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SPANISH CONSTRUCTION METHODS ON THE COSTA BLANCA (2)

Septic tank, electricity, central heating and swimming pool

Septic Tanks: Public drainage systems away from village or town centres are a new concept on the Costa Blanca and despite the declared aim of switching all urban property to mains drainage, about 90% of Costa Blanca villas still use septic tanks. The good news is that these work surprisingly well and with normal use can be expected to go for 10 years or more without needing to be touched. When they do need emptying you just call a specialist lorry to do it. A simple question to ask with regard to septic tanks when you are buying a property is "Where is it?". This could save you a lot of trouble later on as they are often forgotten and covered over with earth, forcing the cleaning company to poke around your garden with an iron rod or ultrasound equipment. The owner may have no idea where it is but one clue would be a particularly bushy piece of vegetation or orange tree. It's also useful to know where it is so that you don't inadvertently drive over it. They are just under the surface and the concrete roof isn't designed to support the weight of a car. Another tip is to send washing machine waste water elsewhere as the fibres in the water can quickly block the permeable walls of the soakaway tank.

Electricity: Most older property has been rewired but if it hasn't it's cheap and easy to have it done and have new sockets fitted. New plugs and sockets are E.E.C. standard which are much better than the original installations and provide for good heavy duty connections for boilers, dishwashers etc. Villas will either have a meter box on the street with a window (the electricity company, Iberdrola, has the key), or on a wall beside the kitchen door (always left open). Either way the electricity company will come to read the meter every month and charge for the electricity used and the contracted Kilowatts. 5.5 Kw is O.K. for normal domestic use with a pool. A fusebox is located in the house with an automatic switch if it is overloaded. As of 2012, Iberdrola is asking owners to install their meters in a street meter box.

Central Heating: Heating in winter is something that has not really been sorted out until recently on the Costa Blanca. A typical image from a Spanish owned village country house until recently would be the family around a table covered with a heavy tablecloth that reaches down to the floor, keeping in the warmth around their legs and hiding a small paraffin stove under the table. The fireplace would have two or three logs that are just alight with all the heat going up the chimney.

The alternatives now are a gas boiler with radiators, diesel oil boiler with radiators, electric underfloor or hot/cold air conditioning. A gas system will use large cylinders (8 or 10) that are lodged in special "casita" on the street where a gas delivery lorry can arrive and change half of the empty ones for full ones as you require. Gas central heating is probably the cheapest at the moment and you will usually not have your system turned up full. Diesel works the same way except that you have a large diesel tank owned by the utility (Repsol or Campsa) in your garden and pay for the fuel you use and a maintenance contract. This is the most expensive option and isn't very common. Electric underfloor heating is cheap to install, expensive to run and not very popular. Hot/Cold air conditioning works well and gives good heat for the cost although the preferred system of central heating is probably gas.

If a property is not a permanent home then some free standing radiators may be sufficient. Electric ones are better than the gas bottle on wheels type that produces an unpleasant humid and fuggy atmosphere. And don't forget the fireplaces that now work wonderfully with enclosed firewood burning glass fronted cassettes. They are economical in wood use and automatic fans send out most of the heat, warming the whole house, so they need more work but can be recommended.

Swimming Pool: A villa with a swimming pool makes a very nice combination on a Costa Blanca summer day or evening. Most pools are 8x4 meters constructions with a few large ones being 10x5 meters or more, and most having terraces and better with a B.B.Q.and shower nearby. D.I.Y. pool maintenance is easy when you have the supply of chemicals and understand the sequence or valves for rinse, backwash etc. If you don't want to do any of that, a pool cleaner can be contracted for a year and he will come weekly with all the required equipment and chemicals. Swimming pool construction doesn't usually present problems as they're very solidly built but surrounding terraces that don't have the same strong foundation can pull away showing some cracks. If a pool isn't regularly looked after in summer it will turn green (not too serious) but if it proceeds to go brown it is necessary to remove all the water which means buying two or three new lorry loads to refill it after cleaning. If a villa doesn't have a pool there is usually space to build one. It's cheaper if the land is flat without too much solid rock and a recent option in the poolhouse is a saltwater sytem that gives very fresh clean water.

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