Freezing in Romania: Winter Heating Could Be a Major Problem in Some Cities

On some occasions, Romania still seems to be in the Middle Ages or at least a few centuries behind the calendar. And now, since winter is fast approaching, it’s easier to see that at least in parts of the country.

Winter heating is still handled by the state and local authorities in many (or just some? I don’t really know!) cities and towns throughout Romania and the poor management over the years is now starting to finally show its effects.

Right now, there are places in Romania where central city heating is not working, leaving houses (as well as schools and hospitals) in the cold, literally. And the problems seem to worsen every year with more and more cities barely managing to get past winter with the heaters warm.

Cold weather came faster than usual in Romania this year and in the city I live in we’re constantly getting on average 10 degrees Celsius. The same temperatures can be felt throughout the country, with some places recording even lower values.

The problem? There are cities in Romania where you’re freezing inside, as well as outside because the authorities no longer have money to start providing central heating to the population. I know that this sounds like something that could never happen in a country that’s part of the European Union, but it does happen in Romania.

I am living in Drobeta Turnu Severin, one of the cities that has major problems with city central heating. The state-owned facility that provided hot water and heating over the winter went bankrupt and was closed down (after years of barely managing to make it for one more year).

Many people had no hot water since this spring and even though many managed to buy and install water heaters, there are also a lot of very poor people who simply couldn’t afford it.

Can you imagine, in 2016, people heating water in pans on their ovens to wash their hair? A visit to Romania might make it a lot easier to imagine since that’s the reality!

However, things are getting worse now since the cold weather is here. The heating services can’t start because there’s nobody who can provide them: the local authorities started working on a new heating station, but it’s far from being finished with no chances of it working this year.

They also claim that they started some complicated measures to rent the centralized city heating form the bankrupt company and apparently that’s how things are going to work this year – but nothing’s sure. There are rumors that the heaters will start getting warm at the beginning of November, but there are no guarantees that will happen.

Therefore, the temperature in schools and hospitals are inhumane: about 15 degrees inside classrooms and 10 degrees in the hallways. Kids are going to school with blankets and they’ll soon start getting sick. Fast. It will be ugly.

Drobeta Turnu Severin is not the only place in Romania where city central heating doesn’t work: I personally know that Petrosani is in a similar situation (school time there has been already reduced so that kids spend as little as possible in the freezing classrooms).

Quick research shows that more cities in the Hunedoara county are having problems. Other big cities where local authorities are having problems heating the homes are Galati, Deva, Iasi, Constanta and Oradea.

In all the cities above, part of the population (the one depending on the city to deliver heating) is freezing inside the homes and in many cases it’s not sure when (or if) city central heating will work.

This is a disease spread over the entire country. As I said earlier, because of very poor management, most of state-owned companies that should keep the houses and apartments warm are in financial trouble.

Among the huge cities that have or had problems recently we have Bucharest (apparently a last minute-save this year brought heating to people living there), Brasov or Timisoara. In other words, no place is safe during the winter if the building depends on the city or state-owned companies for heating.

What to do not to freeze if you come to Romania

Make sure you do your research before signing a contract, not to end up like this!
Make sure you do your research before signing a contract, not to end up like this!

Although most cities are aware of the problem and are trying to find a solution (with some cities having already found one and working to implement it), if you decide to move to Romania or visit during the winter, it would be best to make sure that you will have no trouble heating your room.

Although a very large number of houses depends on the centralized heating systems of each city, many don’t. There are many places in Romania where people can install their own central heating units (and in those places most people already did that), from the gas-only options for apartments, to various other methods, the most common being units that require wood as fuel.

Electrical heating could be an option in some places, but electrical heating is extremely expensive, at least by Romanian terms and compared to other options out there. Also, many buildings have old and obsolete electrical cables that can’t handle the extra consumption – most apartment buildings are in this category.

For example, in Drobeta Turnu Severin, I have friends and people who can’t plug in an electrical heater simply because the electrical cables can’t handle them.

We are lucky to be in a building where we had no problems using the electrical heaters, but we also live in a building with many older folks who are used with the Communist times and are used to handling the low temperatures, so things might change in the near future.

We also anticipate huge costs for this luxury (apparently, staying warm during the winter can sometimes be a luxury in Romania): our electrical bill will most likely double or triple!

