Written by 4:48 pm Financial Wellbeing

11 awesome winter energy savings tips for people living abroad

energy savings

Winter time is almost here, and for those of us living here in Europe, staying warm will be more expensive than ever before. 

Saving money while keeping the heat on is the #1 way to boost your bank account balance (and make your long-term wealth-building even better).

Here are our 11 favorite energy savings tips for people living abroad that make it easy to stay warm and save money this winter.  

Our top 11 favorite energy savings tips for winter

Turn down your thermostat (just a little bit) to save at least 7%🌡

Turning down your thermostat is by far the quickest and easiest way to save some money. 

For each degree (in Celcius) you drop, you can save 7% off of your energy bill.  

Depending on where you live, that could mean saving 15-20 EUR a month on your gas or electricity bill.  

A lot of us can probably go lower than 1C, too. It’s not uncommon to keep our homes at a relatively toasty 22C.  By dropping down to 20C or even 19.5C, you could drop your bill by 14-18%. 

As a bonus, you can unlock your inner child and walk around the house in sweatpants (you know you miss them) and your favorite hoodie to stay more comfortable.


Do you heat your house with gas? Drop the boiler’s setting to up your energy savings.♨

Over 30% of households in Europe use gas for either heating, hot water, or both. 

Depending on where you live, there’s a good chance you have a gas-powered water boiler in your home. 

If you have a condensing boiler that heats water on demand (i.e., “endless” water heater),  there’s a good chance you can lower its settings to save.

You can save in two ways here since many of these boilers provide hot water for faucets and radiators: 

  • Drop the hot water temperature on the boiler.  You can set how hot you want the water coming out of your taps. Generally, 40-42C is hot enough for showers. 

  • Turn down the flow temperature for radiators.  Radiators need hot water flowing in and out to give them heat. Most radiators have a default setting of 60C. However, you can lower this temperature down to 50C, which saves you between 6-8% a year and makes your system more energy efficient.

This article goes more in-depth into how these heating systems work and how you modify these changes.* 

*Important! please check the manual or with the manufacturer/your landlord before messing with your water heater.

Get your heater inspected and do the maintenance on your system to make your heating more efficient.💪

It’s a great idea to inspect your heating system before winter. Checking it will ensure that it’s operating properly and ready for uninterrupted use. (As a bonus, you can ask the technician about adjusting your settings in the tip above☝️).

There are a couple of things you can do to make your radiators more efficient: 

  • Purge the water in them so the radiator surfaces heat evenly.

  • Clean the radiator or vents to make sure that nothing is blocking airflow (it also cuts down on the dust in your house to boot)

  • Make sure nothing is blocking your radiator, which traps hot air from heating your rooms. 

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Do you have a smart thermostat? Now might be a great time to get one.🧠

Smart thermostats are a fantastic way to make your heating work more efficiently (and save you money over the winter). Unlike their ‘dumb’ predecessors, smart thermostats let you both program your heating and cooling, but also control it when you’re not home.

With this powerful tool, you can do awesome money-saving tricks like:

  • Programming your heat to drop during the day when you’re out, and at night when you’re sleeping. Conversely, you can set “warmer” periods like early in the morning or in the evening when you’re at home when you want the heat the most. 

  • Automatically turning the heat off when you leave the house, as most smart thermostats link to an app on your phone. Whenever the app detects you’ve left your home wi-fi network or your phone is outside of the house, it will either alert you to turn off your heat or do it for you automatically.
  • Monitor your consumption and adjust accordingly. Smart thermostats record your heating use, telling you when you’re consuming the most. Based on what it tells you, you can make further adjustments to your heating schedule. 

Installing one is one of the most energy-saving hacks you can make. According to a study by data analytics firm Gemserv, smart thermostats can save up to 22% on energy used for heating and cooling.  

Smart thermostats are fairly easy to install, and in many cases, you can do it yourself. That means that even if you rent, you can install one, keep the older ‘dumb’ thermostat, and then change it out before you move. (Or, you know, sell it to your landlord). 

Do you use electric radiators? You can save, too! 

In places like coastal Spain, it’s common to have portable electric radiators instead of built-in heating.  If that’s your case, you can get a smart plug, which is also programmable and controllable from afar.  While you won’t be able to set the temperature on the radiator, you can program the switch to turn on and off at certain times, saving you money in the process.  

Have ceiling fans? Run them in reverse in the winter to recapture hot air🌬️

When you think of ceiling fans, you usually think of summer.  But did you know that these super energy-efficient cooling systems (30-50 W/hr with a fan versus 3,500 W/hr with AC) can also help heat your house better?  

If you were paying attention in elementary school physics class, you learned that hot air rises while cool air sinks. When we run our heating, hot air gets trapped up in the rafters and at the top of our rooms.

Ceiling fans can run in reverse, which blows the hot air lingering up high down to floor level where you’re usually hanging out. That way, hot air stays down where you need it, which places less demand on your heating system. 

By some estimates, using a ceiling fan to boost your heating can save you up to 10% on your heating costs, increasing your energy savings without breaking the bank.

