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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Ask VMW: I have questions about the German radiators, heating and some other things

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ask VMW: I have questions about the German radiators, heating and some other things

I recently received a question from an American renting a home in Germany.

I have a couple questions about saving energy in German homes. I’ve asked my landlord this, but there may have been a language barrier,and she didn’t quite answer my questions, so maybe you can help.  Underneath my kitchen sink, there’s a little tank and a water heater. I keep it on all the time. Is there much savings to shutting it off when I’m not home during the day? Should I be shutting it off when we’re on vacation? Also, during this time of year, I shut off our home heat during the day, and turn it on in the evenings.  Also, each radiator has a dial that starts with a snowflake, then 1-5, an infinitely symbol, then a 0 (zero). What’s the difference between the snowflake and the 0? And if we want to take a vacation during the winter, what setting should it be on so the pipes don’t freeze, but yet we’re not wasting energy?

And here's my answer...

Thanks for your questions!  Yes, you can still find German homes with the separate water tanks wherever you need the hot water!  I remember being at my German grandparents'  home and turning on the big water heater to the tub about four hours before you wanted to take a you had to plan ahead...forget to do that, then no bath.  Of course this only filled up the tub halfway...used to hate that.  Anyway, yes, they do draw electricity when you don't need them.  If it's a small tank, I'd go ahead and leave it on during the day.  Yes, it'll take some money to heat it, but in my opinion it would be worth it.  As you can see, it can be a hassle turning it on and off all the time and just remembering to do it before you need it.  Is it just the regular tank or one of those instant on tanks?  I am assuming regular.  If it's an instant-on, go ahead and turn it off.  Those will have hot water immediately as soon as you turn it on, or some have a setting where it won't draw electricity until you use it.  Otherwise, if it's not, you'll be sitting there, waiting for the water to heat up before you do dishes or whatever.

Onto your house heat.  Make sure your house thermostat is set at a reasonable amount.  Germans like to keep their homes cooler, by closing off doors and wearing sweaters in the winter inside...that's how they save.  You'll notice electricity is much more expensive over here.  And, if you have oil or natural gas, that can be pricey as well.  Americans living in Germany tend to have higher heating bills, cause we crank up the heat, leave doors open and walk around in shorts and flip-flops inside in winter.  Many Europeans will shut off their radiators , or rather set it to the snowflake setting at night and also when they leave the house.  This is too much work for me, so I just keep mine at 2 or 3 unless I am in the room, where it'll be at a 4 at most if we are really cold.  The difference between "0" and the snowflake setting on your radiator, is that there is still a small amount of circulation on the snowflake setting...just enough so no pipes freeze.  NEVER turn off ALL the heat in your home in winter.  There is too much potential for pipes to freeze and then bursting.  Your landlord will have a fit if that happens, and you'll end up paying for that damage I'm sure.  If you decide to close off some rooms you won't use in winter, then keep them on the snowflake setting as well.

I hope this answers your questions!  BTW, the heat registers are called "Heizkoerper" in German.  If you feel like playing with Google Translate (or whatever you like to use), here's a site that talks about energy saving,



Blogger HennyM said...

There are digital thermostats you can buy at any home improvement store and easily install onto your radiator. they are usually around 15 euros a piece, but you can set a certain temperature for certain times which will help you preserve energy as well. e.g. have it heat your house in the morning before you have to get up and turn down the temperature when you leave. so you won't have to remember to turn off the heat whenever you leave for work etc.

June 27, 2011 at 1:55 PM  

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