So, yes, you might freeze in Romania if you happen to come here during the winter. Hotels are usually not affected by this problem, though – so this is more of a concern for those looking into long term residence. If you do, make sure to add this to your checklist, otherwise, you might experience some medieval times you might not be prepared for!

Personal note: It was horrible to write this article. Not because my fingers were frozen on the keyboard, but because I had so much trouble finding the term for “city central heating” – Google and dictionaries weren’t helpful so it might sound awful and nothing but a poor translation.

Well, that’s what you get when a non-native English speaker has to talk about more technical stuff, but hopefully you understand what I’m talking about.

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16 thoughts on “Freezing in Romania: Winter Heating Could Be a Major Problem in Some Cities”

  1. Hi Calin:
    A very “cool” article. Pretty scary, though. So, do you have electric heaters in every room? Don’t most of the older homes have fireplaces–not that that’s the best way to stay warm.
    Your article is very well written without a hint of mistranslation!
    I don’t like cold, so I hope fixes are made before I go to roost in Romania.;-) I guess the newer apartments don’t have the heating issues–as long as they aren’t hooked up to city systems.
    Crumbling infrastructure is not endemic to Romania, for sure. The USA’s is also crumbling. (Gee maybe if we weren’t involved in so many conflicts which we have NO business in we’d have the $ to upgrade.) I hope the people in charge will fix the heating situation–there’s no excuse for children to be freezing in schools.
    I hope you will keep us apprised of your situation. It will be interesting to see what the costs will be for you this winter. I hope you will mange okay!

    • Houses indeed have fireplaces and most are still using them. Actually, most homes are not even connected to the city systems. The problem is with the apartments, as they have no other options than city heating at the moment. I read somewhere that in our city 33,000 apartments are affected.

      Yes, we’re using electrical heaters in every room. We have two heaters that we move around: they don’t run 24/7, for now just several hours per day is enough to keep the temperatures over 20 degrees, up to ~22 which is decent for us.

      The local authorities in our city announced that if nothing goes wrong, schools and hospitals will get heated on November 1st, while apartments will defrost between November 5-7. At least when it comes to our city, they were always able to find a solution eventually.

  2. That is an unpleasant situation, I can imagine. Romania is like much of Eastern Europe where excess heat generated in factories or central heating plants has been piped for kilometers in big insulated conduits/pipes to the far corners of a city where it is needed. Usually above ground, these pipes are hideous and sometimes have to go up in the air to bridge over a street or driveway entrance. Add to that the very poor insulation of the apartment blocks, and you have some major energy waste. At the risk of getting off the subject, there is an undeclared war going on in Ukraine, financed and directed by Russia. Over 11,000 Ukrainians have already been killed and 100s of thousands have been displaced. Ukraine has precisely the same thermal conduit system and the not insulated apartment blocks. The saddest irony is that while much of their heat is going poof into the air, Ukraine has to buy all their natural gas for their heat from RUSSIA! Back to Romania, I have been in Romanian schools where the children all wore their winter coats and winter caps in class. I always thought Romania was fortunate in having significant natural gas reserves. Somehow this gas doesn’t make it very far. Wood is also a popular heat source but more so in small towns. This is very unhealthy for the users and leaves a blue cloud hanging over the whole town. Here in northern Japan where it gets pretty cold, everyone uses kerosene heaters. The kerosene is delivered by tank trucks and pumped by the drivers into your external(!) kerosene tank. We get the bill in the mail, it’s all on the honor system. All we have to do to get heat is press the “on” button. Would this work in Romania? Yes, I know, rhetorical question…

    • I love the system in Japan. I won’t try to answer your rhetorical question, though 🙂

      Before moving to our apartment, I lived in a house that was heated with wood and it was horrible. Not only that you have no control over the temperature in the room (as the stoves have no thermostat), but it’s also a ton of work involved: splice the wood, carry it around, start the fire every day. It was horrible and time consuming. One of the wood stoves was poorly built and sometimes the smoke would enter the room. We had to keep the windows open every time we started the fire (every morning), no matter how cold it was outside because you couldn’t breathe inside. So there was a ton of work involved, a lot of debris accumulated and temperatures would get out of control (up to 30 degrees and above) only to drop drastically over the night. Not a good experience either, but at least there was heating 🙂

    • The war in Ukraine was financed with $5 billion and Victoria Noland, zionist, financing this coup of a democratically elected PM…another US coup of an elected leader

  3. Hi Colin;
    You are clearly pinning the actual problem for those people who can not effort to buy cassoline due to its high cost. So lots of people cant stand living in a very cold weather and Actualy I am one of those people cant stay without having a heating facilities around. I hope things will get better soon.
    Again God Bless you all.

