Energy: Utilities in Germany

Utilities are more expensive in Germany than in the United States. Additionally, utilities are paid in local currency, the Euro, which means costs will vary based on the exchange rate. Bills are much different in Germany than in the United States; here, you may pay monthly or quarterly depending on the utility.

If you are living off-base, members are provided a utility allowance to help pay for your utilities. To find your Overseas Housing Allowance, Utility Allowance, and Move-in-Housing Allowance, please visit: http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/ohaCalc.cfm

Utility costs will vary dependent on the age and size of your home, number of family members, and personal habits. Ensure you ask the landlord for a detailed energy consumption profile of the house; this will provide information on the energy efficiency of the house and give you an idea of how much utilities will cost (it is required by German Energy Pass law "Energieausweis"). Below is an approximate cost of utilities in Germany:

Electricity- 100 Euro per month
Water- 40 Euro per month (per person) for basic monthly payments
Heat- 200 Euro per month

Electricity usage and your electric Bill
Electricity is very expensive in Germany, probably about four times what you have paid in the U.S. Average price per kilowatt hour (standard measure of electricity) in the US is $0.12, whereas the price in Germany is upwards of $0.43 per kWh, which fluctuates with the exchange rate.

Your first bill will come about a month after you move in and your monthly payments will be based on the previous tenant's usage. You will take an initial reading from your electricity meter upon moving in. Then, the electric company will come and take another reading at some point in the year (the date should be on your first bill), and adjust your monthly payments according to your consumption. Be careful; if the previous tenants were energy conscious, you could end up with a huge final settlement bill at the end of the year.

To be prepared for your first bill, you can check your own meter. Make sure you document what the reading is upon move in. Take a reading on the first of every month and subtract this month's reading from last, and multiply by 0.3 to see approximately what your bill should be for that month in Euro.

If this is lower than your monthly payments, you should receive a refund at the end of the year. If it is over that amount, make sure you put extra money away to be ready for that final settlement. You can also implement some of the energy-saving opportunities in the slideshow below to reduce your bill.

Water usage and your water bill
Water and sewage are allowed to be included in your rental contract. However, if for some reason they are not, you will have to contact your local water supply company to set up a contract. Water bills are usually issued on a quarterly basis, but your landlord or the housing office should be able to help you in this process.

As with all utilities in Germany, water is more expensive than the US, and you can expect to pay four times more than you would in the US. Potable water is usually metered and you can expect to pay around 1.60 Euro per cubic meter (1000 Liters). Additionally, you can expect to pay around 2.30 Euro per cubic meter of wastewater. Wastewater consumption is often based on potable water consumption since metering this utility is very difficult. If your water is not metered, you will likely pay a 40 Euro per month, per person charge.

You may safely drink straight from the tap because the quality of the water itself is mostly very high. Local water suppliers have to meet rigorous standards for potable water in Germany. But a water filter often comes in handy as water in Germany has a high degree of lime. This is also why domestic appliances like kettles, dishwashers and washing machines may need a little more maintenance than you'd expect.

Heat usage and Heating Costs
Most homes in Germany are heated with fuel oil boilers and a radiant heat systems, but some may have electric heat (these can be much more expensive). Heating costs will vary drastically based upon seasonal and world trends. The average price for heating oil can range from 0.60 to over 1 Euro per liter. Marking the oil tank upon move-in is crucial to ensuring you are only paying for the oil you consume.

Heating oil consumption will also vary drastically based upon the insulation of the house, age of the boiler, and your personal habits. Heating your house smartly will help to reduce your heating costs.

You will not likely receive a monthly heating bill, but may have to pre-pay your landlord depending on your contract. Usually you are billed when the oil tank is refilled. This can be very expensive, so it is important to set aside part of your utility allowance on a monthly basis to cover this expense. The housing office will provide you a list of vendors to shop for the best oil price but it is usually best to fill up in the summer months (use a Value Added Tax form). Be prepared to pay upwards of two or three thousand Euro when filling the tank since many tanks are around 2,000 liters.

Ask your landlord about typical heating oil usage in your home and about a refilling strategy. This information can also be found in the detailed energy consumption profile you receive from the landlord and use the guide provided below to interpret the document. Heating oil usage will be highest in the winter months, but also keep in mind that your hot water is likely heated by the fuel oil boiler and will be used in the summer months. Turning down your radiators and heat during the day will reduce your heating costs but do not shut off the heat in the cold winter months because the pipes may freeze or burst. These repairs can be costly and you will likely be held liable. Space heaters are very costly and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. They are usually electric and will cost over 1 Euro for each hour of use!

UTAP Program
The finance ministries of the NATO Forces established the Utility Tax Avoidance Program to allow authorized customers tax-free utilities with participating utility companies.

The UTAP program is designed to provide active duty military members and authorized civilians tax relief services on their electric and gas bills while living on the German economy. To find more information, visit or call the VAT office: http://www.52fss.com/NewFiles/vat-utap.html


Check out the links below to find more information on:
US and German Appliance Usage
Saving Energy in Your Home
Example "Energieausweis" Energy Home Profile