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ENERGY

What rules are there for wood burners and fireplaces in Sweden?

With the price of electricity and heating going up, many people in Sweden have turned to wood burners and fireplaces to help heat their homes and lower their heating costs. What rules do you have to bear in mind?

What rules are there for wood burners and fireplaces in Sweden?
Anders Pettersson Lindberg, fire safety controller and ex-chimneysweep, shows how to light a good, environmentally friendly fire. Photo: Duygu Getiren/TT

What fuel can I use?

As a general rule, you should only burn dry wood. Guidelines from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency state that your wood must have dried for at least 6 months, in a covered outdoor location.

Once you’ve brought it inside, try to use it within two weeks – otherwise it can dry out too much, meaning it burns more quickly, produces less heat and more soot.

On the other hand, if your wood is too wet, this can also cause issues. It will produce a lot of smoke, will not burn well and will emit a larger amount of environmentally hazardous substances.

It is illegal to burn rubbish such as milk cartons or plastic, as well as impregnated or painted wood, chipboard and plywood.

Coal is rarely used for heating private homes in Sweden due to the environmental impact, although there are no official bans on burning coal in indoor fireplaces.

Keep in mind that many modern fireplaces or wood burners are not designed for burning coal, and older fireplaces may only be approved for burning wood, so make sure you check the recommendations for your heater if you plan on using coal.

On the topic of older fireplaces, make sure you check with your council or building owner whether you are permitted to use your fireplace before you light a fire. If it hasn’t been used for a number of years, you may need to schedule an inspection, where an expert will inspect your fireplace and chimney for any cracks or areas that need repairing.

When can I light a fire?

Depending on where you live, there may be rules on when you are allowed to light a fire if it is not your primary source of heating. This is usually referred to as trivseleldning – lighting a fire for cosiness or comfort, rather than necessity.

In Malmö, for example, you are only allowed to light fires in tiled chimneys (kakelugnar), open fireplaces or woodburners between October 1st and March 31st. Some municipalities – Malmö included – also recommend lighting a fire no more than twice a week, for a maximum of four hours at a time.

Anna Nordkvist, a chimneysweep in Västerås, prepares to swing a chimney brush into a chimney. Photo: Per Groth/TT/Scanpix

Stockholm and Gothenburg have no rules on what time of year you are allowed to light a fire, or how often, but all three city councils underline the importance of considering your neighbours and only lighting a fire on days where it is windy enough for the smoke produced to be sufficiently dispersed.

If you live in another area, try searching for elda inomhus, plus the name of your local municipality, to find out the rules where you live.

If you burn wood in a way that causes irritation to your neighbours, they have the right to complain to the local council’s environmental department, who have the power to issue you with a ban on using your fireplace.

How often should I clean my chimney?

Depending on whether you live in a house or apartment, you may be responsible for organising chimney-sweeping yourself, or this might be the responsibility of the owner of your building.

Usually, if your fireplace or wood burner is not your primary source of heating and you only use it occasionally, your chimney won’t need to be swept more than once every three years.

If you’re not sure when your chimney was last swept (either because you don’t use it very often or because you recently moved into your property), try contacting your local council or searching for sotare (chimney sweep) or sotning (chimney-sweeping), plus the area where you live for advice. Most councils have a list over the properties in their area with chimneys and when they were last cleaned, or they will refer you to their approved contractors who should be able to help you.

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COST OF LIVING

Six ways to save money on shopping in Sweden

The cost of living is rising in Sweden and inflation is still going up - but some purchases can't wait. Here are our top tips for saving money on shopping in Sweden.

Six ways to save money on shopping in Sweden

Clothing

Secondhand shopping is huge in Sweden, and you can find everything from discounted designer bags to vinyl records and more at secondhand shops (check out Stadsmissionen, Myrorna and Röda Korset for a start) and loppis (flea markets: find a list of upcoming ones here) across the country.

You can also look on apps such as Sellpy, websites like Blocket and Tradera, and buy-and-sell Facebook groups in your local area for cheap deals.

