How electricity costs can be reduced despite high prices

Status: 20.11.2021 9:02 a.m.

Electricity prices are rising. Many people can influence how much this affects their own electricity bill. Energy advisors from the consumer centers show how electricity can be saved.

The television is on even though no one is watching. When Reinhard Schneeweiß walks into an apartment or house, he often sees this scene. “Even large, economical plasma screens need several hundred watts to operate. If you run in the background all day, you automatically consume a lot of electricity,” he says. The same applies to laptops and computers. Many people are not really aware of this.

Awareness of your own behavior

Awareness of one’s own consumption is just one point that the Saarbrücken architect points out when he gives an on-site energy consultation. Schneeweiß visits people at home around 20 times a month. Then he checks individual rooms and the electricity bill together, and tracks down energy guzzlers. “If I buy a water bed or run a terrarium with heating lamps, then of course I have to accept a higher bill,” he says.

Electricity bills will be higher for most this year. According to the Federal Statistical Office, private households paid an average of 32.62 cents per kilowatt hour in the first half of 2021. That was 4.7 percent more than in the second half of 2020 and 2.1 percent more than in the first half of 2020. The Federal Statistical Office has not yet received any figures for the second half of the current year. But because the high inflation rate of the past few months was characterized by an increase in energy prices, the price of electricity is likely to have risen further in the meantime. Comparison portals such as Verivox gave an average of 34.79 cents per kilowatt hour for October. However, the price of electricity also varies greatly – depending on consumption and provider.

Electricity price highest in Germany

A price analysis by Verivox based on data from the energy service Global Petrol Prices from 145 countries comes to the conclusion: In no other country in the world do households pay as much for electricity as in Germany. If you include high purchasing power, Germany still ranks 15th behind some much poorer countries.

For wholesalers, electricity on the stock exchange has risen by 140 percent since the beginning of the year. According to the Federal Association of Energy and Water Management, the main reasons were the economic recovery, the more expensive CO2 certificates and the more expensive electricity generation in gas-fired power plants. In addition, there is the high tax and duty burden, which makes up over half of the price.

Potential savings through lower consumption

How high the surcharges on the electricity bill will be for customers this year also depends on the respective consumption. The average electricity consumption of a household in Germany in 2019 was a good 3100 kilowatt hours per year. Single households used an average of less than 2,000 kilowatt hours and large households with at least three people used an average of almost 5,000 kilowatt hours.

If you want to reduce electricity costs, you should therefore check your own consumption. The classic according to Schneeweiß: old electrical appliances like the refrigerator. “Over time, the refrigerants in the cabinet evaporate and the cooling effort increases, so it draws more electricity.” According to the consumer advice center, a device that is more than 15 years old consumes around 295 kilowatt hours per year in a three-person household – a new one around 140. At an electricity price of 32.62 cents, that would mean annual savings of over 50 euros. Replacing an old oven with a new one could bring in up to 49 euros a year. In addition, you save around 15 percent energy if you bake with convection instead of top and bottom heat.

Potential savings even without new devices

A sensible investment that pays for itself quickly is to replace heating and hot water circulation pumps with high-efficiency pumps. “This can save 100 to 150 euros a year, you have up to 90 percent less power consumption than before,” explains Cathrin Becker from the consumer center in Saarland. When heating water using a boiler or instantaneous water heater, replacing it with a fully electrically controlled instantaneous water heater saves around 30 percent electricity.

Those who cannot or do not want to invest in new equipment can still save a few euros. “You can consciously use the eco programs in the washing machine and dishwasher or hang up laundry instead of turning on the dryer,” recommends Becker. In addition, many devices would have a high power consumption even in stand-by mode. A power strip that can be switched off can help here. “And you should check the usage settings on devices, for example on the router.” Today it could use as much electricity as a refrigerator.

Smaller apartment doesn’t mean less power consumption

Another classic, light, is no longer a big problem today, says architect Schneeweiß. “With the economical LED lamps – provided you use them, of course – switching off the lights no longer plays such a big role in the bill.” You should of course switch it off anyway when you are not using the room. It is a misconception that you use less electricity in a smaller apartment. “Consumption mainly depends on the users, not the size. Moving into a smaller apartment doesn’t really make a difference.”

Change of provider makes sense?

The consumer advice center does not want to go into the subject of change of provider at the moment. “The market is moving too violently. Many electricity suppliers change their prices at the turn of the year,” explains Becker. The comparison portals are overloaded. “Unfortunately, we cannot predict how long the price increase trend will last.”

Gratitude and rejection

Incidentally, many consumer advice centers offer a simple basic check free of charge. Consumer advocate Schneeweiß has been advising households since 2007. “Most of them are surprised and grateful afterwards,” says Schneeweiß. Like a mother who was happy to bake and didn’t even realize that her oven had practically no more seals. “In principle, she used it to heat the entire kitchen.” Others see his advice as an interference with their personal freedom. “It’s just suggestions.”

He himself is pleased that the topic of climate change and the energy transition is now much more present with consumers than it used to be – and that the market is also following. “Even when buying new electrical products, there are now very simple guidelines for estimating consumption.” If you use it, you save even before you are at home.

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