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Electrics Spain - Spanish adaptor socket

Bill Hayles,

Bill Hayes has given permission for this article to be published here, for which I thank him very much. The article is copyright to Bill Hayles, and his permission should be sought before it is reproduced elsewhere; this article is presented here in HTML format, and may either be read on-line or downloaded for later perusal.

I am NOT a qualified electrician. All the information is, to the best of my knowledge, correct, but please check with a qualified person before undertaking any electrical work.

Spanish Electrics and Electronics

The Power Supply
Spain, like the rest of Europe (including the UK) has a nominal mains electricity supply of 230 volts AC at 50Hz, This means, in general, that appliances bought in the UK will work in Spain and vice versa. The only difference you may notice is that items such as kettles and toasters may take longer to heat, as in the UK the actual voltage tends to be over 230V, whereas in Spain it is usually well under, and can be as low as 206V.

Domestic Supply and Wiring
On the Costa Blanca, electricity is supplied by Iberdrola. Your bill will consist of various items, including (obviously) a charge for units consumed and also a standing charge. The standing charge will vary depending on the capacity ("potencia") that your contract allows, and which is controlled by a trip in your main circuit breaker box. Common potencias are 3.3Kw, 5.5Kw and 8.8Kw. The higher your allowance, the higher the standing charge you pay. The potencia can be upgraded - but at a considerable price.

In your property there will usually be a cream coloured plastic box which will contain various circuit breakers (trips) for various sections of your wiring. There will also be an RCD (Residual Current Device) which will trip in the event of any current leakage. There is no ring main as used in the UK; everything is in the form of stub circuits. Although earth is green, or green and yellow stripes, there does not appear to be any consistent colour code for line and neutral. The switches for things such as lights are often placed on the neutral side, and the device itself may often still be "live" even though switched off.

Plugs and Sockets
There are some weird and wonderful older arrangements still around, but for many years Spain has utilised the standard European socket with a two pin arrangement and side earth. There are two types of plug, both of which fit the standard socket. A smaller two pin plug for double insulated appliances which don't need an earth, and a larger two pin and side earth strip for those requiring an earth. Line and neutral are not distinguished - plugs can go into sockets either way. Plugs are not individually fused. Appliances with UK sockets can be adapted to work with Spanish sockets either by replacing the UK plug or using a cheap and widely available adaptor.

Televisions and Video Recorders
The analogue terrestrial transmission system (RF) used in Spain differs from that in the UK. This means that you can get picture, but no sound, through the aerial input, if you use a UK TV or video in Spain. Either can be modified if required.

When it comes to connecting UK and Spanish TVs, videos and digiboxes together the situation is easier. Using the SCART (sometimes called Peritel) connectors all modern equipment has, all combinations can be used quite happily, as the SCART connections are standard throughout Europe.

Telephones, Modems and Faxes
The Spanish telephone system uses a different connector (RJ11) from the British. The connector is physically the same as that used in the US. Unfortunately, sometimes UK / US adaptors bought in the UK and used in Spain will not work perfectly - you can make calls, and receive them, but the phone won't ring. If you want a device (phone or fax, probably) to physically ring, you'll need the proper adaptor, which can be hard to get hold of or (probably better), cut off the UK plug and fit a Spanish one. This can be fiddly, and is best done with the use of a special tool, but many larger outlets stock them and they're not expensive. If your device needs a mains input then, obviously, it will need a new plug or adaptor for that. Once the correct adaptor(s) have been fitted, your telephone equipment will work perfectly well.

With the provisos given about changing mains plugs and, if necessary, modem plugs, your UK computer equipment will be perfectly at home in Spain. You will need to change your system settings to take account of the new location and dialling codes, but that's all.

Version History.

17th December 2002. Amended version, incorporating suggestions made. 9th December 2002. First draft version issued by Bill Hayles to whom all comments and suggestions should
be addressed.

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