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ENERGY

8 simple ways you can save on heating costs in Germany

Massively rising energy prices in Germany mean many people are already getting anxious about heating costs this autumn and winter. We break down some of the most simple ways you can save on your energy bills.

A man checks the window sealing with a sheet of paper.
A man checks the window sealing with a sheet of paper. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Zacharie Scheurer

Though it might seem strange to be talking about keeping warm in the height of summer, the subject of heating costs is already on a lot of people’s minds and experts are advising people to already take measures to save on their heating bills this winter. Here are 8 simple ways you can make savings. 

1. Keep your radiators clear

Though radiators can sometimes be unsightly, using covers or obscuring them with furniture or clothes can be costly, as a radiator can only efficiently heat a room if it is uncovered.

So, let your radiator be free, and thereby increase its efficiency and decrease your heating costs. 

READ ALSO: ‘Difficult winters ahead’: Germany sets out emergency energy saving measures

2. Check your windows

One common way that homes can lose heating is through unsealed windows.

A simple method to check if your windows are sufficiently sealed is to insert a sheet of paper between the frame and sash (the part which moves and holds the glass panes together). If the paper doesn’t rip when you pull it out, then it‘s a sure sign that air can enter through the gap in the same way.

With older windows, the seal may have become brittle or damaged. In this case, the only thing that helps is to get a new seal.

To do this, remove the old seal and thoroughly clean the surface so that there is no adhesive residue. You can get replacement foam and rubber gaskets from most hardware stores and stick these on quite easily yourself.

Failing that, long plush animals and blankets can also be used as draught stoppers on window sills.

3. Insulate your radiators

In most older buildings in Germany, radiators are usually installed in niches under the windows. The thinner walls in this part of the building are often a weak point, where you can lose precious heating energy.

But you can quite easily remedy this situation by yourself, even as a tenant, by insulating the wall behind the radiator.

You can buy prefabricated insulation panels – styrofoam panels laminated on one side with aluminum – from most hardware stores.

By installing these panels behind every radiator, you can reduce the heating losses through the brickwork by up to 90 percent.

4. Cover your pipes

Exposed and uninsulated heating pipes can waste a surprising amount of heat.

Insulation shells make it easy to insulate heating pipes. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Silvia Marks

But luckily, solving the problem is very straightforward. You can buy special pipe insulation materials and insulating tape in most DIY stores for only €3 to €10 per metre. 

5. Choose the right heating method

One reader recently asked The Local if it was a good idea to use a portable electric heater instead of the central heating system to save on energy costs. 

At the moment, electricity costs in Germany are currently at an average of 30 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to oil and gas costs of 15 cents per kilowatt hour. This means that using electric heaters would be almost double the cost of using a radiator and should be avoided.

A green power plug in front of an electricity bill. Photo: picture alliance / Jens Kalaene/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa | Jens Kalaene
 
However, people should keep an eye on gas prices because it is likely that they too will soon increase, so it could be that electrical heating devices will end up being cheaper come winter.

6. Shorter showers instead of long baths

In Germany, heating water accounts for around 13 percent of heating costs. Though luxury bubble baths are a treat that many look forward to in the winter, it’s best to do without them as often as you can and opt for a quick shower. 

READ ALSO: ‘Save now’: German energy regulator warns gas bills could triple

7. Get a water-saving shower head

Having switched from baths to showers, you can reduce your water heating costs even more by getting an economy shower head. These devices either simply reduce the flow of the water, or use technical means to treat the water so that, despite the reduced volume, it feels like a full shower jet.

You can get these special shower heads for as little as €20.

8. Ventilate properly

Though it might seem counter-intuitive, ventilating your home at regular intervals can also help reduce heating costs, as humid air warms up less quickly than dry air.

Short bursts of ventilation with the windows wide open are optimal – preferably three to four times a day. 

READ ALSO: Cost of living: How to save money in Germany this summer

Useful Vocabulary:

sealed = dicht

unsealed = undicht

shower head = (der) Duschkopf

heating pipe = (das) Heizrohr

insulation = (die) Isolierung

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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ENERGY

How electricity prices are rising across Germany

As the year draws to an end, price comparison portals have observed huge spikes in electricity costs across Germany - though the scale of the price hikes vary across different regions.

How electricity prices are rising across Germany

According to analysis carried out by comparison portal Check24, there were at least 580 cases of price increases in the basic electricity supply at the beginning of the year, with around 7.3 million households affected.

Electricity costs increased by an average of 60 percent, the analysis found, though in some cases were much higher. In the case of the Cologne-based supplier Rheinenergie, a kilowatt hour of electricity has gone up to 55 cents – 130 percent higher than the previous price. 