For second-hand and refurbished electronics, try BlueCity, based in Malmö but with a webshop (temporarily closed but reopening soon!) serving the whole of Sweden. 

If you have children, why not try renting clothes and other items, such as a buggy, child seat or stroller, which you can return once your child grows out of them? One popular clothes rental service which delivers to the whole of Sweden is Hyber, who also have a shop in Stockholm for those who live nearby.

A Second Love Affair is another clothes rental service based in Malmö who deliver to the whole of Sweden, and Minikit offer a similar service, where you can buy a kit of used children’s clothes which match the style you are looking for at a cheaper price than if you were buying them new.

Adults looking to rent clothes can try Routine, a service offering subscriptions for designer clothing – although this will probably only save you money if you have a habit of buying multiple new items of clothing a month already.

Check out your local library

Libraries are also a great way to save some money – and this doesn’t just apply to books. 

Although they are obviously an easy way to save money on the latest Scandi crime thriller, many libraries also allow you to borrow DVDs, video games, magazines and newspapers.

You may also be able to loan books digitally, either as audiobooks or as e-books via apps like Libby.

If you want to keep up with the Swedish newspapers or the newspapers in your home country, your library may be signed up to the Pressreader service, offering digital editions of many different newspapers worldwide.

Libraries also offer free events such as children’s activities, book clubs and language cafes.

On the topic of borrowing, there is a different kind of library service for outdoor gear: Fritidsbanken. These spots all over the country let you borrow sport and leisure equipment for up to two weeks, for free. 

Rent instead of buy

Planning on doing some DIY? Need a power drill to get through those tough concrete walls in your apartment? Consider renting the tools you need instead of buying them if you only need them for a few days to save you money and storage space.

One option is Clas Ohlson, the popular hardware store found in many Swedish towns and cities, who offer heavy-duty tools and cleaning equipment (such as wallpaper strippers and carpet cleaners) paid by-the-day.

Another option is Hygglo, which matches those looking for specific items with private individuals in their area looking to rent them out for a specific period. Although many use Hygglo for power tools, you can also use it to rent tents, hiking gear, sports equipment and party equipment such as smoke machines or speakers.

You can also use Hygglo as a renter to earn some extra cash, if you have some power tools lying around which you don’t often use, but you don’t want to get rid of. Hygglo insures both parts – the person renting the tool and the owner – for up to 30,000 kronor, as well as verifying users with BankID, so it’s safer than lending your items to strangers on Facebook or Blocket.

Make do and mend

Don’t just throw away your jeans as soon as they get a rip or tear, or get rid of your winter boots when they start leaking – see if you can mend them yourself (perhaps with a sewing machine you borrowed from someone on Hygglo?) or take them to a tailor (skräddare) or cobbler (skomakare) to see if they can fix them for you.

If you’ve recently lost weight or have bought a clothing item which doesn’t quite fit, you may be able to get your clothes altered by a tailor, too, instead of having to buy a whole new wardrobe or throw items out which you’ve already spent money on.

It will most likely cost a couple of hundred kronor at most to fix a tear or a hole, much cheaper than buying new! 

Shop around and get discounts on the new items you buy

If you want or need to buy something new, compare prices using a site like Prisjakt or Pricerunner, where you can see the cheapest shop to pick up everything from a new laptop to beauty products.

You can also sign up to loyalty cards or membership programmes at your favourite shops. At the same time, you can also sign up to their newsletter to hear about special offers and sales – but sort those emails into a separate folder in your inbox so you aren’t tempted to spend every time you get their updates.

Another good email to sign up for is LetsDeal, which advertises discounts on all kinds of things from food to beauty treatments, while the newspapers Aftonbladet and Expressen also collect current discount codes.

Think twice

Finally, this tip isn’t Sweden-specific, but it often pays to exercise common sense as much as possible, which means taking time to think about whether you really want to make a purchase, and never buying anything you can’t afford. If possible, avoid paying for anything in instalments, as this is usually to the disadvantage of the buyer.

By Becky Waterton and Catherine Edwards

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