Paradise in Portugal
Bed & Breakfast in Santa Clara-a-Velha  
Paradise in Portugal Paradise in Portugal
Available on:

Eco Friendly Accommodation

Certifications:
Tripadvisor Green Leader, Platinum Level
Do you utilise any renewable energy sources to produce energy on the hotel/accommodation premises?
Solar radiation
What makes your hotel/accommodation eco-friendly?
Building materials from sustainable resources
Written environmental policy statement in place
The structure maximizes air flow to reduce the need for air-conditioning
The structure maximizes natural light to reduce the need for lighting and heating
Engaged in eco-friendly initiatives (i.e. reforestation, wildlife conservation)
Rainwater collection and usage
Use of non-toxic cleaning products
Serving organic food at the restaurant
LED lighting throughout the premises
Environmental manager appointed
Employees are trained to follow environmental policies
Electric car charging station(s) available
Toilets flush up to 6 litres per flush
Wastewater is reused after treatment
Toilet paper made of non-chlorine bleached paper or awarded with an eco-label
Waste is separated into at least 3 categories
No disposable (single use) cups/glasses, plates and cutlery
Organic waste is composted
Zero-energy building (zero net energy consumption on an annual basis)
Most of the ingredients used to prepare meals are locally produced
A vegetarian alternative menu is proposed in the restaurant
An energy audit is carried out at least once every five years
Is there anything that you would like to highlight, add or clarify?
The various systems that run the Quinta have taken many forms over the years as I’ve built the place, and those installed now benefit from my years of mistakes and the many dead-ends I found when trying to make the Quinta operate efficiently. However, with the occasional light-bulb moment and flash of inspiration we now have robust, workable, cost-effective and reliable systems that require as little on-going maintenance as possible.

In general, every system has a back-up. The electricity is made through photovoltaic arrays backed up with a 3-phase genny, the water is heated through solar panels backed up with a gas powered “zero-loss” boiler, there is not one water-pump but two, (and both running off different power supplies), there are two dishwashers, 2 washing machines, etc etc. In this way, should the inevitable happen at any time and a machine or system have a glitch or breakdown, the Quinta is still operational while the problem is fixed with little or no inconvenience to the Quinta’s guests.


Electricity
First and foremost, the Quinta is not on the grid, so we make all our electricity ourselves. The Quinta is run 90% by the sun and we keep the place as ecological as possible with an extremely low carbon footprint. We have a “mixed” system, i.e. solar and generator. This is by far the most practical, robust and economical system.
In an average year, at present, we have a total electricity and water maintenance and running cost of €8,000, (inc. IVA but not including depreciation of infrastructure).
This cost will obviously rise in the future when one looks at the present state of the world, but it’s a far cry from the recent price rises for local State-supplied utilities which were in the region of 300%.

The vast majority of the electricity we use, including that for our water supply, is produced by photovoltaic arrays which are backed up by a 3-phase generator running a couple of hours a day on half-price agricultural diesel.
In terms of use, you won’t notice any difference from a normal household, apart from a lack of mini-bar fridges and air con as in a “normal” lodge. The problem of mini-bars is avoided by having a bar that is operational the majority of the time. The problem of air con is avoided by having well-designed and built structures with plenty of insulation.

