How To Save Energy In Germany This Winter – They say it’s going to be a tough winter in Germany and the rest of Europe. Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the EU reducing their energy dependence on Russia, energy, and related rent costs, are increasing dramatically. It leaves many worried about being able to pay their bills and having to change their personal habits to adjust to yet another unwanted new norm.

While Germany must do everything possible to shield the most vulnerable from the rising costs, like low-income earners and pensioners, the current reality of the war and worsening climate change makes it necessary to stop funding Russia while doing what we can to save the planet.

That said, there are numerous ways to save energy in Germany this winter while still staying warm and working to ensure you won’t get expensive energy bills.

How To Save Energy In Germany This Winter

Before getting into our energy savings tips, it’s important to understand how we got to where we are now.

Germany has a huge reliance on Russian gas and oil, a tragic legacy left to us by previous leaders who thought it a wise decision to accept cheap energy and make a long-term deal with a dictator. Not that many of the other countries offering alternatives are that much better with human rights (i.e. Qatar and Azerbaijan), but the decision to get much of our energy from Russia enabled them to gain and exert undue influence over Europe. Instead of diversifying our sources or investing in more green energy alternatives, we made a regrettable deal that put our economic interests over what was the morally right and sensible thing to do. 

Recommended reading: Ways You Can Help Ukrainians In Berlin

With much of the continent supporting Ukraine, Russia retaliated by either reducing the gas flows to some countries or cutting off some countries entirely. In August, Germany was only receiving 20% of the usual supply while Poland and Bulgaria were the first countries to be cut off back in the spring. Russia’s moves introduced uncertainty to the market and caused prices to soar even higher.

As of September 3, Russian turned the Nord Stream 1 pipeline off indefinitely citing “technical issues” due to Western sanctions. It’s no coincidence this was done on the same day that the G7 announced a plan for a price cap on Russian oil intended to bring down energy costs and reduce Russia’s income stream and influence. It remains to be seen if the price cap plan will even be moved forward and even then, work as expected.

The drama turned up a game-changing notch on September 26. when both Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 were sabotaged causing explosions, gas leaks, a fresh environmental catastrophe, higher gas prices, and a huge escalation of tensions between Russia, Ukraine, and their Western allies. Everyone is speculating about who carried out this act of terror, German authorities fear that the pipelines may never be fixed, and countries like Norway are rushing to safeguard their energy infrastructure with heightened security measures. New threats by Russia to cut off another pipeline to Europe remain on the horizon as well.

Meanwhile, our storage tanks our almost full for winter and while much of this depends on a mild winter and people consuming less energy, plans are in place to mitigate risks like a big gas shortage or rolling blackouts. EU member countries have signed agreements with one another to share resources as needed. Alternative energy sources are being developed like LNG projects and if absolutely needed, Germany will make use of coal plants and even our nuclear power plants (although one of them was recently shut down as repairs are needed). Since Ukraine has recently been connected to the EU’s power grid, they too can provide electricity – unless Russia destroys that infrastructure too in order to deprive Ukraine of revenue and the EU of further energy.

Some are justifiably feeling anxious about the pipeline being shut off, but I personally see it as a positive development in the long term. The EU has woken up to a very harsh reality and Russia has lost a very lucrative income source. In my (very humble) opinion, there’s no reason to panic yet. We will have some hard times ahead of us, but the definition of hard times is a subjective one. Everything pales in comparison to what Ukrainians are going through right now – full stop.

The current energy crisis continues to be an ongoing saga and however things play out, it’s going to impact us for this winter and possibly beyond.

Gas companies have been allowed to pass costs along to consumers (although the regulations are expected to be further amended) and we’re going to feel some financial pain. Many landlords have already issued rent increases. For example, I just got notice of a rent increase that started with immediate effect in September. Fortunately, it was only a monthly increase of €20 but I’ve heard from others in Berlin saying they’ve received much larger rent increases.

The German government is now ordering a string of measures to help save energy and minimize costs, like turning off lights at monuments during the night, not heating private pools, ensuring heat is kept to a low in public buildings, and more. They’ve also already done things to ease pressure on households, like the €9 ticket which included one month of unlimited public transit and travel by regional trains throughout the entire country during June through August. It proved so popular, they’re working on ways to bring it back in some form. Berlin is about has kicked off a €29 ticket for three months – although it only allows for travel in Berlin’s A/B zones. We’re received a €300 (taxable) payment in September.

The economic aid won’t end there, so it’s reasonable to expect we’ll see more help in times ahead like the recently drafted €65 billion relief package.

Our Top Energy Saving Tips

There’s power in knowing that the costs will be higher. It gives us time to prepare and learn what we can do to reduce our energy consumption this winter – either gas, oil, and electricity.

Here’s our list full of, obvious and not-so-obvious, tips about how to save energy in Germany this winter. Note, that some tips help you more than others, but at this point, every bit counts.

1) Change how you heat your home. 

Some no-brainers are to keep the heat on low, only heat the rooms you’re in, and turn the heat off when you’re not home.

If you want to be fancy, get yourself smart heating switches that work with Alexa or via an app. They allow you to remotely turn on your heat before getting home from work or set a schedule to turn off the heat soon after falling asleep.

