability of pukka three phase, if the tool catches in the workpiece your lathe will be in bits. Inverter drive also has the benefits of continuously variable speed, and soft start.

      2. Matt 33

        Re: RE: 100 amp 3-phase supply installed

        Read the previous post - in big parts of mainland Europe (so not the UK), three phase is supplied to houses as standard to run 'big' consumers like electric hobs, washing machines etc.

        Don't forget most folk live in apartment buildings too, not large detached houses typical of US suburbia.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear Sir

    Buy a generator.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      IT Angle

      Re: Dear Sir

      A Lister clone would give you a cheap 3KW, a generator that is a pleasure to own and work on and runs on just about anything, quietly and reliably. It's great for shop tools for when you're rebuilding the house and afterwards will happily sit in the garden for the next 5 years until you need it to start first time.

      Which can be done with electricity, compressed air or just by hand. Thing of beauty imho but probably put on some guards as it can eat anything caught up in it without much bother but inversley won't get bogged down on initial peak loads.

  5. frank ly

    Adversity breeds ingenuity

    I'm sure the El Reg commentards will come up with many useful and ingenious suggestions.

    On e-bay, a 1.5KVA (continuous rating) diesel generator can be had, brand new, for £365. A brand new 5KVA generator is going for £650. Equivalent second hand ones would be cheaper, obviously.

    These could be used for the outdoor power tools and maybe also an indoor immersion heater to provide a large quantity of hot water for use later in the day . Etc, etc ........

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: Adversity breeds ingenuity

      The generator idea has legs, but it'd be cheaper to pay to have the meter moved in the end, something I'm trying to avoid.

      1. FartingHippo

        Re: Adversity breeds ingenuity

        "Cheaper to have the meter moved"

        Only if you don't put the genny back on ebay at the end, surely.

      2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: Adversity breeds ingenuity

        I'm in a similar position, but with a place in the mountains just north of Madrid. Here a genny is useful anyway because the UPS won't keep the lights on for long in the winter. The UPS spools up at least once a week, and if there is a storm it will kick in several times.

        As for ICP, in therory the property doesn't have one yet, because the contract hasn't been changed for about 20 years. There is a single incoming trip of 25A (3-phase) for everything and the swimming pool has an RCD, but that's it. Everything else is just an octopus of wires joined by twisting, with red, black, grey and white being used for all the lives and neutral (as in some sockets use 2 reds, some use 2 whites, etc.). Also some of the wire is smaller than I'd use for a doorbell. Don't ask about Earth; there isn't one...

        I've found someone locally who will do the check and sign the boletín fairly cheaply, but first I've got to pull down the walls that need to be rebuilt, insert DPC in all the others and put in some insulation and heating. Meanwhile I'm living in a flat with a heady 3kW :)

        1. Stoneshop

          Re: Adversity breeds ingenuity

          Everything else is just an octopus of wires joined by twisting, with red, black, grey and white being used for all the lives and neutral (as in some sockets use 2 reds, some use 2 whites, etc.).

          I had a house like that. Well, almost like that; the wiring colours conformed to the current standard, but whether a particular colour actually matched its use as proscribed in the standard had a probability of one in five. You could switch the stairwell light by hitting the plasterboard wall in a particular spot.

          And this was right in the middle of a big city in the Netherlands.

          Don't ask about Earth; there isn't one...

          Err, right beneath you?

      3. phil 27

        Re: Adversity breeds ingenuity

        To be honest, its always better to have a genny to hand if your off the beaten track a little.

        We're about to enter the "extremely very cold" bit of winter here, and I have my little 1kw genny ready to run the central heating pumps for the wood burning heating system should it falter. A single bulb and the ability to stay warm while the leccy company takes a week to restring all the overline powerlines that fall down with the weight of snow is worth far more than you can measure in a simple cost of power vs fuel/generator calculation.

        Future plans here include a 100kw 3 phase diesel backup genny on a skid off fleabay uk, because its really not cheaper to pay the higher tarrif long term for those few occasions we need more than 25kw 3phase...

        Oh if you can get 3phase into your house but current limited, you'll have the fun "getting everything phase balanced" game, so the microwave isnt on the same phase as the washing machine etc. And if you dabble in home automation you too can find out how crap x10 3 phase filter units are (2 blown per year on average...)

