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Masia Lavanda gets solar!

The job was neat and tidy
The job was neat and tidy

II had paid my deposits, signed my contracts, and solar man Antonio applied for a EU solar grant.  In fact I can honestly say that this was what tipped the balance in his favour.  He had given me a competitive quote, was extremely pleasant and keen, and then later suggested the grant as well, saying he would fill in all the paperwork.

Normally a quote is given on the basis of applying for the grant and thus highly inflated – as was the boiler to be discussed at a later date.  But Antonio’s quote for a state of the art Outback system came in below every one I received without exception.  Unlike every other one too, it was clearly laid out and explained.

The ex-pats in the village did not hold their breath.  They will do everything to stop you getting the grant, they pronounced with decided certainty. It’s the Spanish first and us at the bottom.  Why don’t you use… and then they would mention some ex-pat that had ambitions in the solar department.  I could not help but detect a bit of hoped-for schadenfreude here, but that did not daunt me.

One ex-pat, Stan,  told me he and his wife had filled in all the paperwork, crossed the “t”s and dotted the “i”s, but been rejected at the final hurdle because he had missed the final deadline to enter the last bit of paperwork.  It was Christmas and the letter had been delayed by Santa.  I filed that valuable nugget away and used it later when it transpired that the deadline was inconveniently December 26th, as it had been in the years before.  It was the most helpful thing anyone ever told me since starting this adventure.

But I jump ahead.  I was very happy with my choice of solar guy and he bent over backwards to do the job right.  I know this contradicts what I said in an earlier post, but actually no – I was in the beginning.   Not only was he civil, but he actually answered my emails promptly!  The job was big, even bigger after I learnt of the possibility of a grant and so taking a gambled, expanded the installation.  Antonio was happy to have it, therefore the trimmed-to-the-bone quote I suppose.

The job was neat and tidy and no builders' rubble left behind - which makes a change
The job was neat and tidy and no builders’ rubble left behind – which makes a change

True he did tell me to do things in preparation, and then change his mind, each time with immense certainty.  Actually the plumber/central heating guy was more to blame here – I think.  These oscillations cost me needless additional expense.   Carlos worked around the clock changing things and ended up building a separate casita for the solar and boiler stuff.  It was subsequently faced with dry-laid stones by Felix and became known as the Hansel and Gretel shop.   I do not want to know what all this cost!  It is in the land of financial amnesia.  At least the resulting job was pretty to look at,  and the solar installation was neat and tidy and worked from day one.

We called it the Hansel and Gretel house
We called it the Hansel and Gretel house

Not the generator – that was a puzzling nightmare and took a year to sort by someone else in the end who simply changed a fuse, removed the hornet’s nest inside (very pretty too) and sealed the exhaust pipe properly.

There was a hornet's nest inside the generator!
There was a hornet’s nest inside the generator!

But the Outback installation was a dream.  Well, to be honest,  it was pain the early months.

Later when mysterious things began to happen, and after countless phone calls, Antonio finally pulled the plug on his wonderful helpfulness.  One night he shouted at me down the phone “Its ten o’clock at night, why are you bothering me?!!!”

“ Well, Antonio, for one, I have no electricity, two the generator will not even work, and that means I have no water either.  There are ten people staying here in all, including my mother who is crying at the table in the dark and there is no moon so it is pitch black.  She is 86 and has a bladder problem and the toilets will not flush without water…”

He had grown tired of my demands for a system that worked (is that too much to ask after only 9 months? Is anyone surprised if I was a bit hysterical?) – and furthermore he had just landed a full time job at Marina d’Or, a tacky massive tourist resort chain, but a great coup in a time of recession.

To be fair, he did come the next day and removed a gadget he had recently declared that I needed to stop, well, God knows what problem that had suddenly appeared.  The main thing was the system worked again and my mother could flush the stinking toilet.  Antonio clearly considered himself done though for although in the ensuing weeks we were subjected to wildly flickering lights and sudden cutouts, he stopped responding to emails or telephone.

I think you call that washing your hands of the situation.  He blamed the electricians.  I was very confused.

 Eventually I contacted Outback USA in desperation and luckily they came to the rescue, sending me their European representative.  As happens, it was all down to the programing, perhaps the worst part of which was buried deep in one setting – amps set at 70 instead of 48 and volts at 110 instead of 230.  So basically, an American setting.  The default.

“Sis is your problem”, the man pronounced.  “Don’t worry it happens all the time”.

“But he teaches in the college!”

“I never learnt anything in college that I could apply in real life”, he answered.

Friends for life.

I was pleased with the position of the panels - well hidden by Hansel and Gretel
I was pleased with the position of the panels – well hidden by Hansel and Gretel

Luckily no permanent damage seemed to have occurred, but I now understood why the super-silent fridge had begun making such a racket.

The moral of this story is that using a novice is not a good idea, but a bit better in my opinion than an ex-pat who might not be there in six months.  But not a good idea all the same.  Antonio meant well, and had potential.  However, Antonio needed hands-on experience, years of it. In the end the errors were beyond his practical knowledge and he retreated as fast as he could.

All this faded into insignificance however when I got a letter from the EU saying I had been awarded a substantial grant.  Remembering the December 26 deadline, I had pestered the hell out of Antonio and the plumber Paco.  Thank you Stan!  And in the end, thank you Antonio!

If the money comes through, I can pay off a few debts!
If the money comes through, I can pay off a few debts.

P.S. One year later I am still waiting for the money, but Antonio did warn me of the likely delay.  Will it come?  EU will give it yes, give it no, give it yes.  Anyone have a daisy?

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