Energy For Members

READER QUESTION: What are the rules on heating my Swiss home this winter?

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 30 Aug, 2022 Updated Tue 30 Aug 2022 10:27 CEST
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Temperatures will have to be lowered this winter. Photo: Pixabay

While the summer months provided enough (and even too much) heat, the situation is likely to be quite different in the winter, when energy-saving measures will be in place in Switzerland.

Swiss authorities announced on August 24th that they would align themselves with European Union in its goal to reduce gas consumption by 15 percent during the winter months — October to the end of March — compared with average annual consumption.

As soon as there is a real risk of shortage, “calls to reduce consumption will be made”, the Federal Council said.

Initially, the government is issuing recommendations rather than mandates, but it will consider “various options of consumption restrictions, bans, and quota systems” to be implemented in case of need.

READ MORE: Switzerland aims to cut gas consumption by 15 percent

How warm / cold should your dwelling be between October and March?

According to the Swiss Tenants Association (ASLOCA), a home must be "sufficiently heated", that is to say, maintain a temperature of between 20C and 21C. 

While the Federal Council will issue official recommendations shortly, the general consensus among experts is that by lowering the indoor temperature to 19C, you could reduce your consumption by 5 to 6 percent.

In ‘normal times’ — that is, when energy shortage is not looming — landlords can’t cut your electricity too much. In fact, tenants are entitled to a reduction in rent if the minimum temperature (20C – 21C) is permanently lower by three to five degrees.

Whether or not the Federal Council will deviate from this rule in the event of energy shortage remains to be seen.

What happens if you don’t comply with the temperature rules?

Authorities are hoping that everyone will follow the recommendations (or mandates, as the case may be) voluntarily, for the common good.

“It would be extremely difficult to impose this measure in private homes”, MP Christian Imark, who is also an energy expert, told Watson new portal in an interview.

“It is difficult to imagine that police officers with a thermometer would come and hand out fines if the temperature is one degree too high in the apartment", he said.

The approach would be the same as practised during Covid, when restrictions were in place concerning the number of people allowed to get together in private.

Health Minister Alain Berset said at the time that police would not be making rounds of private houses to make sure everyone complied with the ruling.

The goal, according to Economy Minister Guy Parmelin, is "not to create a police state".

However, "if someone is breaking the rules, they will be reported by the neighbours. We won't have to send in police," he added.

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Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2022/08/30 10:27

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