        1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

          Re: Adversity breeds ingenuity

          @Phil 27

          Yes, load balancing will be fun, but at least at the moment, the meter doesn't measure the imbalance, like the meters in England do. Cooking is changing from Propane, because the tank here requires the ministry of miners, plus the civil engineers, plus other crap that I don't want to have to deal with (including if you reduce your consumption, you have to pay them for what you don't consume to compensate them!). The new induction hob is a bruiser, but at least it is balanced 3-phase! The other major consumers are the well pump and swimming pool pumps which are both 3-phase.

          First of all though, I have to get the structure sound, and insulated; heating system installed, internal walls etc. Power is a long way off except to operate demolition hammers :)

    2. gromm

      Re: Adversity breeds ingenuity

      Actually, as many off-gridders have already discovered, it's far cheaper (about 10x) to decrease consumption instead of increasing capacity. New LED TVs for example, use about 1/3 as much power as Plasma. Microwaves and kettles can just be replaced with your gas stove. The cement mixer could run on gas instead.

      Identify your biggest consumers, and reduce or eliminate how much they consume.

  6. Parax

    too easy

    A shed full of lead acid batteries an Inverter (and why not some Solar panels for a free daytime top up?) will solve most of your problems.

    1. Conrad Longmore

      Re: too easy

      Basically.. a UPS. Kind of expensive though, unless you can pick one up secondhand from some failed business somewhere. Like a Spanish bank.

      1. Parax

        Re: too easy

        That or a proper off grid system, with deep cycle batteries.

        1. Parax
          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: too easy@Parax

            "Or fuel cells... Fuel cell for mains gas or even micro chp"

            Speaking from a company developing propositions to sell such things, I would be very wary of recommending them. Micro CHP is IMHO all the complexity of the real McCoy with fewof the benefits and a fair few practical downsides, and fuel cells work well in a lab, but are much more problematic in the real world.

            1. Parax

              Re: too easy@Parax

              I'd only really recommend MicroCHP if you needed the heat and had battery storage to charge up with the power, microCHP is not a good generator, hence not my first suggestion for Spain. The fuel cells are being installed and are working very well if you have a clean gas supply.

              But if you want to go back to basics there's always the Mains Gas Generator .

  7. DrXym

    If you're on a mountain...

    ... stick up a wind turbine. Probably get 500-2500W through that alone for a domestic unit.

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: If you're on a mountain...

      Yeah, it's a top plan, but there are licencing problems. The local town hall takes at least year to grant permission to move a rock from one place to another. A wind turbine? The mayor would have a fit.

      1. Andrew Moore

        Re: If you're on a mountain...

        The standard Spanish methodology in this is to build first and ask permission later giving the "well, it's already done now" or "es completo ahora" excuse.

        1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Re: Re: If you're on a mountain...

          It's true. I'm far too British about these things.

        2. Pete 2 Silver badge

          @ Andrew Moore

          > The standard Spanish methodology in this is to build first and ask permission later giving the "well, it's already done now" or "es completo ahora" excuse.

          I'd be surprised if that still works (unless you're building entire housing estates). The whole licensing thing in Spain is a money raising caper. The Town Hall charge typically 3% of the cost of the job to give you the rubber stamp. If you did try the old "it's easier to get forgiveness than permission" ruse not only would they rake in a nice big fine, but you'd still have to pay for the license.

          You may even suffer the ignominy of paying the fine and then being required to dismantle / demolish your "illegal" works, and THEN to apply for a licence to rebuild it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If you're on a mountain...

        I was going to take issue with mentioning Spain and "advanced 21st century Western civilisation" in the same article but if it only takes a year to get permission to move a rock then your part of Spain is nearer to the 21st century than I first thought.

        Oh, and it's not much better in the big cities. We can risk two big appliances at the same time, kettle and iron for example, any thing above that and it's blackout and reset all the clocks time.

        1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Re: Re: If you're on a mountain...

          Ah well, it takes a year to get the permission, then another two for the town hall to tell you you were granted the permission, which has now expired so you'll have to apply again to move that rock...

          1. CCCP

            Re: If you're on a mountain...


            You don't have to go far outside London for power cuts to be de rigeur.

            Granted, we can pull 4kW no problem, but you soon get REALLY cold sans power in winter. Gas heating needs a pump. Unlike Spain.

            We do have a Victorian type fire place, Edwardian actually, but it's useless at heating the house.

