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Tips for saving energy: It’s getting dark in Germany

13. October 2022 Published by Raphael Doerr

“There are a thousand people in the town I come from. There are twice as many in the neighboring one. 300,000 in the nearest city. And soon four million in Berlin. We’ve come so far and seen so much. So much has happened that we don’t understand. I don’t know, but I wonder. How did you find me? One of 80 million.” Max Giesinger has rocked entire stadiums and thrilled hundreds of thousands of fans with his song “80 Million.” What Max managed to do, we can do too – that might have been the thinking by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) when it launched the Energy Change campaign in June this year with the headline “Love 80 Million.” So much has happened in recent months that we don’t understand – and that makes it all the more important to educate people, as the ministry is doing with its new campaign website about saving energy www.energiewechsel.de.

It offers numerous practical tips on saving energy from different areas and different life situations for consumers. The website also contains the following appeal: “Dear single-family home owners, dear city apartment tenants, dear house owners, dear entrepreneurs, dear craftspeople, dear 80 million: The climate crisis and the goal of independence from fossil energies mean that saving energy is more necessary than ever before. And we can all do our bit. The 41 million households in Germany consume around 670 terawatt-hours of energy for heating and electricity every year. In addition, industry, commerce, retailing and the service sector consume a further 1000 terawatt-hours of energy per annum. One terawatt-hour is one billion kilowatt-hours. A large number that can be significantly reduced with many small energy-saving tips. There are many ways to save energy in rented accommodation, in your own home, in your local authority or club and at companies. That is good for the climate – and financially. We in Germany can make a valuable contribution together. Let’s make ourselves more independent – starting from home!”

Dependencies are always a tricky issue – you fall into them quickly, but it’s a pretty tedious and difficult task to shed them. Dependence on Russian gas is no exception. But what counts are many small energy-saving steps that everyone can take and that also aid the successful move away from fossil fuels to renewables. And, as a nice side effect, they’re also easier on your wallet.

Smart home owners have a small advantage here, because they already benefit from the numerous smart ideas and products that help save energy. But in principle, every household can do that with the right solutions. This blog article shows what they are and what they look like.

The price of independence

What is the cost of independence from gas and what do you get in return? Well, consumers can save a few hundred euros over the year. Where and how does saving make sense? It’s best to look up what the experts recommend, in this case the Scientific Advisory Board of the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs. According to the German business newspaper Handelsblatt, it has submitted proposals for saving gas: The 38 economists suggest “collectively lowering the room temperature in all companies and public buildings for one week” in the event of a gas shortage in the winter. True, the direct effect would be negligible. Yet the car-free Sunday during the oil crisis “also etched itself into the consciousness of an entire generation as a symbol of the common effort to overcome the crisis,” the newspaper quoted. And the housing industry is calling for a minimum temperature of 16 to 18 degrees to be imposed in the worst-case scenario. That would apparently allow savings of up to 18 percent.

So turn down the room temperature. However, that’s easier said than done, because most radiators in many old apartments work according to the principle: all or nothing. Turned up full, they heat the place like it was hell, but at level 4 or 3 it’s more like permafrost: The room stays lukewarm to cold. So turn the heating off completely and only put it back on when you get home from work. But that doesn’t make sense either, because you go to bed at midnight – when the radiators are usually only just starting to emit their full heat. The solution? Do without the heating and buy a radiant heater or an electric heater. If you’re clever, you invest in smart thermostats, which cost little and deliver a big benefit.

Solution 1: Live simply and don’t worry about the right room temperature every day. From now on, Gigaset takes care of that with its smart comfort solutions, such as the Gigaset thermostat. It’s simple, smart and you retain full control over energy and costs. The Gigaset smart comfort products enable you to control radiators, for example, and to adjust the room temperature to the 18-20 degrees recommended by the BMWK. And if you want to have your home warmer because you’re coming down with the flu, you can do that while you’re out and about by using the Gigaset elements app. Saving energy with smart technology isn’t witchcraft and doesn’t cost a fortune. When you open the windows to give rooms a short, intense airing, for example, the thermostat automatically turns the radiator down. When used in conjunction with the Gigaset window sensor, the latter communicates when the window is open and the heating temperature is regulated. After the room has been aired, its temperature can be returned to a predefined level. That prevents the heating from being permanently on even though you’re not at home.

Electric radiators are experiencing a boom

More and more citizens fear a gas crisis and so demand for electric radiators is increasing and business is booming. From January to June alone, around 600,000 fan heaters were sold in Germany, the market research company GfK reported in response to an inquiry from the German daily newspaper “Tagesspiegel.” Anyone buying such appliances wants to be prepared for an emergency, namely gas supplies being cut off in the winter. The trend towards fan heaters and radiators is also confirmed by a survey conducted by the comparison website Verivox: 10 percent of respondents have already prepared themselves for an emergency and purchased a fan heater, radiant heater or radiator. 11 percent plan to do so and 19 percent are thinking about it. The survey was not just conducted among gas customers, but was representative of the population aged 18 to 69. The figures are high, partly because only about half of German households have gas heating. A quarter uses oil and the rest has district heating, for example. However, the boom in electric heaters is a cause for concern. Fan heaters may seem like a neat alternative, writes the news magazine Focus, given that they’re powered not by gas, but by electricity. Yet precisely that leads to completely different problems. If all households that now have gas heating were to obtain the same amount of heat from fan heaters, the German power grid would be bound to collapse.

