Home Appliances and Electricity Supply

Information on German domestic electricity suppliers, wall socket plugs and voltage of home appliances...

The energy market was deregulated in Germany at the end of the 20th century. This has led to fierce competition between regional, national and international suppliers. There are now many types of energy available in Germany.

Individual electricity and gas companies are regulated by the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) together with the regulatory authorities of the federal states. However, their role does not include tariff regulation.

  • For more information about the role of the regulator: Click here

In addition to indigenous solid fuel reserves and imported natural gas for domestic and commercial energy, Germany uses nuclear energy to produce 30 percent of its electricity supply.

Germany is very focused on EU policy and adherence to guidelines regarding energy conservation and environmental awareness. Financial incentives for utilities ensure that they contribute towards the use of renewable energy. Germany is the world's largest producer of wind energy, with many wind farms particularly on the Baltic coast region. Other forms of renewable energy used include hydropower, biomass and biogas. Many domestic electricity and gas suppliers have a wide range of packages to suit both the customer's budget and environmental conscience.

Electricity Suppliers

  • For an alphabetical list of all electricity suppliers in Germany: Click here (in German)

It is possible to change suppliers within a three-month period if the customer notifies the respective suppliers six weeks in advance, although the terms of some supply contracts demand a minimum contract period - check before making a change.

There are many consumer advice centres and websites offering cost comparison rates between providers (Stromanbieter/Gasanbieter). It is also possible to select the type of electricity supply preferred, such as environmentally friendly or nuclear and to select supply packages to suit individual budgets.

The following websites all have information on providers and a cost comparison of prices (in German):

Electricity Supply

The standard electricity supply in Germany is 230 volts - 50Hz AC. Some household appliances from a country with a different frequency and voltage (such as the United States, where it is 110 volts - 60 Hz) may function with a transformer and/or adaptor. However it's generally easier to buy the appliances in Germany.

Plugs

There are two main types of plug used: Type F plugs ("Schuko" short for Schutzkontakt) and Type C plugs (Euro-stecker), which are used particularly for low-power devices (radios, clocks, lamps). Type F is a larger, round plug with two prongs and a metal grounding tab; Type C plugs are standard Euro two pin. Wall sockets are adapted to Type F but fit both plug types; Type C wall sockets are rare except in very old buildings.

Note: not all extension cords take the larger Type F although some multiple extension cords come with sockets for both size plugs.

Television System

The transmission standard in Germany is PAL B/G. A non-PAL compatible television in Germany will not be able to receive a signal or broadcast sound and picture.

There are three main television/video standards in use throughout the world.

  • The system used in the US, Canada, Japan and some other countries is NTSC
  • Most of Western Europe (including Germany), Australasia and Southern Africa use PAL
  • Eastern Europe and France uses SECAM
  • For a technical explanation of the PAL system and how it works see Wikipedia. (This includes a map showing which system is used where.)

These three standards are not compatible with each other. This means that a TV signal (or video) produced for one system can not be viewed on machinery that's been designed for another. Multi-standard European TVs and VCRs (or videocassette recorders) with automatic switching circuitry are available from electronics suppliers.

A wide selection on televisions (fernseher) of all prices and types are sold in Germany. Large electronics stores (for example Saturn and Conrad) have good selections.

Note: Much of Germany has converted to a digital television signal. Analogue televisions will need to have either cable reception or a set-top box in order to receive it.

DVD players are sold at the same suppliers selling televisions and computers. DVDs are coded in their own format which will not transfer from one region to another.

VCRs, operate in the PAL format (used in most of Europe, Africa, Australia, South America and the UK). An adaptor will be necessary to view tapes coded in NTSC (the format used in the North and Central America as well as Japan). This can be bought at an electronics store. Tapes can be converted but it can be quite expensive.

Appliances

Washing machines

German washing machines are typically small, the same size as a bar-sized refrigerator, and are washers only. They take on cold water and heat it in the machine according to the temperature set. Electric drying is not common, being considered not environmentally friendly ("umweltfreundlich", is taken seriously); dryers are condensation dryers (Kondenstrockner) where the water condenses in a reservoir in the machine. An exhaust vent is not needed. Alternatives to dryers are clothespins, drying racks and clothes lines sold in department stores and some supermarkets.

Ovens

Ovens are most commonly electric. Temperature is measured in Celsius (normal baking temperature is about 190° or 350°F). Ovens typically come with a broiler, a storage drawer beneath and four burner plates on the stove top.

Terminology

German English
fernseher television
radio (the technology is Rundfunk) radio
waschmaschine washing machine or washer
trockner dryer
kühlschrank refrigerator
gefrierfach freezer compartment
microwelle microwave