            Nuclear because, well, it doesn't help.

            1. Heathroi

              Re: If you're on a mountain...

              you're suggesting that, haviing a mountain, he could have some sort of underground lair, E.S.Blofield like with a nuclear reactor?

        2. ian 22

          Re: If you're on a mountain...

          "Obedezco pero no cumplo"

          Ah, for the good old days....

      3. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: If you're on a mountain...


        "The local town hall takes at least year to grant permission to move a rock from one place to another."
        Here the rules have changed slightly. If they don't get back to you within a certain time, then you automatically have permission!


        "A wind turbine? The mayor would have a fit.."
        Well, the house and garages I bought were actually built by the mayor. Oh, no they weren't legal either; getting that sorted was more fun that getting the eleccy approved. It seems that you just do what you want, and what the hell; everyone else does!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If you're on a mountain...@BristolBachelor

          The problem with "do and sort it out later" is that in these small villages there is always someone with a grudge to bear and if they haven't they'll find one. They take the attitude of French peasantry and turn it into an art form on a level that thos who haven't witnessed it can't immagine, even in my wifes village where the name has more letters that the place has habitants, one of them will always want to get on over and snitch on you. I seem to recall a village where the mayor was murdered and everyone was a suspect.

          If Franco hadn't had a form of relationship with Nazi germany and the latter had occupied Spain the Gestapo would have been overwhelmed with tit-for-tat telltales.

  8. M7S

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

    As someone subjected to the jibes of others on this forum and of BT Openreach "engineers" (when I ambush them in the street) regarding the lack of decent broadband where I live in the UK, I sympathise. I think here the answer lies in a re-evaluation of the premise in your son's statement.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ré Kettle

    You have a gas oven, and presumably a gas hob, why use an electric kettle??

    Solar Powered LED lights would save a few watts especially hooked up to a suitable storage battery.

    Petrol powered cement mixer????

    Roof mounted solar water heater would handle the washing machine problem, and baths etc.

    Back to the gas - how about a gas turbine powered electrical generator??

    Finally, how old are the children?? A child sized hamster wheel provides hours of fun, and a fair few KW if hooked to a genny.

    1. Lord Voldemortgage

      Re: Ré Kettle

      And you can certainly do (better) popcorn on the hob instead of in the microwave.

    2. Irongut

      Re: Ré Kettle

      Since it's an 800W kettle boiling water on the hob would definitely be quicker.

      Hell boiling water in the sun would be quicker!

      My kettle uses more power than Lester can get.

    3. Steve the Cynic

      Re: Ré Kettle

      "Finally, how old are the children?? A child sized hamster wheel provides hours of fun, and a fair few KW if hooked to a genny."

      Sadly, a human can provide a few hundred Watts, tops. 750W is a useful approximation for one horsepower, and only a few people can manage more than about a third of a horsepower for any length of time. Most of those few are former adversaries of Lance Armstrong.

      1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

        Re: Re: Ré Kettle

        What I need to do is to tap the immense amount of energy the kids produce in moaning about mixing concrete and breaking rocks.

        1. DragonLord

          Re: Ré Kettle

          <a href=''>Try something like this</a>

        2. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Getting the children to break rocks...

          Is that even allowed these days?

  10. Tim Warren

    Inverters for Buffering / Storage

    You should look at They sell a lot of inverters to people who live on canal boats and such like. Their shore power is often limited to 8 amps. Victron sell versions of their inverters which can create a local electricity grid, and bring in power from an external source, or from storage batteries. You set the current limit from the grid (or in many cases a generator) and any excess demand is sourced from the batteries. When the demand from the house / boat reduces, any excess capacity from the grid is used to charge batteries.

    SMA make the Sunny Island which is also worth considering.

    Don't ever use car batteries for this purpose. Car batteries are designed to supply high current for very short periods of time. To do this they have a high number of very thin lead plates. If you discharge the battery too far the plates distort, short out and eventually the battery dies. Also beware of "leisure" batteries. These are often only marginally better than car batteries for deep discharge. You bet bet is to look for Fork Lift batteries, even second hand ones. Companies who run fork lifts will discard them once they get to the stage where they can not support the fork lift for the full 8 hour shift. Your demands will be far smaller, so you should still get many years (5+, perhaps 10) from a well chosen second hand battery. Fork Lift batteries can last over 20 years from new if looked after well.