The technical aspects are as follows …
The electricity supplied to the buildings is to the normal European standard of 240 volts. This electricity is stored in twenty-four 2 volt batteries, wired in series to produce 48 volts which is then inverted by a Sunny Island invertor to supply 240 volts. The batteries can produce 1,450 amps per hour for 100 hours thus with a maximum capacity of 69 kilowatts.
The Sunny Island invertor can produce 8 kilowatts for 30 minutes or 6 kilowatts continuous. This is backed up by a Sunny Boy Direct Invertor mounted on the rotating photovoltaic array that produces 3.6 kilowatts. This is added to the 6 continuous; thus the system produces 9.6 kilowatts of continuous power – way more than is ever demanded of it.
During the day there is no power normally taken from the batteries as the Sunny Boy provides power direct from the photovoltaic arrays, thus saving the batteries to supply power only when the photovoltaic arrays are not functional, i.e. on cloudy days or at night.
The Sunny Island Invertor is an intelligent system that is programmed to monitor the batteries constantly and thus prolong their life. For example, should the batteries ever be at 80% of their capacity for 3 hours, the genny will start up automatically to keep them topped up, and the same will happen should they be at 70% capacity for 2 hours or at 60% for 1 hour or 50% for 20 minutes etc etc. This actually happens very rarely, most often during the winter if it’s cloudy for several consecutive days when we’re shut and therefore have little necessity of the genny. It’s actually better for the system as a whole to make use of the genny every other day during the winter for 20 minutes or so.
The generator is 3-phase, capable of 21 kilowatts; again, way more than is ever demanded of it. There is also a “Phase-regulator” installed which equalizes the phases when the genny is running, thus making the genny run more efficiently and prolonging its life. The genny starts automatically if needed, but can also be started manually on a timer .

There are three photovoltaic arrays; one fixed, (that only powers the solar pump), another fixed, (supplying power to the main system) and the last rotating, (again supplying power to the main system).
The batteries are checked twice per year and re-filled with distilled water should this be needed.
Each room has a fuse box, with, up-line of these, fuse boxes in the individual “blocks” and a main fuse situated in the battery shed.
The basic outline of the system is that the photovoltaic arrays charge the batteries during the day whenever the sun is shining on them, and the power stored in the batteries is changed from 24 volts to 240 volts by the Sunny Island Invertor.
Whenever the genny is used to power the 3-phase dishwasher, power is also generated as a free by-product both to charge the batteries and to pump water to the Charca, (the water tank), should this be needed.

Thus, by putting on a load in the 3-phase dishwasher after dinner we also charge the batteries last thing at night so that there is always enough power to get us through to the next day. (In actuality, the batteries have enough power stored in them to enable the Quinta to run normally with no lack of power for 2-3 days, but you get the picture.) The 3-phase dishwasher can do a load in 20 minutes, so a couple of loads done during dinner is usually sufficient – any extras are loaded into the normal dishwasher for cleaning with the breakfast detritus during the morning when the sun is shining. This normal dishwasher does a load in 3 hours, but basically costs nothing to run.

In this way, while any use is made of the 3-phase dishwasher, we are also charging the batteries and pumping water at no extra cost and any use of the normal dishwasher during the day incurs no costs for the Quinta. Both dishwashers have hot water fed to them from the solar system, thus avoiding the need for them to use electricity to heat the water.
This system, (feeding water pre-heated by the sun into the machines), is also used with the clothes-washing machines, and this saves, literally, thousands of euros every year. Both washing machines are working pretty well all day simply on the power supplied direct from the sun with no need for the genny to start.

Finally, there is an electric fence that switches on automatically every night to deter the Wild Boar from partying in the garden. These animals can do a great deal of damage in a single night. 

Water-feed and heating
The water from the taps comes from the lake and is pumped to the Charca at the top of the hill by a solar pump, from where it comes down the hill again, (giving us our pressure of 2 bar in the bathrooms). This solar pump is operational any time that the sun is shining on the pump’s photovoltaic array and is completely autonomous of our main electricity supply. It is backed up by the 3-phase pump running off the genny when needed. By having two pumps operating off two separate power supplies, the water-feed system is rendered both more robust and cheaper to run, i.e. we hardly ever use the 3-phase pump during the winter as, with no irrigation, we use far less water.
Water pumped up to the Charca falls into it from a height of 3 mts, thus aerating it and inhibiting algae growth. There are also several types of fish in the Charca to prohibit any mosquito problem.
The Charca level is checked first thing every morning with a phone-mounted camera app, and the fish fed every couple of days. The Charca’s overflow is piped first into the stone bowl outside the kitchen window, from where it enters the drain and waters the garden below the West Wing, but it also has another four piped exits into four distribution points behind and above the main buildings thus watering the hillside behind the Quinta.
Once the main feed comes down towards the house it is passed through three types of filtration, firstly a solid mesh, followed by an advanced, self-cleaning Backwash Filter before finally passing by an Ultra-violet bulb which thoroughly cleans it so that it’s fit for human consumption. There is, finally, one more filter for any water entering the dishwashers as these are pernickety machines and demand special treatment if we are to avoid expensive visits from the Miele engineers. Once a year the whole system is flushed with a chlorine solution which cleans all remaining pipe-work.
Water that is solely intended for garden use bypasses the last two of these filtration systems but has instead a series of solid mesh filters which are cleaned once a week on average. This cleaning takes 15 minutes.
Hot water is primarily made with the solar panels mounted behind the kitchen, and this system is backed up by a “Zero-loss” boiler. The vast majority of the time there is no need for the Zero-loss boiler to function at all, but with the Quinta full in inclement weather it is essential. The boiler is fueled by propane gas fed off the same feed as supplies the gas cooker in the kitchen.
There is storage of 1,500 lts of piping-hot water.

