Saving Energy at Home: Top Tips for Everyday Life

Author: Hannes Ruegheimer

May 22, 2024 Sustainability / Electrical Product & Components

Owners, tenants and landlords alike are affected by the sharp rise in energy prices. Even simple measures and changes in everyday habits can help to reduce these costs.

Rising energy costs affect almost everyone. All the more so given that many consumers, particularly of electricity and gas, are bound by energy contracts that were originally entered into when prices were at an all-time high.
Consequently, when energy prices rose sharply in the winter of 2022, tips on how to be more energy efficient at home regained attention. Authorities and consumer associations emphasize the following: On average, lowering room temperature by one degree can save six per cent of heating energy. To ensure that heating systems work efficiently, furniture, curtains or panelling should not stand too close or cover them. They also advise regular venting.
Proper ventilation is also crucial: so-called cross-ventilation, with the heating turned off and the windows wide open, instead of leaving the windows tilted open for hours on end. Water-saving shower heads can reduce the hot water consumption - as can keeping shower times as short as possible.

How can smart home devices help save money?

Can smarter technology also help? At the very least, manufacturers of smart home solutions claim their systems also help to reduce energy consumption. However, it's worth taking a closer look before investing: After all, potential savings depend largely on the residents' habits and daily routines. Johanna Pohl, environmental researcher at the Technical University of Berlin, summarizes: "If you are already setting your room temperature to 19 degrees, switch off the heating when ventilating and turn the heating down when nobody is home, you won't make any considerable savings with smart home devices."
However, smart systems will certainly help to avoid major mistakes - they shut down heating controls, for example, if a corresponding sensor recognizes that the window is tilted. Moreover, they make energy-conscious behavior easier by turning down all thermostats when everybody has left the house, rather than having to do this manually for every regulator. Temperature control could also be based on pre-programmed times, outdoor temperature and/or advanced algorithms, depending on the system. The latter, for example, recognizes when residents return home based on the GPS positions of their smartphones or it can learn the response time of the existing heating system, known as the heating curve.
That said, as smart home systems are quite expensive, it can take a long time for the investment to pay off. Depending on whether a foundation - such as a smart home-compatible internet router - is already in place, a three-room flat can quickly add up to costs of €1,000, or even €1,500 or more in a single-family home. How long it takes to amortize these costs through savings on heating costs depends on the heating type and amount of energy used in the building - residents should reckon with at least three years.

Power-saving tips

As is the case with heating energy, electricity consumption is also affected in a similar way. TVs, audio systems, PCs and printers should not be left on standby when not in use, but rather completely disconnected from the power supply via their main switch or, even better, via a power strip. LED lights consume significantly less energy than traditional light bulbs or many of the so-called energy-saving bulbs. And of course, lights should only be switched on where and when they are needed. Motion detectors, timers or smart controls can be useful here.
At first glance, this may come as a surprise: ECO programs of dishwashers and washing machines consume significantly less electricity than quick programs. Although they do run for longer, they have to heat the water significantly less - this has a positive effect on the electricity bill while achieving the same level of cleaning.
The German consumer organization "Verbraucherzentrale" adds further energy-saving tips: a lid on the saucepan reduces electricity consumption by around two thirds. Electric stoves should be switched off as early as possible to utilize the residual heat. Using the air circulation function in the oven saves around 15 percent of energy compared to bottom and top heat at the same target temperature. If you can also do without preheating, this saves around eight per cent of electricity.

Structural changes are only a solution in the medium run

Large-scale measures such as energetic restoration, the replacement of heating technology and other such measures, on the other hand, tend to be long-term projects and must always be carried out by the owner. Even if the allocation of these costs to tenants is limited by law, such refurbishments usually lead to rent increases - however, these are then offset by the energy costs saved.
"When it comes to heating in particular, we recommend waiting until the legally required municipal heating planning has been finalized anyway. Only then will it be clear if there will be a district heating connection for the address in question, for example," Michael Heinrich points out. Heinrich is the Product Manager for Energy Efficiency in DEKRA's Construction and Property division. "In any case, homeowners need sound advice that covers many dimensions. Our energy experts inspect the property and identify which measures make sense. For example, the substance of the building and the current heating solution also need to be taken into account." Last but not least, it is also important to know the right funding programs, with which government agencies often cover a relevant part of the costs. DEKRA offers such consultations for private customers - and of course also for companies, although these usually have other questions such as high-energy-consuming production processes or long-term site orientations.

When energy consultation is useful

Advice on saving electricity is also offered by consumer advice centers and other institutions. However, DEKRA expert Michael Heinrich recommends weighing up the costs and benefits here as well: "You can find most energy-saving tips online. A few minutes of internet research will provide the relevant checklists. You can find information material on topics such as cooking, washing or heating free of charge from consumer advice centers."
DEKRA energy advice for private customers and companies
DEKRA supports private households and companies in analyzing the savings potential of existing properties, energy optimization concepts for renovation projects or the creation of energy certificates, as required by the German Buildings Energy Act (GEG) for the sale, rent or lease of properties.