    With the price of scrap lead, you shall not be wasting money - think of the batteries as an investment.

    The boys over on have lots of experience in inverters and batteries.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Inverters for Buffering / Storage


      As someone who has been looking into UPS for my home (at least a couple critical circuits like the fridge and lights) just wanted to say thank you for your extremely informative post.


      1. Tim Warren

        Re: Inverters for Buffering / Storage


        Look out for APC Smart UPS XL on eBay advertised as not working. Make sure you go for the XL version as it has an uprated charger so you can connect very large external batteries to it. Normal versions may not be able to charge large batteries.

        I bought my APC Smart UPS 750 XL on eBay for £3 (three quid!) as broken. 95% of the time it is simply a case of changing the batteries. I just asked the seller to discard the batteries and send me the empty chassis. I then added 4 off 12v 75Ah gel cells externally. I get over 8 hours run time with a 300w load.

        My gel cells are CSB Battery GPL12750 from Again bought of eBay. Some guy over ordered for their data centre by 8 off batteries, so I picked them up for £30.

        Other brands of UPS may also be worth considering - I have only ever owned APC's, and one massive Chloride job.

        1. Callam McMillan

          Re: Inverters for Buffering / Storage

          Ditto on the APC UPS's. I have a 2200VA one powering my PC setup and will only ever buy APC now.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Inverters for Buffering / Storage

            I have a couple of 1000VA ones sitting idle. The fact that they were consuming 150w on idle and the PC total load was 135W made me decide against continuing to use them when their batteries gave up.

  11. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    A thought provoking argument

    and one that should be required reading for anyone who thinks wind and solar power are going to save us.

    Kinda reminded me of the part of "Apollo 13" where they have to find the power to fire up the Command Module ...

    1. Rob 21

      Re: A thought provoking argument

      Most of those folk will be nodding sagely and going "microwave... plasma Tv... madness, madness!" anyway.

      I am (N160 netbook, external HDD, broadband dongle. 1 LED spot, 1 8W CFL, and a woodstove).

  12. JetSetJim


    Just make the popcorn on the stove - buy popcorn kernels raw, add butter and heat in a covered pan, shaking merrily every few seconds to get an even coating of hot butter on them. Then season to taste (sugar/salt/cayenne/toffee/mustard/marmite/...).

    Or, you could go for "raw popcorn" (aka cauliflower):

    I seem to recall there's some protocol out there that will negotiate power to a set of domestic outlets (X-10 protocol) - perhaps it could be extended to work with a cap and assign priorities do different outlets so if you flick the switch on the kettle it de-powers the telly rather than tripping a breaker. It will require kit either in every plug or socket, plus a controller by the main fuse box.

    What you have is a similar problem to radio admission control in mobile networks - lots of possible solutions but effectively requires a single controller unit (or bags of capacity)

    1. Dr Who

      Re: Solution

      The stove is the answer and gives you much better popcorn BUT you must never do them in butter. Smoking hot oil is the way to go. Butter will burn at the required temperature. After you've popped the corn is the time to pour melted butter all over it.

      1. jake Silver badge

        @Dr Who (was: Re: Solution)

        Investigate clarified butter. Raises the smoke point by around 110F (~70C). Works fine for popping corn. Personally, I use peanut oil. Sometimes I use the same wild boar manteca that I use for tamales, but getting a good smoke-free "pop" means knowing your gear with this option.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Solution

      > so if you flick the switch on the kettle it de-powers the telly rather than tripping a breaker.

      > It will require kit either in every plug or socket, plus a controller by the main fuse box.

      Standard components in DIY stores in France where old apartmemts have the same problem as Lester. Just google for "delesteur". Not sure if they go as low as 1.5kW though, 3kW is the usual minimum household tariff.

  13. Longrod_von_Hugendong

    I think the problem is...

    'an advanced 21st century Western civilisation'

    When has Spain ever been an 'advanced civilisation'

    There is your problem.

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: I think the problem is...

      The boy is referring to our house, which we consider an outpost of Empire.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: I think the problem is...

      Que inventen ellos.

      And Lester is obliged to move the meter outside the property into a sealed box because the electricity companies assume that any customer is a thief and will bridge it. The fact that sparky from Iberdrola will probably do it for you for a nominal fee paid in cash is beside the point.

      1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

        Re: Re: I think the problem is...