Blowing heat down, one way or another

Make your shower an energy savings machine with a new head and restrictor rings.🚿

Unless you go beast mode during the winter, there’s a pretty good chance you shower with hot water.  You can make your showers more efficient (both in water and in heating) through two cheap and easy tricks:

  • Change your shower head for a low-flow model. Low-flow shower heads reduce the amount of water coming out of the head by creating a pressure point. This technique gives you a stronger shower but with less water consumption. 

  • Add a flow restrictor ring/washer to your shower hose.  Like a low-flow head, a restrictor ring limits the amount of water going through the shower hose, which reduces consumption while keeping up the pressure. 

These techniques can save up to 40% of the water you use to stay clean. They also cut down your heating costs since they reduce the overall amount of water you use, boosting your energy savings as you soap up.

flow restricting shower rings for energy savings
A traditional shower hose washer/ring on the left, versus a flow-restricting one on the right.

Wash your clothes in cooler water to save tons of electricity.🧺 ⚙️✨

Washing machines use a lot of electricity, but did you know that 90% of your washer’s energy consumption goes towards heating the water? By lowering the temperature, you can save lots of money while still keeping your wardrobe fresh. 

If you’re worried about odors or cleaning, add cleaning vinegar to your wash cycle. Not only will this hack keep your clothes cleaner, but it will also prevent calcium from building up in your machine (making it last longer).

What’s more is that lower temperatures also extend the lifespan of most fabrics, which keeps your favorite outfits around longer (and you from having to replace them). 

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Does your electricity provider have rates that vary by the time of day? If so, learn how to game them for more energy savings.🎮

In a lot of countries, electricity rates vary by day and hour. The idea is that by having higher prices at peak consumption times, people reduce their usage (or at least pay more to do so). Conversely, electricity is cheaper during off-hours. 

Learning how to use this system to your advantage can help you save cash, which you can use to offset your heating costs or add to your investment goals.  

In Spain, where we’re based, the schedule looks like this: 

Most expensive timesMonday through Friday:
– 10:00-14:00
– 18:00-22:00
Medium cost timesMonday through Friday:
– 08:00-10:00
– 14:00-18:00
Cheapest timeMonday through Friday:
– 0:00-8:00

All day on the weekends and public holidays

Based on that schedule, you can save money by running your high-consumption appliances (dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, etc.), during lower-cost time slots. 

Importantly, if you use electricity to heat your house, you can combine this schedule with a smart plug or thermostat to more efficiently heat your home this winter.

Each country or even energy provider has different rules, so it’s definitely worth checking to see how your electricity pricing varies. 

Do you know how much electricity your appliances are really using? Get a plug-in meter and find out.🔌

Unsure about which devices are using the most electricity in your house? There’s an easy way to find out: with a plug-in meter! 

A plug-in meter gives you a real-time reading of how much electricity the devices plugged into the socket are using.  A basic one usually is under 20 EUR and with fancier ones, you can even program in your electricity costs.

What’s great about these meters is it enables you to see if there’s an idling appliance or charger in your house using power for no good reason. That way, you can either unplug it or use it more efficiently.  Some smart plugs also come with a power meter built-in, so if you’re looking to get one, you might be killing two birds with one stone, especially if it’s for running an electric radiator. 

Insert image: plug-in meter

Concerned about how much energy you spend cooking? Don’t order out more – cook in bulk!🍲

Whether they are gas or electric-powered, running an oven or a stove can consume a lot of energy. Instead of cooking full dinners every evening (or worse on the wallet: ordering out!), meal prep in bulk and save some serious cash this winter. 

Here, you have a couple of choices: 

  • Cook all of your meals for the week on a Sunday. Cooking your weekly meals in one batch saves you time and energy (especially if you have a lower power rate on the weekends).

  • Use a slow cooker like a Crock-Pot to make delicious meals in bulk. Slow cookers are amazing kitchen appliances that let you cook a lot of food for a small amount of electricity. We’re not running a food blog (yet), but slow cookers let you make a bunch of protein (like pulled pork and chicken burrito meat), as well as hearty winter foods like stews and chili.  

If that wasn’t reason enough, you generally eat healthier when you cook at home. Win-win. 

Slow Cooker

Working in the office or a coworking space a few days a week means more energy savings at home🏢

Since 2020, we’ve been accustomed to working from home. Yet, going to the office or a coworking space periodically can help us consume less electricity and gas this winter. 

For one, office spaces have much higher utilization rates than our homes. (Utilization rate is the number of people per square meter in the building).  Pound for pound, it means we consume less energy per person in the workplace than at home, which is ultimately better for the environment. 

Second, if you’re not at home, then you don’t need to heat it or use electricity. That alone will save you a considerable amount of money.  

If you can, try to commute to the office or coworking space at least a couple of times a week this winter. (Bonus points if you commute on public transport).  

Subscribe to our newsletter to get more awesome money-saving and investing tips for people living abroad (regardless of the time of year). 📰

At abroaden, we’re all about helping people living abroad make awesome money decisions, both today and well into the future. 

Whether you’re an expat, an international remote worker, or just someone living and working in a country you’re not from, our weekly newsletter has all the info you need to build your wealth, find awesome energy savings tips, know what’s going on with the economy, and more.

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