In the meantime I was bracing myself for the most important part of the eco new build. Installation of a solar system and some kind of boiler to drive the underfloor heating, and maybe water, and of course solar panels for this? Who knew? I certainly did not have a clue despite many late nights combing through the crap on the web trying to find something truly informative that did not try to sell me products. Google sit up and take note! The plethora of off-grid non-commercial articles in 2010 were aimed at geek men, usually it seemed in some back wood, USA.
The sexes are very definitely different. I am pig-headed, much too forthright and have often been accused of being manly. I beg to differ, at least on that last point. Articles with the title “How to build a passive-solar food dehydrator” did not make me salivate. I was not interested in using the metal racks from a disused fridge (if only I had a fridge at all!) and actually I just wanted some down to earth sensible advice without references to amps, watts, volts, wires, plugs, invertors, generators and dispersion rates. In other words, I needed some one I could trust to explain simply what to install, not how to build it from a collection of scrap metal.
But what I got was a series of quotes, 6 in fact, from an assortment of people that were for the most part meaningless. One quote consisted of three sentences for a total of 35,000. Another for the plumbing part from a man who smelt like he had just that very minute finished distributing pig shit around his almond trees – and got most of it on him! Carlos just did not understand why I was loath to accept his quote. “But plumbers here don’t just do plumbing”, he protested. I could not get my head around that, but eventually concurred that maybe he was right when I came across a carpenter who ran a funeral business as well. I did not use him either.
But I diverge.
These quotes came over an 18-month period, long before the house even had four walls. Let me tell you how confusing it is. There were no water pipes or electricity grid to connect to and in essence I felt like I was starting a new village, or at least hamlet. Only without the aid of the utility companies. My head swam, and it swam more and more with the plethora of odd quotes. No one seemed to agree on anything. That is until I got the plumbing/heating quote from Paco. It looked slick and he made a convincing case. He even gave me the number of another ex-pat whose installation he had done. I went to see him and his house was of outstanding quality. On top of this Paco TAUGHT plumbing and heating at Castellon college. That impressed me no end.
And that is how I made a very big mistake and doubled it by employing a teacher Paco recommended for the solar part of the installation. So two teachers.
Looking back I realise that the ex-pat whose house I saw was a water engineer himself, and worked on big projects in Dubai. I guess he could a) oversee with knowledge and b) not have the wool pulled over his eyes. I had none of these advantages and blithely proceeded down the road of great expense and lots of mistakes. As one of the expats in the village unkindly said later, “it seems like you have more money than sense”. And at this point I will deviate from the boiler drama to the drama of living amidst a bunch of English people that you would never socialize with back home. It is a much a part of setting up in a new country as are the stones and cement of your dream masia. The storm clouds were brewing…