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Most people consider a room temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius to be ideal. But since it’s not always exactly that warm outdoors, radiators and/or air conditioning systems are supposed to provide these optimal conditions. And that costs a lot of energy. After our introduction to this subject last week about green energy in Europe, this week we are zooming in on heating and cooling. How sustainable are Europeans in this regard? Once again, this question has several different answers.

For starters, the map below visualizes the proportion of heating and cooling that is processed through a ‘green’ source. These include heat pumps, solar cells or geothermal sources. Eurostat has been closely monitoring this data for many years now.

Where was the best indoor climate with the least impact on the outdoor climate in 2020?

Heating competition

Volcanic springs are put to grateful use in Iceland. As much as 81 percent of households are kept warm by one green source. Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium are the worst performers in this respect with more than 90 percent coming from fossil fuels.

For a more complete picture, the following race graph shows the percentages from 2004 through to 2020.

Frugal Dutchies

Iceland, with 81 percent on the above chart, seems to be a veritable sustainability champion. Still, you can draw relatively few conclusions about the sustainability of households based on the proportion of renewable heating. The European CBS also has figures on average energy consumption per household. Then the Icelanders suddenly turn out to be major energy consumers.

That Scandinavian countries are displaying the darkest colors on this map makes perfect sense. After all, due to the colder climate, heating has to be turned on more often. The stereotype of the frugal Dutch that is based on annual energy consumption is consequently quite correct, certainly by Western European standards. Of all the EU member states, Spanish and Portuguese households have the smallest ecological footprint.

Energy transition in full swing?

If we place the energy consumption of 2010 next to that of 2020, we can see how the continent is divided in two. Because of the higher standard of living, Central Europeans are consuming more kilowatt-hours than they did a decade ago. Households in the West, which were at a much higher level then, have actually cut back significantly.


Insulating a home is considered one of the most efficient ways to reduce heating costs. Who is the insulation king of the continent? Thermostat manufacturer Tado° has tested this out in no less than 80,000 homes across ten different countries. They asked participants to turn off the thermostat when the temperature was 20 degrees, and then after five hours, to let them know how much the room had cooled down.

The Norwegians were found to be best at keeping their indoors warmest the longest. A loss of only 0.9 degrees C was recorded over there. This put them ahead of the Germans by 0.1 degree C. The worst insulated homes were found in Great Britain, where it was 3 degrees colder than five hours earlier. Belgium also fared very poorly.