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Why most Germans do not use air conditioning

One of the many things that sets Europeans and Americans apart is air conditioning! Americans love their air conditioning and they are constantly complaining if they don’t have it. Germans pride themselves on being able to get through without it, and most people in Europe are used to offices that are at least 25  degrees. My sister has become very American in her love of air conditioning, and now that I have stayed with her during the summer, I have become converted.

 

I got a few questions from you about why it was such a big deal for me to install my first air conditioner, and about why Germans are so against it to begin with, so I thought that would be a fun topic to look at today on the blog.

My own take on it is that for at least a few decades, most people in Europe have been either confused or scornful of American air conditioning, which is the most in the world. Americans use more air conditioning than any other country, even though they aren’t the hottest country by a long way. It’s not because they are more developed than anywhere else, because after all, we are just as developed in Western Europe, but we do not use hardly any air conditioning at all. There is some air conditioning in Italy, Spain, and Greece, but here in Germany, it is very uncommon to use. Most people consider it unnecessary.

 

So, why is this? I think a lot of it is to do with the seasons. We are used to generally warmer seasons overall, so the summers do not seem like such a drastic change. Maybe that is just a theory, though, because I know some parts of the US are hot most of the year. I have also seen that the average temperature that Europeans consider comfortable is much higher than Americans, at least 5 degrees celsius higher. I have also read that Americans do not change their thermostats all year, so they expect inside to be the same temperature no matter what season it is. In Europe, we tend to accept that winter will be cooler and summer will be warmer, even though we are inside. It is especially true in summer. Americans say around 20 degrees is comfortable (in celsius, of course), but we expect at least 3-5 degrees higher.

 

It is also something to do with being more conscientious about energy usage. Electricity costs a lot more here than it does in America, so anything that is not completely necessary is looked on as frivolous. We are also more concerned about the planet, at least in politics, so using a big appliance like an air conditioner is not encouraged by the governments of the EU. This is also true of our buildings. We build offices and flats to be more energy efficient, and in many cases, especially the newer buildings are very insulated against hot and cold changes outdoors so they stay roughly the same, like a cellar.

Well, whatever you think, I find it very interesting to discuss, because it is such a clear cultural difference. And even though we are becoming more American in many ways, air conditioning is one thing that is staying out of Europe. Except for my flat, of course! Let me know what you think!

Author | Jens Erkkels Comments | Comments Off Date | March 1, 2017

Making my own camping gear with a plasma cutter!

I have never been the most industrious person in the world, after all I make my living on computers! But in my 20s I have discovered that I really like tinkering casually on the side with DIY projects around my flat and on my camper van. It is very satisfying to make things with your hands, and it is something I expect to do a lot more of in my life. I started out with a small Festool drill making things like a bookshelf and coffee table for my flat. I have also made some good things like a folding shelf for the back of the van and a set of steps that I can collapse when I am driving to the campsite and then set up when I get there. But now I have moved beyond wood and am making things out of metal!

It is hard to do much with metal in a flat, and I do not have a garage, so I have ended up outside my building to use my new plasma cutter, which I bought about a month ago now, thanks to http://plasmacutters.reviews. It is extremely nice, from an American company called Hobart. I got it because I had a lot of ideas for how to modify my van but I would need to make holes and cuts in the metal to get them done. I also wanted to be able to carve metal things for my flats and hopefully learn to weld them at some point. Right now, I am just cutting pieces that I can bolt together, and modifying old things that are made of metal. Outside my flat there is a nice space of blacktop that is perfect for working with a plasma cutter because there is nothing to catch fire. I set up some metal sawhorses and get to work. I bring a fire extinguisher just in case, of course!

 

So far, I have made several things: first, I have cut some changes into my metal camping grill and put hinges and latches on it so it folds out instead of taking so much space in the van. Now it is much easier to travel with, especially if I am bringing people along. I also modified the spare tire rack because it would not fit newer wheels and that needed to be tweaked. It took me just a couple of minutes! I also made a custom tinder box by taking an old muffler and slicing through the side to make something much more effective than the grill-lighting tinder boxes you can buy!

 

The biggest project I used the plasma cutter for was to make space for an external electricity supply in the van so I do not have to run cables through the doors or windows, which is not good when it is raining or windy at a campsite. I made a socket and attached a power strip and some cables inside so that now the back of it is like a little flat by itself with outlets!

I also dabble in sculpture and such around my place. I am not very good yet, but I am hoping to improve! All in all, I think the plasma cutter was a very good purchase! It is certainly one of the most fun tools I have ever owned. Now I need to think of some more projects for it!

P.S. If you want to learn more about plasma cutters, view this link.

Author | Jens Erkkels Comments | Comments Off Date | March 4, 2017

Keeping my camper van running well! My favorite fuel injector cleaners and more

I certainly do love to take a lot of trips! I take lots of short vacations throughout the year on weekends and holidays, all around Europe. But I am no millionaire, by a long shot! I have no luxury yacht or massive SUV with all the amenities. I drive a very battered but loved VW bus that is from the 80s. It has a lot of new parts, but all the essential components are the same as they were 30 years ago. I call it Fritz!