        What I really object to is destroying the façade of a building at my expense to make things easier for Iberdrola. They could install internal wireless meters and be done with it, but then that would cost them cash and their customers would be bridging as normal...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I think the problem is...

          The signal would never make it through your 80cm stone walls ;)

    3. fandom

      Re: I think the problem is...

      Dear Longrod,

      To put in context, do you think that a civilisation capable of producing a moronic racist like you deserves to be called "advanced"?


      Andrés García

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

        Re: Re: I think the problem is...

        So that's what a Spaniard on a hook posts like.

  14. The Bit Wrangler

    Since you have gas...

    Micro-CHP ?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hrmm, dual feed?

    How many 1.5kw consumer units are you allowed, then?

    (I realise this is probably totally illegal, just asking).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hrmm, dual feed?

      well in Italy, where we are allowed 3kw (but still have quite a few over-current events), it's possible to solve the single consumer unit feed problem by buying a "Casa isolata bifamiliare" i.e a villa designed for extended families with double everything. During purchase I got it converted to a 'casa isolata unifamiliare' but forgot to tell ENEL or the water and gas companies (hence avoiding the penal taxes on second homes, but whilst still getting a wealth of infrastructural resources)

      In Italy the cost of the certification for electrical work is the same as the 'leccy doing the actual work, so DIY hardly exists.

      If the roof of the mountain house is high/fragile enough then 3kw peak PV is the right choice this year, (the high/fragile roof is needed as there have been a few thefts in Spain of the actual PV panels recently)

  16. Gordon 10
    Thumb Up

    Ahh the joys of the spanish electrical supply

    My in-laws had an even simpler problem. They just wanted an uprated supply so they could leave the freezer on between visits (other people visiting less knowledgable in the ways of spanish electricals would cause it to trip). Between getting the permits and getting the work done it took nigh on 2 years.*

    Admittedly its a holiday home but still........

  17. Billa Bong

    Popcorn in the microwave??

    I can make it faster on my gas hob (powered by bottled gas because I live *miles* outside a major city - all 7 of them).

    However, I do sympathise with you Lester. I'll restrict the usage of my air source heat pump tonight in your honour. The kids can put on jumpers and have cold baths instead.

    1. ArmanX

      Re: Popcorn in the microwave??

      That's what I was wondering... any cooking could and should be done with gas, as should any heating; a gas water heater is almost always cheaper than electric.

  18. TheOtherHobbes


    Solar PVs?

    Just a thought. :)

  19. Seret

    You're in Spain, install a PV array and soak up all that lovely Iberian sun. Not much use to you at night, but solves half the problem at least.

    I wouldn't advise going off-grid and using batteries. They're expensive, require ongoing maintenance and you'll still need to be generating yourself. You can't generally mix electrical storage and a grid-supplied connection.

    Just go for a grid-tied microgeneration option, the easiest and least hassle being PV.

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      I'd love a PV array. I just wish I had the wonga right now to buy one...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        When is El Reg going to run

        ....a PV supplier comparison test?

        We'll need a test subject. Any takers? :D

      2. Seret

        Well, your only realistic option is controlling demand as much as possible then. You can do a bit on the technological side to attack base load, but attacking the peaks is more behavioural.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Bureaucracy stands ready to squash any array more than 100kW. Even if it's less than 100kW you're in for a Kafkaesque nightmare if you want to tie it to the grid.

      (In Spain, of course.)

    3. Rob 21

      We were going to do that where I am in cash-strapped Iberia. But...

      they've cut the payments by 30% per unit, meaning there's no positive return on your investment.

      The microgen scheme here requires you to fit a 6.7kWh 2-axis tracking array, so you're out £20k up front, and in for 12 years before you get a clear profit, without inflation.

      If they allowed smaller scale grid-tie setups, as in the UK, we'd be doing it, but it's 6.7 or nowt, AFAIK.

  20. ukgnome

    Steam punk Lester?

    Surely and old landrover, a jack and some for of belt system driving an electric motor could server as a generator? Sure the kids and missus will moan, but that's OK as it's only for a short while.

    Alternatively, have you thought about steam? they run on fire and water and have a proven track record at electric generation.

    1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: Steam punk Lester?

      He'll be chuffed to bits with that

    2. AJ MacLeod

      Re: Steam punk Lester?

