Efficient Energy Use in Europe: Energy Conservation Tips for Americans Traveling Abroad

If you’ll be traveling to Europe this year, and especially if you are staying in a villa or apartment rental while doing so, it’s likely that you’ll notice some differences between European living and the typical “American” approach to life.

One of the biggest differences in regards to living space is energy conservation. In brief, Europeans are much more energy conscious than Americans. We often receive phone calls from distressed managers when their American visitors blow circuits on a daily basis. Other calls come from villa owners who return home to find that their American renters have left all of the outdoor lights turned on!

These are just small indicators of a lifestyle that is much more energy conscious than most Americans are accustomed to. In some cases, energy use is controlled by the provincial government, such as the start and end date for heating in the winter, but conservation of energy in Europe goes beyond simple regulation. Efficient energy use has become a cultural norm in Europe, perhaps because costs for gas, electricity, and water are much higher than they are in the US. Energy costs are not negligible, which means that Europeans remain conscious that every kilowatt is costing them money. A light left on in an empty room or a heater left running while the occupants are out of the house is simply a costly waste. And when you think about it, shouldn’t we all feel this way?

Americans traveling to Europe should consider the repercussions of the energy-conscious mentality, because it often has a direct impact on their trip. For instance, if it is an unseasonably cold year, villa renters may have to request extra blankets and procure wood for the fireplace if the owner has not yet turned the heat on (generally from November 1 – April 15th). In the case of an especially warm season, European villa and apartment renters should not assume that all properties are equipped with air conditioning, even in higher-end accommodations. Air conditioning consumes a great deal of energy, and is therefore less commonly found.

How should Americans deal with these differences? As with all cultural differences, visitors should try to be courteous and creative about finding alternatives. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Remember to turn out the lights whenever you leave a room.
  • During colder months, don’t leave the heater on while you’re out of the house; and even while you’re in, look for alternate heating sources. Put on a sweater and slippers, build a fire, and cozy up with the one you love!
  • If you are traveling in a group, be conscious of the appliances you are using. If you’ve got a hairdryer going in the bathroom, the microwave on in the kitchen, and the washing machine going all at once, chances are you’re going to blow a circuit. Coordinate your energy use.
  • When it’s hot, don’t crank up the AC– if you have one, that is! Instead, cool off in the swimming pool, spend an afternoon under a tree with a good book, or take a siesta until it cools off. Do your sightseeing in the morning and late afternoon/evening.

There are many ways to keep warm or cool that don’t consume mass quantities of energy!

For some Americans, these differences can seem like annoying inconveniences, and, when unanticipated, may even “spoil” a great vacation. But if you’re a traveler who is willing to “go with the flow” and adapt to a different way of life, you will reap the rewards. In the area of power conservation, you may learn to see that every little bit helps. You’ll have traveled in a way that leaves a less negative impact on the environment. In fact, you’ll probably discover a more energy-efficient way to live. And one thing’s for sure… you won’t be surprised by a huge energy bill at the end of your trip!


Suzanne Pidduck is a veteran traveler and the founder of Rentvillas.com. Visit her new travel tips blog for more helpful articles!