And so it comes as no surprise that the municipal utility Stadtwerke Wiesbaden is already urgently warning against using fan heaters as an alternative in the event of a gas shortage, as reported by the TV station SWR. The fear is that the electricity grids will be overloaded and residents could then be plunged into darkness. Electric fan heaters consume a great deal of electricity, according to Peter Lautz, Managing Director of Stadtwerke Wiesbaden. If these appliances are increasingly used by many people, that might put an excessive strain on power grids and thus result in automatic shutdown of the affected areas. That would mean a power outage for everyone in the region, the expert told SWR.

Soaring prices

Above all, experts advise against continuous use, especially as the costs would be enormous: Using a 2,000-watt fan heater 10 hours a day would add around €220 to the electricity bill at the end of the month.

“For example, to heat a 50 m² apartment completely, you would need four to five 2,000-watt fan heaters. They cost between €150 and €200 to buy. The costs would therefore be around €3,400 at the current electricity price for the entire heating period from October to March. That’s something the vast majority of households can’t afford,” writes Fokus.

Less is more or more is less

So if you want to be gentle on your wallet, reduce energy dependency and at the same time help drive the switch to renewable energies, you should turn the temperature up or down or switch it off completely. To reduce the room temperature, you should therefore turn down the heating. But to save electricity, you should turn the temperature up on energy guzzlers like the freezer or refrigerator. The BMWK explains why that’s better:

“We Germans apparently like our food super-cooled – there’s probably no other explanation for the fact that the temperature in refrigerators here is very low, averaging 5.8°C. Yet 7°C is quite sufficient as the optimum refrigerator temperature. That’s worth your while: Just one degree higher cuts electricity consumption by up to 6%! By the way, why not also check the temperature in the freezer? Minus 18°C is ideal. That lets you turn your refrigerator into an energy saver.”

Switching off power guzzlers completely always makes sense if you don’t know exactly or can only surmise where they are. Usually, these are electrical appliances dozing away in standby mode at night. To be on the safe side, it’s advisable to use smart sockets such as the Gigaset Plug 2.0 ONE X.

Solution 2: With the Gigaset Plug 2.0, you can measure the power consumption of the various appliances in the household or use it as a switching socket for electrical devices. As a result, you can easily determine when the devices can be switched off or should be in operation. And if you’re not sure whether you’ve left the iron or TV on, you can also use the Plug 2.0 ONE X to switch off electrical appliances while you’re away from home, very conveniently using your smartphone and an app. That’s not only practical and ensures safety at home, but also helps to save electricity, especially when it’s not needed at all. “That means power guzzlers in the home are soon identified and can either be replaced or used more carefully,” says Lukas Brink, Product Manager at Gigaset. Thanks to this new means of detecting consumption, the smart plug identifies every power guzzler in the household: It controls exactly how much energy flows through the devices. In addition, you can easily switch unused devices on and off using a time rule. That’s a simple, yet effective way to save energy.

The church, for example, or more precisely the diocese of Regensburg, is adopting a completely different energy-saving approaches.

Videoconferences are out

The diocese’s employees are encouraged to use the stairs instead of the elevator. Energy-saving and environmentally-friendly measures are also planned for conferences: Only those who can use public transport or a bicycle are to come to in-person meetings. And the diocese wants to dispense with video conferences altogether in the future.

A nice idea, but one that would certainly not go down so well with many companies. However, what you should know is that videoconferencing applications can be extremely energy-hungry and eat up a lot of electricity when the camera is activated. That is revealed in an analysis by the company Greenspector.

Watch TV instead of streaming videos

Another idea to save power would be to watch movies on TV with your family, rather than streaming them on your smartphone. About 80 percent of the Internet’s power consumption is now caused by video streaming alone. There are giant data centers behind the web, and everything we do on it runs through data centers. That has consequences for energy consumption and the environment: “One hour of video streaming in full-HD resolution requires 220 to 370 watt-hours of electrical energy, depending on the terminal device used,” says Ralph Hintemann from the Borderstep Institute for Innovation and Sustainability.

Especially in winter, when the temperatures in the living room are lowered, it’s pitch dark outside early on, no lights are on because cities and municipalities have turned off the street lights to save energy, an evening watching TV together with family and friends is a pretty nice thing to do. Everyone sits and watches the box together – by candlelight, of course.

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