Why getting permission for air conditioners is so hard in Switzerland
There are rules and regulations for practically everything in Switzerland, including whether you can stay cool and comfortable in your own home.
With record-breaking high temperatures and forecasts calling for more of the same, many people would like to install air conditioning units in their homes.
It may seem like a simple enough matter, but it can, in fact, be quite complex. Depending on the laws in your canton of residence, you may have to sweat it out — literally and figuratively — before you get an official permission (or not) to install a fixed AC unit in your dwellings.
The reason is an environmental one: fixed ACs are huge energy guzzlers, consuming a lot of electricity and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions — a major contribution to ozone depletion. (These regulations were enacted long before high prices and energy shortages became an issue).
Every canton has its own energy laws, with some being more restrictive than others when it comes to installing air condition devices.
Geneva’s rules are among the strictest in Switzerland
When applying for a permit to install a unit, you have to prove that you need temperature control in your house — for instance by submitting a medical certificate stating that your health condition requires it. Being comfortable in your own home is not a valid reason, as far as Geneva officials are concerned.
It is not known how many Geneva residents go to such extreme lengths as getting a doctor's note, but relief may be in sight. "With the evolution of the climate, we will rethink and redefine summer comfort, said Cédric Petitjean, director of the cantonal energy office.
Zurich is another canton with strict AC-related rules
In order to save energy, the installation of conventional air conditioning systems is generally banned.
Local ordinance requires all applicants for authorisation to prove that the air conditioner is particularly energy-efficient. Because this was not the case, the city of Zurich refused to grant permission to an elderly care facility to temporarily run their older AC model during a heatwave in 2018.
Rules in some other cantons are a bit laxer, requiring, as is the case in Vaud, to cover 50 percent of AC’s electricity consumption with renewable energy sources.
What should you do if you want to install AC unit in your house?
Visit the site of your cantonal energy office, see what their specific requirements are, and fill out the online application for authorisation. Make sure you can provide all the required documents and proofs.
Keep in mind though that things are more complicated if you own an apartment rather than a single-family house. The reason is that installing an AC unit requires drilling through the wall, altering the facade, and you will need a permission to do so from your neighbours.
What about mobile AC units?
You can purchase them freely and don’t need any permission to use them.
An obvious paradox is that, unlike the draconian rules for fixed units, mobile ones are not even subject to quality control by the cantons, even though “they can represent significant loads on electrical networks”, according to a report by RTS public broadcaster.
READ MORE: 40C: Switzerland set for another heatwave