It´s that time of the year again, it is getting chilly outside, and the heaters are slowly being turned on. Every year the German-American Facebook groups and pages are then slammed with posts about “the walls  suddenly turning moldy” or “the heater making ‚off‘ noises”  o just plain confusion about that “big old dinosaur called heater” that usually lies in the basement.
So, let’s start with the basics:

1. Airing out your home properly

During the summer it‘s quite normal for you to leave the windows open somewhere in the house, and the air outside is usually pretty dry anyway. However, during the fall, and especially during the winter, the windows in our homes generally stay shut to keep the cold out.

German homes are usually built pretty air tight and a family of 4 produces almost 4 gallons of moisture inside the home every day, just from cooking, breathing, cleaning, washing clothes or bathing. This water has to go somewhere, and if it has nowhere to go it will settle on cold windows, in corners or along the wall creating damp spots. If you do not give these spots a chance to dry, mold will grow and that is obviously bad, bad for your home, and bad for your health. So, what should you do to prevent the accumulation of damp spots? You air out your house. The best way to do this is to open up your windows for a couple minutes, a couple times a day. Yes, it’s going to be chilly, but opening up the windows, versus just cracking them ensures a complete air exchange and gets rid of the moisture. If you just leave your window cracked all day long, it will waste energy and let more cold air in than necessary. You can go about this systemically, one room at a time, or simply open up a few windows at random, but it is almost always a good idea to open up your bathroom window right after you‘ve taken a warm shower or bath as this tends to be one of the rooms where moisture builds up the most.

2. Keeping your windows dry

Sometimes in the mornings you will see your cold windows covered in condensation, it is important to wipe your windows dry. Especially if you have wooden window frames, otherwise the wood can get damp and start to rot.

3. Heat your home efficiently

One of the things I hear most often, is that people will turn the heater completely off in certain rooms of the house, because those rooms simply aren‘t used quite as frequently, or even at all. Most people do this thinking that they can save money that way. However, if you do not use a room, it is important to still heat it at least a little because otherwise the heater has to work twice as hard to heat the entire home.

The recommended temperatures in your rooms are:

  • 73° – 69° F in the living room
  • 73° F in the children’s bedrooms (3 on the heater knob)
  • 77° F in the bathrooms
  • 65° F in the kitchen
  • 60° - 65° F in the bedroom (2 on the heater knob)
  • unused rooms should not drop lower than 60° F

4. Let your Landlord handle the “heater monster”

If your heater isn‘t working properly, call your landlord. Modern German heaters have so many adjustments, and programs, and they all work differently. That is why it is always your best bet to simply call your Landlord—before it gets really cold. Have him make sure the heater is switched from summer to winter mode, and that there is enough water running through the individual radiators, and if your house is heated with oil, make sure you have plenty of oil in the tank (seriously, if you run out of oil you‘ll not only be without heat but without hot water). If needed have your landlord explain to you how you can tell when the oil is getting low. It’s always a good idea to have him show you the main off switch for your heater as well, just in case.  If one of the radiators in a room starts to make gurgling sounds, it may be time to let the extra air that’s trapped in the lines out. It’s a quick fix, where you loosen the screw at the side of the heater and let air out, until water starts to spill out. Again, it’s a good thing to ask your landlord about.

If you have a fireplace in your house, use it to cover the times where the days are still warm, but the evenings are cold. It’s a great way to save a bit on the heating bill since you can warm your house without having to turn on the entire heating system.

Keeping these tricks in mind, should make the winter a bit more painless!