 

Mostly I bought it for its character: it is a very charming bus, and it is completely distinctive on the road today. But I am also able to keep it running for many years past when most people would retire it because it has a German engine. German engines run forever, and we are known for that.

Unfortunately any engine loses power over time, especially diesel engines like the one in my bus. That is because they burn fuel, and it leaves a lot of a mess behind in the engine and in the fuel injectors.  Diesel leaves a lot of gook in the engine, and it makes even more soot than petrol. So over time you can lose many horsepower just because of the accumulation of dirty stuff in the engine system.

 

So I have learned over the years to rely a lot on fuel injector cleaner, which is what I feed into my bus every year. A fuel injector cleaner is like if you think about a dishwasher, which cleans off everything inside it by running soap through with the water. The fuel injector cleaner is a small amount that goes into a tank of diesel or petrol  and it cleans everything around on the way through the engine and the fuel line. It seemed too good to be true when I first heard about this from a mechanic, but it was also much less expensive than replacing parts of the motor, so I gave it a try.

 

Wow! It really does make a difference. I used a lot on it the first time, which was easy since all you have to do to use the cleaner is drive around. So I planned a trip to France for a long weekend and I used a bottle of cleaner on  the way there and the way back. By the time I got back I definitely noticed that I had more power and that the motor was simply smoother in general. I was definitely sold! Now I do a big cleaning every year , and I also use a fuel additive in each tank of diesel because it helps to make the whole thing cleaner and smoother and did I mention I only use the best rated diesel fuel additive?

 

A fuel additive is a less powerful cleaner that goes in every tank. It keeps the fuel burning smoother which is very important with diesel as I have discovered. I also find that using an additive keeps the motor more or less clean through the year so it is not so much of a big job to clean it at the new year.

 

I personally use Liqui Moly, which is a German product that is designed to work with German cars, so it seemed perfect to me. I also like that it comes in small little bottles that each match one tank of fuel. I am not the most mechanical person in the world even though I like to do DIY with other things, so it is nice to have the easiest way possible to fix up my engine.


I would suggest that you look into finding a fuel injector cleaner for your vehicle if you drive something old, because my mechanic told me that the dirt in the motor is the biggest thing that takes away power on older cars. I know it has made a big difference for Fritz, and now he is running like new!

Author | Jens Erkkels Comments | Comments Off Date | March 3, 2017

German efficiency

Something that my sister and I talk about a lot since she moved to America is cultural differences. I find that they are very fun to talk about, because they are everywhere, and you cannot truly know how different people are until you go and live among them. I suppose we have a view in the West that we are all generally similar, but that is not completely true! One big area of difference that I have noticed especially, and so has my sister, is that Americans do not seem to care at all about efficiency as much as we do here in Germany!

 

Germany is known for an obsession with efficiency, and some of that is a stereotype of course. But in many ways we do hate waste, and we value making the most of our resources. That is why our trains always run on time and our roads are constantly maintained so that we can drive as fast as we need to to save time and get better mileage. We are concerned with efficiency in nearly everything in our lives.

This is very obvious if you look at utilities. Germans are very obsessed with being efficient with gas, electric, and water. We use LED light bulbs and we are very neurotic about making sure lights are turned off when we are not in a room. Most Americans keep the main rooms of their homes lit all day long. We never take showers longer than 5 minutes, when Americans take showers for 20 I have heard. And we do not use nearly so much heating or air conditioning in winter or summer. We use low-flow toilets, and we have much more efficient laundry machines than you have in America. We have also been using tankless water heaters for decades while Americans are just now catching up.

 

I think that one must be pragmatic in looking at this to start. Much of our obsession comes from the high prices of utilities. Even in Germany where we produce a lot of our own electricity, things are very expensive, and gas is imported, so it is much more expensive than in the USA. There is also our moral feeling about the planet. We are much more concerned than North Americans with climate change, and so we have more strict rules on efficiency for appliances and water fixtures in homes, and for cars on the roads. And we live closer together, which makes it easier to use public transportation.

 

I think though that there is more than practicality here. We like neat, tidy things, and efficiency is part of that . We also like public transportation, and we like to have everything run on time and be reliable. Germans especially love when things work perfectly, and we scorn things that do not, like French cars or Italian cars like Fiat.

Efficiency is a cultural value. I think it is something the rest of the world could learn from, since we have very little waste in all areas of our lives. We do not pay more than necessary for healthcare, we have a very tight government budget even though we have maintained our public infrastructure and transit, and we use less energy per person than almost anywhere else in the world, even though we are one of the most advanced countries. It is certainly something for us all to think about!

Author | Jens Erkkels Comments | Comments Off Date | March 2, 2017

Flushed away: my solution to toilet troubles!

Germans are known for being ruthlessly efficient. We have some of the best engineering in the world, from our vacuums to our cars to our trains and buses. We are known for making things that work very well, very reliably, and very efficiently. But actually, as I have discovered while staying with my sister, Americans have some of the best plumbing, and much of it is better than ours. How can this be?

