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ENERGY

How can you save on your household energy bills in Switzerland?

Like almost everything else in Switzerland, the price of electricity is high here. These are some strategies for reducing your energy costs.

There are several strategies to lower energy costs in Switzerland.
Installing solar panels on the roof could save on energy costs in the long term, but there are other ways as well to reduce bills. Photo by Vivint Solar from Pexels

If you are a tenant, your energy consumption costs may be included in your rent. But if you are a home or apartment owner, you have to pay these charges yourself. And they can be quite expensive.

Depending on the kind and size of dwelling you live in, your energy bills could add up to several thousand francs each year.

And winters in Switzerland can get quite cold, with temperatures dropping to minus 30 degrees in some parts of the country on certain years.

READ MORE: Switzerland weather: Snow and rain forecast in various regions

So unless you are lucky enough to have a wood-burning fireplace which radiates heat throughout your house, sitting under the blanket and drinking hot cocoa may not be enough to keep you warm on those chilly winter days — though it does sound very cosy.

Most people will probably crank up their heat, and as many Swiss households use electric power for heat, that may get quite expensive.

In fact, a household in Switzerland spends on average between a half and full monthly salary on its energy consumption each year, according to a price comparison site bonus.ch.

However, “with small, simple actions to perform on a daily basis, it is possible to reduce energy consumption and save money, without sacrificing comfort”.Bonus.ch said.

Here are some common-sense energy-saving measures the site outlines to keep electricity bills down: 

  • Use heat in moderation, setting the temperature according to the size of the room and how often it is being used. Unoccupied rooms should not be heated at all.
  • Turn off the light when leaving a room (this advice is logical and reasonable, and yet many people neglect to do so).
  • Shut down electrical appliances such as TV and computers completely when not in use,  or even unplug them altogether.
  • Use appliances with the energy label “A”, LED lamps and energy-saving bulbs, avoiding devices with high energy consumption, such as aquariums and fan heaters.
  • In terms of water consumption, typically a resident of Switzerland uses a little more than 160 litres of water daily, of which around one-third is hot, according to bonus.ch.

To reduce hot water consumption, take (quick) showers rather than baths, use water-saving shower heads, and keep its temperature at no more than 50 degrees Celsius.

What about solar panels?

Solar panels are expensive upfront; the actual cost is determined by the size of your house and roof, as well as subsidies you can get from the government. However, it is likely to save you money in the long term.

Just how much will depend on several factors, including how large / small your house is and what your energy needs and consumption are.

You can see whether this option would be economically beneficial to you by using a calculator on this platform for homeowners in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Cost of living: The most – and least – expensive cantons in Switzerland

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COST OF LIVING

Can I have a fire in my backyard or courtyard in Switzerland?

The winter months are on their way and the weather is getting colder. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, can you light a fire?

White marshmallows toast over a fire
If you want to toast marshmallows in your backyard in Switzerland this winter, first make sure it's OK. Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Even if you own a property, the rules for what you can and cannot do in Switzerland can be relatively restrictive. 

As we covered in the following article, laws or tenancy rules can prevent you from doing several types of activities in your own backyard, including felling trees or washing your car. 

You can also be prevented from certain activities on particular days. For instance, rules, bylaws and tenancy arrangements may prevent you from mowing your lawn or hanging out your laundry on a Sunday. 

READ MORE: What am I allowed to do in my backyard or apartment courtyard in Switzerland?

As the weather gets colder, you might be tempted to stock up the fire pit, fire basket or fire bowl with wood and set it alight. 

The rules for lighting fires are also relatively complex. What you are allowed to do will depend on your canton, your tenancy arrangement and the type of fire. 

Can I light a fire on my own property in Switzerland? 

If you’re living in one of the few Swiss houses to have a fireplace, then you are presumably allowed to use it, unless tenancy regulations prevent it at certain times. 

You are also usually allowed to have a barbecue or grill either on your balcony or in your backyard, provided the noise and smoke is not excessive. 

READ MORE: Can I have a barbecue on my balcony in Switzerland?

Whether or not you are allowed to have a fire in your backyard however will depend on the rules in your canton. 

You are generally prohibited from burning any waste in Switzerland, other than typical forest or garden waste (i.e. wood, grass, twigs, sticks and leaves). 

That however can also be restricted at certain times of the year.

In Zurich, for instance, fires in backyards are only permitted from March to October, meaning that you will need to find other ways to stay warm in the winter months in Switzerland’s most populous canton. 

Even if lighting fires is permitted, you may want to check with the rules of your rental contract to see if you are technically allowed a fire. 

What about fires in the forest or open parks? 

A campfire might also sound like a nice way to spend a winter evening, but this may be restricted or completely prohibited depending on the circumstance. 

There is no federal ban on fires in forests and other outdoor areas, provided you are not burning waste (other than garden waste etc) and you are not producing excessive emissions. 

The rules are the same on August 1st, Swiss National Day, where special bonfires usually require a permit. 

Note that there are special rules for burning old Christmas trees, which is prevented by law. 

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