Rubbish
We re-use if possible and re-cycle if not, so there’s very little rubbish that is actually going to landfill. Anytime we’re going out to pick things up we take any rubbish out and drop it off. We re-use any food waste, (either dogs, chickens or compost), and chuck bottles, cardboard and plastic into the various containers in the Bombas, (the petrol station), in Santa Clara. We can’t be bothered with tins having been cut too many times to make it attractive.

Waste water
As far as possible we re-use all the water we take from the lake, but as the Quinta sits directly above its own water-feed it is of course vital that our wastewater is cleaned and disposed of efficiently.
The first line in the Quinta’s wastewater management is that all wastewater is divided into several different “runs” and areas to avoid saturation at any point.
The dirtiest water is, in fact, not human waste but the wastewater from the washing machines. This wastewater cannot be re-used, so it has its own dedicated soak-away set apart from any other wastewater system.
The wastewater from the kitchen also has some detergent in it but is far less chemically-laden and can be re-used in the garden once the oils and fats have been extracted. This is done with the Fat-trap situated outside the kitchen. After the fat-trap this wastewater is piped along a soak-away ditch through the garden.
The main wastewater from the bathrooms is divided into grey-water, (water from sinks, showers and baths), and black-water, (water containing human waste).
Black-water goes into a septic tank with three divisions before entering a soak-away, while grey-water bypasses the septic tank and flows straight to a soak-away.
The Quinta’s wastewater in this regard is divided into 2 septic tanks and 2 soak-aways, that for the West Wing running west with everywhere else going east.
As with most of the Quinta’s management systems, both septic tanks are far larger than needed, but this has the advantage that they only need emptying once every fifteen years. I have emptied them twice since I built them, (the last in 2018), and both times it has been unnecessary. However, I prefer to err on the side of caution in this respect.

Space Heating
There are two Heat-recuperators, one in the Private Side and one in the Banana Salon.
That in the Banana Salon heats just that room, and is usually only used during April, some of May and October – bearing in mind that we’re closed November to March.
That in the Private Side is a different beast altogether as it is far larger, and the heat produced is piped to seven different rooms – basically the whole of the private side and two kid’s rooms. Thus one fire keeps us warm all winter.
Andorinha has a small but efficient Wood-burning Stove. The rooms in the West Wing are heated with portable gas burners should this be necessary.
The wood necessary to feed the Heat-recuperators and Wood Burner comes from the Quinta’s own land and therefore costs nothing apart from a little petrol, chain saw blades, some sweat and a little time – it’s a decent-enough way of keeping occupied during the winter and working off the excesses of the summer.

Irrigating the garden
There are fourteen automatic irrigation “runs” present throughout the garden totaling approx. 100 separate sprinklers. These runs are programmed individually so that every run can turn on at a different time in order that they always have enough pressure for every sprinkler involved in that run to operate efficiently. The various runs are checked once a week to make sure they’re always operating efficiently and that no sprinklers have become clogged or are broken.

Internet
The Quinta has a satellite system installed using Starlink. This is the fastest available system here and we have a large wifi capability installed at no little cost throughout the Quinta. At present it’s cheap at quadruple the price – but don’t tell them.
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