 

I think a lot of it has to do with how obsessed Americans are with updating everything while we here in Europe like to use old things and replace less often. So that is why we have very old toilets that we keep using, or sinks that are older than we are.

Anyway, the toilets in my flat have been giving me grief, as they say in English, for a long while now. They were extremely old, since this building was built over 100 years ago and it has much of the original plumbing. I think that they have switched the parts inside the toilet, but the porcelain parts have not changed. Both of them have always clogged more often than any toilet I have seen before, and I constantly hear the running of water in the background. To a German, this is the sound of money running away! Water bills are very expensive here, especially compared to what my sister pays in America.

 

So I decided to get completely new toilets and just be done with it! I own my flat now, so I have to pay for anything that is not part of the whole building’s plumbing. But thankfully they turned out to be much less expensive than I anticipated. Each one was less than 400 euro, and they are some of the best-rated toilets I could find–Toto, which is a Japanese company, I think. In any case, it is what my sister recommended and what I found on Home Worthy List.

I also very much appreciate how efficient they have designed these toilets! They use only 3.5 liters every flush and even less if you use the liquid option! That is right, there are two different flushes on these. I had not seen that before outside of a public building like in museums and offices. But they have them for homes now too!

 

Most important is the fact that they never clog, never ever! I was very thankful that the problem turned out to be my old toilets, and not the building’s plumbing. The new toilets whoosh along and they never leave anything behind! They basically clean themselves every flush and yet they still use much less water than the old toilets which couldn’t even flush. This is one of those models of toilet which will actually flush a tennis ball, and there are videos of people testing it on Youtube that you can watch. I’ve never done it myself because I am terrified of what might happen to the ancient pipes in this building, but I am sure these could certainly do it.

 

So in short, I am much more excited than I ever thought I would be about a toilet! It is funny how much you can be relieved when you fix a problem that has been around for years and you just dealt with it! I am thrilled about the Toto toilets I have bought, and hopefully they will be the first and last ones I ever need to buy.

 

I would say that this is among the most satisfying repairs I have ever made to my replace, because I notice the improvement several times every day! If you are making do with an older toilet, I very much suggest it as a project, because it is fairly inexpensive and will definitely save you money on water if you choose something as efficient as mine!

 

Interested in learning more about different types of toilet, even the top rated composting toilets? Check out homeworthylist.com.

Author | Jens Erkkels Comments | Comments Off Date | March 2, 2017

How I stay cool when I can’t get to the coast with my portable air conditioner

I am very keen on getting away to camp, as you know! Part of the appeal for me, aside from the natural beauty and peace and quiet is to cool down from the heat. Living in Munich is very sweaty. We do not see much breeze during the summer and the humidity really builds up until you can’t wait to get away. So it is very nice to escape to the Black Forest or to somewhere on the Rhine for a weekend where some cool air may be found.

Eventually, I have come to realize that I cannot tolerate the heat all summer long in my flat. Perhaps it is the fact that I am in sunlight most of the day, or the brick walls, but I find it is like being in an oven, and after spending some time with my sister who lives in America, I decided enough was enough!

 

Very few people use air conditioning here in Germany, and I always thought it was just because we do not like to use electricity when we do not have to, but I am starting to think that maybe we are just stubborn. Europeans are used to high humidity and heat, and I don’t want to give up completely on that, but I sweat dangerously and I find that I just cannot get any good work done when I am in that condition. I think it must be better to just use slightly more energy and be happier instead of saving electricity and being miserable all the time!

 

So I have recently purchased a portable air conditioner, from the top portable air conditioner brand, which is different from the ones that hang out of the window. I have always thought that the hanging ones seemed so dangerous, and I do not think they would be legal here in any case, since we are much more concerned with public safety than in the US. This air conditioner is like a dehumidifier, so it is a big console box that I can move around and simply point the hoses out the window. They are not so popular in America, I don’t think, but this is what my sister uses and she seems happy with hers.

 

I bought one called a Friedrich–it sounds like a German company, but I’m not sure where they’re from. It has two hoses, which is supposed to be the most efficient system, because I am not going totally American. I want to still conserve as much electricity as possible.

I have found that it makes a big difference! I have it installed with a panel I can slip into all the different windows in my house, and since it is on wheels, I can have it in my home office during the day and then bring it to my bedroom at night. I am trying to use it as little as possible, but even 5 degrees celsius makes a big difference to how happy I am. So far as I know, I have not seen a very high electricity bill, either!

 

One final thing I like very much about this specific model is that it works as a dehumidifier as well. I find that just a few points of humidity makes as much of a difference as the change in temperature! My sister tells me (Because I know very little about such things) that many air conditioners drip water as they run. This one burns it off, somehow, so there is no dripping, and by air is slightly less damp.
So, to sum up, I would say that portable air conditioners are very effective, and will make a big difference for very little money! I also have to say that I like how they are not so conspicuous, because they are just a little window panel instead of a box hanging out the side of your flat. They are easy to move around to different rooms, and I found that I could set mine up by myself! So if you are a European suffering silently through the summer heatwave, I suggest you give one a try!

Author | Jens Erkkels Comments | Comments Off Date | March 1, 2017