Most of us in the UK are used to easy access to utilities. That is not always the case in Spain though. Getting connected to utilities such as gas, electricity and water can involve a certain amount of red tape, and a lot of patience.
Natural Gas is only available in Madrid and many of the other major cities, so all other areas use bottled gas. In most areas of Spain, gas bottles (bombonas) are delivered to homes by Repsol Butano. The cost of bottled gas is much lower in Spain than it is in the UK. A contract is usually required for this service. Most of the items in the home are run by electricity, with gas being used mainly for barbecues and mobile heaters.
Cepsa is the other large company providing gas in bottles. Cepsa’s 12.5 kg bottles of butane are either distributed via a delivery service through authorized dealers, or directly at Cepsa service stations.
If you do have your bottled gas delivered to your door, and you happen to live up a flight of stairs, a tip to the delivery man (butanero) can go a long way in keeping up good relations. Those bottles when full are pretty heavy! When you sign up for electricity and water, you have to sign a contract and pay approximately 600 euros each for the privilege . The cost of electric and water are similar to the UK but the operators have more power. The electric (iberdrola) company can remove your electric meter without notice and will charge a fee of approximately 60 euros for reconnecting. It is advisable to pay by direct debit for all utilities especially if you are not living in Spain permanently. With all utilities you are billed every two months, and bills include VAT. Just as with gas and electricity the water company will turn off your water if you miss payments. Endesa is probably the biggest of the electricity companies in Spain.
Spain mainly works on a 220 volt system so all the British appliances will work on the Spanish system, although they cannot cope with a lot of appliances on at the same time. Some places though still have a 110-volt supply and it is actually possible to find dual voltage 110 and 220-volt systems in the same house, though very rare. The electric company has now introduced a new tariff for day and night use (handy for doing the washing at night) although it is not well advertised. Keeping a secondary supply of lighting (candles and/or torches) is useful as the electricity does go off quite regularly.
Coming from the UK almost certainly means you will have to buy some plug adapters for your electrical appliances. These can easily be purchased either before you leave the UK, or once in Spain. One problem we found is that Spanish builders aren’t exactly generous when it comes to fitting electric wall sockets, so until you can get more fitted you may also need some extension leads and multi-plug extensions and adapters.
Although in Spain, especially the south, they do suffer from far worse water shortages than in the UK they do not get as hysterical about it, but they do expect you to be careful where possible. For car washing they have official car wash sites, which are 2 euros for a wash and wax.
It`s a good idea to get hold of local newspapers which sometimes print about any known problems with the utilities, though usually by the time you have read about it the difficulty has been resolved.