      No need for a jack... "Proper" Land Rovers have provision for a PTO ;-)

      1. The First Dave

        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.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          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.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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.

  23. Mystic Megabyte


    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.

    1. Andus McCoatover

      Re: lister

      Sure, but shipping it to Spain....? Serious wedge.

  24. Richard Jukes


    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.

  25. Tanuki
    Thumb Up

    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.

  26. Silverburn


    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.

    1. J P

      Re: Spin?

      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?

  27. Richard 120

    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 -

  28. Mad Mike

    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.

    1. Danny 14

      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.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      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. :-)

  29. Ed 13

    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).

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      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.

      1. Ed 13

        Re: Solar Water Heating

        My dishwasher worked just fine off the hot water supply for a number of years.

        1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

          Re: Re: Solar Water Heating

          Yup, I don't foresee any problems.

      2. jake Silver badge

        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.

  30. Jon Green

    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?

  31. Sammy Smalls

    Gaffer tape.

    Surely the easiest way is to gaffer tape the trip switch..........

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      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.

      1. Oor Nonny-Muss

        Re: Gaffer tape.

        Surely then you complain that the meter is clearly faulty and they need to fix it...

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Interesting ...

    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 :-)

    Kids, eh?

    Mushroom cloud, 'cos that's invariably what would happen if I did any work on electrics ...

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    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.


  34. itzman

    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.

  35. Gavin McMenemy
    Thumb Up

    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!

  36. Danny 14


    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?

  37. Lee Dowling Silver badge

    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.

  38. Anonymous Coward

    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.

    LED lighting.....

    PC - 5 - 8 hours a day.... (seasonal)

    Solar hot water....

    Books, reading, studying, etc...

    Calculators and pencils are cheap to run.

    Very efficient.

  39. Benjol

    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)

  40. SafetyNerves

    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).

  41. banjomike
    Thumb Up

    advanced 21st century Western civilisation ???

    No, this is Spain in the sticks.

  42. Rampant Spaniel

    May I politely suggest making popcorn the old fashioned way? Might make movie time a little easier and it should be cheaper.

  43. William Wallace

    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.

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Re: 21st Century Luxury


  44. This post has been deleted by its author

  45. Jess--

    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

  46. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Spanish practices

    > 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.

  47. Dave 32

    1.5 KW?

    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.

  48. Herby

    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.

    1. Andus McCoatover

      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...)

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  49. sisk


    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.

    1. JaimieV

      Re: 1.5kw??

      You should sit down with a scrap of paper and work out how quickly a cheapy modern ~100W PC would pay itself back...

  50. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    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.

    1. Tank boy
      Black Helicopters

      Re: This is how Greenpeace want EVERYONE to live.

      You could probably invert your tinfoil hat to create some type of solar collector.

    2. Andus McCoatover

      Re: This is how Greenpeace want EVERYONE to live.

      NO, actually....

      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:

      IT solutions

      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)

  51. graeme leggett Silver badge

    I'm surprised

    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.

  52. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    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.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      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.

  53. Brian 39



    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.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


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

  55. michael cadoux

    1.5 kw? Luxury!

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

  56. Red Bren

    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.

    1. MooseMonkey

      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..

      1. NXM Silver badge

        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.

    2. Fatman

      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        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.

  57. 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.


  58. Paul Johnston

    Gas Fridge?

    Can you still get gas fridges?

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Gas Fridge?

      1. Paul Johnston

        Re: Gas Fridge?


        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.

        1. 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...

    2. P. Lee

      Re: Gas Fridge?

      You can also get gas tumble-dryers.


  59. Acme Fixer

    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.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    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.

  61. Richard Crossley

    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?

    1. P. Lee

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

      > Are they trying to hide from someone?


    2. The Original Cactus

      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.

  62. Harris Upham
    Thumb Up

    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.

  63. J.G.Harston Silver badge

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

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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

  65. fourThirty
    Thumb Up


    ...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!

    1. Sooty

      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.

  66. Mark 62

    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.

    1. deshepherd

      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.

  67. A J Stiles
    Thumb Up

    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 .....

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      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.

      1. A J Stiles

        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.

  68. NXM Silver badge

    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!

  69. LorenzoM

    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

  70. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  71. Rune Moberg
    Thumb Up

    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?).

  72. jonathan rowe

    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.

  73. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    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.

  74. Darren Forster

    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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