Winterize your house

Although there can be more warm days ahead of us, the cool nights are a good reminder that winter is just around the corner. You likely do not own the house you live in while stationed abroad, but that doesn’t mean you get out of all those “honey do” list items you would like to forget.

If you are new to your new home, there are some things to think about before the days get short and cold that will help you get ready for the eventual European winter. We have accumulated a list to help you get ready!

Fill your oil now

Don’t wait to fill your tanks in the winter when prices are at their highest. If you have a house with big oil tanks for your heating and hot water (as many older houses will have), you will need to schedule an oil delivery. Appointments may take some time to schedule depending on how busy the oil company is, so make the call now to avoid the mad rush. “Heizöl” or “Heizoel” means “heating oil” in English. Also make sure to tell them you would like to use a VAT form!

Get your fireplace wood delivered


You may start seeing signs on the side of the road reading “Brennholz.” This is the German word for firewood. Prices will vary, but there is a limited supply of dry wood (that has been sitting for a year or two) in some areas, which may make it a bit harder to get wood when it is cold. Fresh wood is more difficult to burn in open fireplaces, so act early to get dry wood. Ask if they will deliver to your house or if that is extra.

Run your ceiling fans in reverse

Once the temps dip down enough where your heat kicks on, you will want to switch your ceiling fans so they rotate in the clockwise direction for winter to generate a warm breeze (counterclockwise for summer).


Block drafts by doors

You can save up to 30 percent of wasted energy just by putting a door snake in front of exterior door jams on the floor. Warm air escapes very easily, even on newer doors with a good seal. Make it yourself or get them at the store.

Lower your hot water heater temperature

You can save up to 10 percent on your annual heating bill just by lowering your hot water heater. In the winter, it will feel plenty warm since that air is cold around you.

Clean your gutters

There are likely some rainy days coming as the days get shorter. You will need to have good clean paths in your gutters, so clear them of debris and fallen leaves. Make sure you leave some time to clean the gutters to avoid poor drainage.

Deal with dead tree limbs

If you live at a place that has any trees or hearty bushes, you will want to cut those dead limbs down before they come down in the inevitable winter storm that carries strong winds with it. Contact a specialist for those bigger or higher limbs. In German, tree cutting service is “Baumpfleger” or for small jobs, garden service is “Gartenpfleger.”

Check your chimney

Generally, the “Schornstein-feger,” or chimney sweep comes around for regular visits every year to each area. He or she usually checks your chimney, even when you don’t call for an appointment. If you are unsure if your chimney has been checked or swept, you may want to call your local “Schornsteinfeger” to see if he can give your place a look.

Mind your mold

In northern Europe, mold can grow very easily. You will want to take car of any spots in your house that are already springing up before the winter comes, when it is more difficult to get rid of because windows are not opened as frequently. “Schimmel,” mold in German, can be easily combated with a cleaning spray from the hardware store or “Baumarkt.” Look for “Schimmelspray.” The store employees can help you understand how to use it (and they often speak English!).