We recommend these ones that work with the typical radiators you find in German flats: 

You can also get a portable space heater but only do so after researching if it’s really going to reduce your energy consumption, as it could actually end up costing you more.

Some space heaters to consider:

An unfortunate effect of keeping your house cool is the potential for mold build-up. When you’re drying clothes, do it in a big well-ventilated room, open the windows for a while to bring in some fresh air, or pump up the heat for a short time. Another tip is to air out your flat, one room at a time.

If you want to know how humid it is in your flat, think about buying a hygrometer:

I have the SwitchBot one and it’s a great way to track temperature and humidity levels at home.

2) Find other ways to stay warm. 

There’s always the option of cuddling up with a loved one, be it a canine, feline, or human companion, or piling on layers of clothes. But how else can you stay warm?

Go to bed with a hot water bottle or use an electric blanket. While the purchase of an electric blanket made me feel like an elderly grandma, I got an electric blanket a few years back and use it all of the time during winter.

For hot water bottle inspiration: 

And for electric blankets:

You can also consider going to bed with a pair of thermal socks:

3) Be mindful when washing dishes. 

In almost all cases, you save more energy by using the dishwasher versus washing dishes by hand. Of course, there are things you still need to wash by hand, like wooden cutting boards or chef’s knives, but you can bring that to a minimum.

When using your dishwasher, only run a wash when it’s full and use an eco-setting.

Similarly, if you hand wash, only wash when the sink is full. Washing several times throughout the day only uses up more water. Further to that, use warm water vs really hot water, fill the sink with a small amount of water for washing, and don’t leave the water running for long periods of time. Although I’m skeptical, expert advice even says that rinsing soap off isn’t necessary. 

If you’re purchasing a new dishwasher, buy an energy-saving one.

4) Take a shower vs bathing.

While I’m pretty precious about regularly having long bubble baths, I’m going to alter my behavior this winter. Common advice is to take shorter showers, at lower temperatures, and less frequently. There’s no need for a scalding hot shower. Even better is turning off the water when you’re applying shampoo and conditioner or lathering up with soap.

Another idea is to buy an energy-efficient shower head:

Or use a flow limiter:

When you brush your teeth, don’t leave the water running and the same applies when washing your hands.

You can also skip using a hair dryer and opt to towel dry it instead with a super absorbent fast-drying towel. Check out some of these:

5) Get smart with your lights.

If you’re not in the room, turn off the lights. Make your home more romantic by using candles.

Even better is buying LED bulbs that seem to last forever and use way less energy. While more expensive than traditional light bulbs, it will save you in the long-term.

Some examples to point you in the right direction:

You can also get smart bulbs that work with Amazon and Apple home, as well as other apps. You can do things like walk into a room and say “Hey Siri, turn on the lights” or even schedule a morning wake-up call to a special colored light.

Here’s an example:

6) Deal with your windows.

Another way to save energy in Germany is to close your windows to keep the heat in, especially at night. As much as you like fresh air, limit how often and for how long you keep your windows open.

At night when temperatures really drop, keep the curtains or blinds closed too. This encloses the heat inside your flat and ensures the cold stays out.

Consider buying a thermal blackout curtain to help even more. There are plenty of affordable options out there:

Make sure your curtains don’t cover your radiators as it will limit the flow of heat through your flat. It’s also a good idea to make sure your radiators aren’t blocked by furniture either.

7) Switch up how you do your laundry.

While it’s time-consuming and tedious, you can hand wash your nicer items of clothing.

Only run a wash when you have a full load, use an eco-option, avoid long washes that go for hours, and don’t run a wash using high temperatures. A colder wash (40 degrees or less) can reduce energy use by up to 80%! Use detergent that cleans your clothes efficiently and won’t require a re-wash.

If you’re one of those rare unicorns who have a dryer in Germany, avoid using it altogether and hang your clothes, towels, and bedding on a rack to dry.

If you’re buying a new appliance, look for an energy-saving washing machine.

8) Refine your cooking habits.

Using your oven and stove less will help you reduce your energy consumption. Use some of your small appliances instead, like a microwave, toaster oven, panini press, etc. 

Some people have opted to purchase hot plates/induction hobs like this:

When I moved into my new flat back in January, I used one of these for months as I waited on my new kitchen to be installed and it actually worked quite well.

Another power move (pun intended!) to help you save energy in Germany is unplugging your appliances when you’re not using them. This includes things like a blender, coffee maker, toaster, power bar, and more. Over the long run, you’ll save a significant amount of cash

The tech-savvy among you can opt for smart-plugs:

You can also add energy saving taps around the house, which will be especially helpful in your kitchen:

Some bonus tips:

1) Reduce how much you watch TV and how long you leave it on – don’t fall asleep and leave it running all night.

2) Don’t turn your modem off at night. It can mess with your bandwidth, and cause issues with your modem.

3) Read even more tips from the government on how to save energy in Germany.

That concludes our eight top ways to save energy in Germany. Are we missing anything? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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About Our Author

  • A Canadian who’s been living in Berlin for 10 years, Cheryl’s moved here not once, but twice. During her time in Berlin, she’s had five different visas and worked as both a freelancer and permanent employee for a number of Berlin companies. She even managed to find a new job during the pandemic. That said, Cheryl knows what it takes to move to Berlin and find work.

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