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ENERGY

EXPLAINED: When should I turn on my heating in Sweden this year?

Energy costs in Sweden are set to reach sky-high levels this winter, which will leave many people wondering when they should start heating their homes. Here's what you need to bear in mind.

EXPLAINED: When should I turn on my heating in Sweden this year?
Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

What’s happening?

As a result of supply stoppages for cheap Russian gas affecting energy prices on the European market – particularly in Germany – energy prices in Sweden have been at record levels for months, especially in the two energy price zones in the south of the country.

With winter looming and no sign of things getting cheaper anytime soon, private individuals are starting to cut down on energy usage as much as they can to slash their bills this season.

Does it make a difference what type of accommodation I live in?

The right time to start heating your home depends on several factors including your own personal preference, the weather, whether you live in rented accommodation or own your own property, and on the age and features of the property you live in.

How does the heating system work in Swedish homes?

More than half of all houses and commercial properties in Sweden use district heating or fjärrvärme, with this number rising to around 90 percent for apartment buildings.

This system distributes hot water from heating plants to houses and apartments through underground water pipes, meaning that heating sources are centralised, rather than individual houses or apartments having their own heating source.

In smaller towns and in houses, district heating is less common, and it’s these households who can benefit the most from waiting longer to turn on their heating.

Do I control my heating?

It depends. If you live in a rented apartment or a bostadsrättsforening (co-operative housing association) with district heating, your landlord or the board of your housing foundation will usually decide for you when to turn your heating on.

Unlike other countries, Sweden has no official legal heating season, with heating in bostadsrättsföreningar usually switched on automatically following periods of cold weather, no matter which date they occur on.

This will usually be designed to provide an indoor temperature of around 21 degrees – you can turn your radiators down if you feel this is too warm, but you won’t usually be able to turn them up if you want the temperature to be warmer.

The Public Health Agency recommends temperatures of between 20 and 24 degrees indoors, with temperatures lower than 18 degrees in apartments posing a health risk.

Temperatures lower than 14 are not recommended as they can cause condensation and mould growth on walls and furnishings, which, again, are a health risk, and can cause permanent damage to properties.

Can I save money by waiting to turn my heating on?

Again, it depends. If you’re renting and you pay varmhyra – rent with heating included – then you won’t save money directly, but heating your home wisely could make it less likely for your landlord to raise your rent to cover increased heating costs.

If you pay kallhyra – rent without heating included, then waiting to turn on the heating will save money on your electricity bill.

Similarly, in some housing associations, electricity and heating costs are included in your monthly fee, meaning you pay your share of the heating costs for the entire building ever month. In this case, your energy costs are more affected by how much energy everyone else in your housing association uses than your individual usage.

On the other hand, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about how warm your heating is – if you have your heating on full-blast for the whole winter, your costs will increase as well as the costs of all of your neighbours, and if the entire association’s energy costs increase substantially, the board may decide to raise the monthly fee or avgift for everyone in the building to cover this.

If you pay an individual energy bill based on your own household’s usage, and not on an average of the whole building, it could pay to wait before you switch on your heating.

How else can I save money on heating costs?

Turning your heating down a couple of degrees can make a big difference to your heating costs, but you can also save money on heating and make your property feel warmer by making it more energy effective.

There are a few easy ways to do this, according to the Swedish Energy Agency.

Firstly, make sure your house is well insulated, not just your doors and windows, but also in the loft: a large amount of a building’s heat escapes through the roof. This also applies to the boundaries between well-insulated and poorly-insulated areas.

If you have a cellar or conservatory, for example, which is not heated and not insulated, make sure the door between this room and the rest of the house is well-insulated with no gaps around the doorframe where heat can escape into the colder room. 

In a similar vein, locate any drafts and do what you can to block them, either with draft excluders or by replacing worn-out draft excluder strips on old doors and windows.

You can also benefit from thinking about how you furnish your home – furniture placed in front of radiators mean it is harder for warm air to circulate, and you can keep your house warmer at night by closing your curtains or blinds to keep eat from escaping through your windows.

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MONEY

Sweden’s energy subsidy approved – but payout delayed

Sweden's Energy Markets Inspectorate (Ei) has approved the government's energy subsidy for users in southern Sweden with one addition - there will be a cap for extremely high users, which could delay payout of the subsidy.

Sweden's energy subsidy approved - but payout delayed

The government has said that the subsidy, which will go to around 5 million customers in southern and central Sweden (energy zones 3 and 4), could be paid out in the beginning of next year.

However, the decision to implement a cap for high-energy users could delay the payout, Malin Stridh, head of the energy market department at the Swedish National Grid, told TT newswire.

“This cap will mean delays in when we can pay out the subsidy,” she said. “The model Ei has now decided to approve is a model we’ve previously considered and rejected, precisely because it was important to get the energy subsidy out soon.”

“We’ve had a dialogue with Ei during this process but this has still come as a surprise.”

The subsidy will be paid out as a lump sum to individual customers – including households, companies, authorities, housing associations and organisations.

Specifically, the subsidy will go to whoever is listed on the energy network contract – the elnätsavtal – on November 18th.

Ei’s addition to the Swedish National Grid’s proposed model is due to EU rules regulating how so-called bottleneck fees can be used or repaid. In total, there are 55.6 billion kronor in fees available for repayment to consumers in the two energy zones affected.

“We’ve approved the Swedish National Grid’s model almost completely,” Elin Broström, head of Ei’s market monitoring department, told TT.

“However, those users who are at the absolute top end of the scale will need to apply to receive the subsidy above a certain level. We’re introducing a form of cap,” she added.

The cap will effect customers with a usage of over 3 million kilowatt hours – a usage far higher than that of individual households.

This means that customers in energy zone 4 can receive up to 2.37 million kronor without having to apply for special consideration, with users in energy zone 3 receiving a maximum of 1.5 million kronor before reaching this cap.

If a company, municipality or other large-scale energy consumer calculates that they are entitled to an amount higher than this based on its usage, it must be able to prove that its true energy costs were higher than this limit.

According to Ei, there are around 1,700 users affected by this cap.

“If we hadn’t introduced this cap, [they would have received] significantly higher amounts,” Broström said.

With the introduction of this cap, it is likely that only around two thirds of the 55.6 million kronor available will be used. Ei expects that roughly 16-18 million kronor could be left over.

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