    Colin, I would like to have your WhatsApp number please / email of yours.
    Sincerly yous

  4. Shocking reality to hear about how children struggle in a cold school. No different then taking classes outside. How can they concentrate and learn in that? Only to go home and face the same. No hot water for bathing. It is indeed a trip to the past without a simple solution. Here in the united states i do not recall any central heating agencies like you describe here I believe all schools and apartments have independent heating situations and if they fail they just address that individual situation. Would never effect a whole city. We are constructing our house and looking to layer heating options to help handle the crazy things that can happen like losing electricity or gas in the winter we have fireplace too. Sure hope you have a mild winter.

  5. This is horrible to hear. I was shocked a few weeks ago reading about some schools in the U,S and how they had no funding..and the schools were literally falling apart with cables and no heating system. Even the house we’re in now has no central heating system. We have portable heaters that we carry from room to room and it gets really cold in the winter, colder inside than outside. Malaga flats also don’t have heating and paper thin walls. Nothing compared to Romania though since the cold is never as bad. I hate how the corrupt governments make the people suffer :-(. I hope they do something to fix it really soon, probably not for this winter, but maybe soon. It is always the people that can least afford it that suffer the most unfortunately.

    • We’re carrying around heaters from room to room and I know how unpleasant that is… but it’s surely better there. I know I was checking out the temperatures in Europe, Spain included, and the Malaga area is indeed way warmer than what we have here now. It’s tough and it will only get worse if they can’t find a solution.

  6. Calin:
    Here’s a question that I think is relevant–to a degree: Can you “home-school” your children if you feel the “public” schools aren’t teaching what they should? Besides, who wants their kid to come home as a frozen popsicle?!
    Is Romania investing in renewable energy? Do any households use solar panels on their roofs? Are there any windfarms? (I know Denmark leads the way with wind turbine power–I feel for the poor birds who are killed flying into the blades, though.) What about nuclear power? I know some countries use it, while others are closing the stations down. Iceland is lucky because they have a wealth of geothermal energy. (I was stationed there for three years, and you better believe the water was HOT, and the homes nice and toasty.)
    Are there any electric Dacias? Electric cars seem to be the wave of the future. Are there any options other than gasoline?
    Stay warm!!!

    • Hello Teil,

      Recently a celebrity family here in Romania announced that they decided to homeschool their daughter and it was quite a stir in the press and everybody was talking about it. Most Romanians are not ready for this and it appears that the government doesn’t allow for this method. There are rumors that they’re working on integrating homeschooling as an option, but right now it’s not really one.

      The country is investing in renewable energy and there are programs that offer money for installing “green” energy sources, as they are called in the country, usually solar panels. I know for sure because my mom got a solar water heater through this program several years ago and it still runs. But funds are limited, options are limited and they only work for houses. So the majority of the population, those living in apartments, are again left behind a bit. Plus, at least in my city, it’s been cloudy for the past 2 weeks. No sun, no energy.

      Electric cars are also a minority in the country and I doubt that Dacia has any plans for one. There are no charging stations in most areas of the country (remember that many villages in Romania are still not connected to the power grid!) so it will be a challenge as well 🙂

  7. My wife and I are planning to semi-retire to Sibiu next year. It seems that having lived in southwest China for the past nine years will be good preparation for living in Romania in winter, as there is no central heating here whatsoever and never has been. The temperature gets low enough in winter for the occasional snowfall, but everyone, including schoolchildren, just keeps on their thermal underwear, many layers, and coats and hats whenever they’re not tucked up in bed at night. So the Chinese have taught us that you can adapt to winter without central heating. Not easy at first, but we have gotten used to it over time. And by the way, I teach English for a living, and you have no reason to apologize for your English whatsoever; quite the opposite! And thanks for this wonderful website. It’s a real gem!

    • Thanks for the compliments, Peter! Sibiu should be an improvement compared to China – there should be no problems with heating in the city. But since it’s Romania and anything could go wrong at any moment, it’s good to have the experience and be able to face the cold if needed. I hope you will have a great time in Sibiu!


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