Comparison portal Verifox, which conducted its own analysis, found that prices were rising by an average of 54 percent across the board. 

“The new year is beginning with a massive wave of price increases for electricity,” said Verifox energy expert Thorsten Storck.

Analysts also noted strong regional differences in the scale of the price increases, with Munich and Cologne topping the list for the most expensive electricity. 

In Munich, a kilowatt hour of energy will cost 61.9 cents from January, compared to 55 cents in Cologne.

Meanwhile, MVV Energie in Mannheim, Baden-Württemberg, will charge almost 45 cents per kWh for its basic supply from January onwards – instead of the previous 27 cents. The East German energy supplier EnviaM, based in Chemnitz, will charge 48.1 cents in the future – 20.1 cents more than before.

In Potsdam in Brandenburg, the region supplier is raising its electricity prices by around 21 percent to 46.5 cents per kilowatt hour.

READ ALSO: ‘It’s going to be a bleak winter’: How people in Germany are coping with the energy crisis

Why are the prices so high? 

In a statement explaining the imminent jump in prices, Rheinenergie pointed to the huge increase in their procurement costs and other overheads.

“Compared to the previous year, prices on the electricity exchanges have risen by more than 300 percent,” they explained. “At their peak they had increased more than tenfold. In addition, the grid fees are also rising.” 

The extreme spike on the markets is yet another consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has sent the price of natural gas soaring.

An electricity pylon near a motorway in Lower Saxony.

An electricity pylon near a motorway in Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Moritz Frankenberg

Though gas isn’t the only component involved in producing electricity – much cheaper renewables also account for a decent portion of Germany’s supply – it does have a significant impact on prices. That’s because of something known the “merit order,” in which the most expensive gas-fired plant used to produce electricity is decisive in setting the cost.  

READ ALSO: Germany’s Scholz dims lights on Christmas tree amid energy squeeze

What can customers do?

How to handle the latest wave of price increases may in part depend on who your current supplier is.

According to Udo Sieverding, an energy expert at the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer advice centre, people using a private supplier should consider whether it would make more sense to fall back on the so-called “basic supply.” 

“Customers outside the basic supply should even consider making use of the special right of termination in case of price increases and let themselves fall into the basic supply,” he said. 

The basic supply – or Grundversorgung – is generally provided to people who don’t set up their own electricity or energy contract with another supplier. Prices are set on a regional level and used to be considered expensive, but in recent months they have generally slipped below the rates offered by private companies. 

For people already using the basic supply, the situation is a bit trickier.

“The electricity price increases at the turn of the year are in part drastic,” said Sieverding. “Unfortunately, the new customer tariffs via the intermediary portals are even higher, which means that a change of supplier won’t lead to savings in most tariff areas.”

That means it could make sense to sit tight for now and accept the higher prices, but keep an eye on any deals that could be offered in the coming months. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to save money on your German electricity bill

Will electricity stay this expensive in the future? 

Energy prices were rising dramatically even before Russia’s war on Ukraine – in part due to pandemic supply issues – and experts don’t think they’re set to drop anytime soon. 

According to analysis by Check24, a sample household with an annual consumption of 5000 kWh paid an average of 29.4 cents per kWh in November 2020. One year later, it was 31.6 cents. Currently, the average is 42.7 cents.

Apartments in Lower Saxony

A few apartments are lit up in a tower block in Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

Electricity market expert Mirko Schlossarczyk, who works for consultancy firm Enervis, said 40 cents per kilowatt-hour was likely to be the new normal in 2023 and 2024, and that prices could even rise to 50 cents per kilowatt-hour after that. 

Although wholesale electricity prices could fall again significantly in the future, as a result of a prospective drop in gas prices and the increased expansion of renewable energies – the noticeably larger share of the end customer price would be accounted for by levies, surcharges, fees, and taxes, Schlossarczyk said.

“We will not see a return to 32 cents (the pre-war price) in the coming years simply because of the comparatively high wholesale electricity price level and the already announced increases in grid fees,” he added. 

But isn’t there supposed to be a price cap coming?

That’s right: from March 2023, the government plans to introduce a cap on electricity prices that will apply retrospectively from January.

However, this still won’t take electricity bills back to pre-war levels. Instead, 80 percent of a household’s normal electricity consumption will be capped at a price of 40 cents per kilowatt hour, while any excess over this will be billed at ordinary market prices.

That is likely to mean that households that don’t reduce their consumption by at least 20 percent still face much higher bills, and even those that do will pay an average of eight cents more for a kilowatt hour of electricity than they were in 2021. 

READ ALSO: Germany plans to cap energy prices from start of 2023

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