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Fire Safety and Comfortable Living In Spain

We have already spent a few years here in Spain, I believe we are safe to say that this is the place where we want to settle down. Looking back, it doesn’t seem that long ago, when we first arrived and had to learn everything from scratch. Now the boys are happy, fluent and finally, we feel that this is the right time to move on and look for a house that we can call our own.

I love Valencia and there are so many areas to choose from, depending on what you prefer, and what suits your lifestyle. While having a chalet in the countryside can be ideal, it can be quite impractical too especially if the house has not been updated in years. The house we are renting now has given us numerous problems from unsafe electrical connections, low water pressure, limescale, and sewage.

To be fair our landlord have always made sure that any problems are immediately seen to, but when we have continuous issues with water, pipes and electric every few months, it gets really annoying! Not only the inconvenience, but also the safety aspects especially if you have young children.

Last year we had a fire in the bathroom while my 7 year-old was taking a bath. As it was winter, I usually put the wall heater on for 10 minutes. I got my son ready for his bath and I left to get some towels from the other room. It wasn’t long after when I heard my son shouting. He has a habit of doing this, usually when he wants me to bring a toy or to tell me something (as kids do). I didn’t hear him the first time so I shouted back and this is when suddenly all the lights in the house turned off. By instinct, I knew something was wrong.

I ran to the bathroom, the house was in complete darkness, I could see the light flickering where my son was. He was crying, as looked on my right I saw the wall heater in flames. The fire was spreading through the walls. I grabbed him and got him out of there, my husband followed behind to put the flames out. A couple of minutes later (that seem like forever!) he finally manage to control the whole situation. The bathroom was a mess, and more importantly my son was very distressed and so was I!

Bathroom Fire

The offending item

Heater Fire

I think the tiles saved the whole room being engulfed in flames

Thankfully we came out unhurt, but it was a very upsetting experience for my son who for a few weeks refused to go to the bathroom on his own. :( But that was a year ago, he’s OK with going to the bathroom nowadays and the incident does not seem to have any lasting impression (I hope!).

We found out that the heater have been there for more than 10 years and it over heated. Now, we are extremely conscious of using such things and leaving appliances plugged in overnight. Easier said than done, especially if you have a teenager who insists on leaving every electrical item in his bedroom plugged in and turned on!

After the scare, I bought smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors! It’s easy to miss these things, there are enough to think about when moving to a new country and smoke alarms were not on the forefront of my worries. Lesson learned.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Also take note, that at the moment there seem to be no legal requirement to install smoke alarms in private rental properties in Spain, so make sure it’s the first thing you check, buy and install. [/su_pullquote]

Our landlord was sympathetic enough and made sure that we were OK and had everything cleaned and checked out, but that doesn’t fill me with confidence, this could happen again! I declined to have another heater installed in the bathroom, of course making it pretty shitty and cold to have a shower particularly during winter. I really miss central heating!

Renting a house first was the right choice for us, sometimes, I don’t understand why some people can buy a house in Spain without trying it out first. With our experiences in the last two years, I am so glad that we rented! I have listed below all the things we have found a problem with while living here, a checklist that I religiously refer to when searching for properties.

[bctt tweet=”Fire Safety and Comfortable Living In Spain”]

  • Central heating (Calefacción) – fireplaces are nice, but make sure that there is also an alternative way to heat up your house. Winter in Spain can get very cold, and there is nothing worse than freezing rooms and floors!
  • Water filter/Descaler ( Osmosis y Descalcificador) – the amount of limescale we get in our taps and pipes are unbelievable. At least once a month we need to treat it with acid (it appears to be the initial solution for everything that needs fixing here! Hey, my pipes are clogged with limescale! Why not throw some acid on it!!!).
    Some modern and refurbished houses have water filters fitted in. This will save us a lot of clogged and burst pipes!
  • Piped Gas (Gas Natural) – at the moment we are using bottled gas for heating. During the winter we use about 3-5 bottles and about €170 worth of wood (leña) depending on how cold it gets. The gas bottles are also used for heating the water, so if you run out on mid shower, you’ll definitely know! *shiver* Did I mention I miss central heating?
  • Internet Connection – the first thing we checked before viewing a house! Working from home means our life depends on a good internet connection. Many properties lack this, especially the further inland you go. At the moment we get about 7mb connection through microwave. It’s enough for what we need, but it’s not as reliable as we would like, especially on stormy or windy days.
  • ‘Safer’ Electric Connections – I really miss British sockets and plugs! How safe are those?! Here in Spain, get used to sparks as you plug in your appliances or for electricty to cut off if you have too many lights turned on or when it rains! I can’t remember the amount of times I’ve been buzzed every time my phone is charging. I hate it! On a serious note be aware of electrical connection and safety in Spain if you are buying an old property.

Many of these things are standard, but not so if you choose a house in the countryside in Spain that has not been refurbished, unless you plan to do improvements which is probably the best option.  A lot of old houses in Spain (mainly the ones in the campo) are not energy efficient and you will end up paying more for gas bottles and firewood to keep your chalet cosy in the winter.

More importantly, there is the safety aspect, especially if you have children.  The fire was a scary experience and it made me more determined to make sure that the next house we choose is safer and cost-effective than our current one.

On a positive note, our plans for house hunting this year is an exciting prospect. We’ve already viewed a handful of properties around the Camp de Túria area. We are also not limiting ourselves to Valencia, nearby areas such as Castellón and Ibiza really appeals to us too! Exciting times, and I can’t wait!

So there you go, some things we have learned the hard way, but as the saying goes ‘we live and learn’. At least now, we have the knowledge to look out for the more important things and to really make sure that the next property we move into is the right one for us in regards to safety and convenience.

By Maria

Mom, wife, web/graphic designer and illustrator. I am also the author of Ohla Living a personal blog where I share my lifestyle, travel, days out and creative thoughts. I’m a collector of anything quirky addicted to coffee, cocktails, the beach & VW Kombis.

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