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ENERGY

EXPLAINED: How to save money on your energy bill in Sweden

Historically high electricity prices are affecting many this winter – but what can you do on an individual level to lower your energy bills?

a woman reading her energy bill by candlelight
You probably don't need to go to extremes this drastic, but here are a few useful tips to lower your energy bill. Photo: Exponera/Scanpix

Shop around and understand your bill

First of all, if you’ve bought an apartment, or a house that is part of a housing association (bostadsrättsförening or BRF), you should find out which utilities are included in your monthly fee to the BRF (avgift). Ideally you would do this during the property hunt so that you can accurately compare different monthly costs, but if not, find out as soon as possible.

It’s common for heating to be included in the avgift, as well as water (check if that includes hot water too). Electricity is much less commonly included, so it’s likely you’ll need to sign your own contracts.

There are two parts to your electricity service: the grid (elnät) and the supply company (elbolag).

The fee you pay to the grid will consist of two parts: a fixed subscription fee, and an extra amount based on the amount of energy used.

On top of that, you’ll pay a separate fee to a supply company.

When it comes to your supply company, you do have a choice. After signing your nätavtal you need to choose a supply company so that they can deliver electricity directly to your home. If you already have a contract that you’d like to keep, you can contact the supply company to get it transferred to your new address when you move.


Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

If you don’t sign your own elavtal, the grid will choose a company for you automatically. This means you’ll still get electricity, but it’s unlikely to be the best price for you.

To choose your own electricity supplier, you can use comparison tools such as CompricerElbyte or Elskling. You’ll get a more accurate price estimate if you know roughly how much electricity you use per year, for example if you can check on a previous invoice, but otherwise you can give the size of your property and get a rough figure.

When choosing your electricity supplier, you can choose between a fixed price (you’ll pay the same amount per kilowatt-hour each month for a set time, so your fee depends entirely on how much electricity you use) or a variable rate (this means your kilowatt-hour price varies, based on how expensive the electricity is for the supplier which depends on factors like weather and supply and demand, so your overall price will vary more).

You can also choose a timprisavtal which is a type of variable rate (this means that your price will vary throughout the day), meaning you can save money by planning energy-hungry activities like washing clothes or putting on the dishwasher for times when electricity is less expensive.

Use your appliances efficiently – and choose new appliances carefully

Outdated appliances can make a major difference to your energy bill, so make sure you look around for a more energy-efficient model when upgrading.

When it comes time to replace your washing machine, or invest in a new TV for example, you could make significant savings by picking the right model. More energy-efficient appliances might mean spending more money to begin with, but you could save a substantial amount in the long-run.

An energy-efficient fridge-freezer will consume 125 kWh per year, compared to 245 kWh for a less efficient machine. The savings are even more stark for tumble dryers – 170 kWh instead of 560 kWh.

For most appliances, the energy rating goes from A to G, with A being the most efficient. New European rules introduced on March 1st 2021 got rid of the A+ to A+++ ratings for most types of appliance, meaning the A is much harder to achieve, and “most energy efficient products currently on the market will typically now be labelled as ‘B’, ‘C’ or ‘D’.”

Image: European Commission

Additionally, make sure you turn off appliances you’re not using – appliances like your TV, microwave and coffee machine use less electricity on standby than they once did, but turning these machines off completely could still shave money off your bill, before counting heating costs. Using a multi-socket adapter with a switch – or even a timer which switches appliances off while you’re at work or asleep – will make it easier to get into the habit of turning off several appliances at once. 

Understand how you can claim money back – and what counts

If you’re buying an appliance for your apartment or house which wasn’t there when you originally moved in, such as a dishwasher or washing machine, you can claim the full cost of the appliance and installation back from the Tax Agency as “improvement costs” or avdrag för renoveringar och nybyggnad when you sell your property – just make sure you keep your receipts safe so you can document the purchase when the time comes. 

This is particularly useful if you’re considering buying a dishwasher. Dishwashers are much more energy-efficient than washing up by hand, especially if you usually leave the tap running as you wash the dishes. Just make sure you wait until your dishwasher is full – a half-full dishwasher uses almost the same amount of energy as a full one.

Have you been thinking about buying a dishwasher? You might be able to claim the cost of it back once you sell your property. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Similarly, you can claim part of the renovation costs back from the Tax Agency when you sell your home, if you have improved the property’s standard.

For example, if you bought a house with an old oil boiler, which you then replace with a modern, energy-efficient heat pump, you can claim part of these costs back from the Tax Agency when you sell the house, as your changes have added value to the property.

However, it is important to note that this does not apply if you swap out an old, inefficient appliance for a newer one with the same functions. This means that if you buy a standard fridge/freezer to replace an older fridge/freezer with the same functions, you can’t claim the cost back, even if the new appliance is more energy-efficient. The Tax Agency explains it in the following way: “Materials or products where the standard is only improved due to improvements in technology are not included in this category.”

Make friends with your thermostat

Your thermostat regulates the heat in your home. If you have radiators, each radiator will most likely have an individual thermostat, but this depends on the age of your building as well as whether you live in a house or an apartment. If you have underfloor heating, for example, you are likely to have a thermostat on the wall instead.

Firstly, give your thermostat time to heat up after turning it on before you come back to increase the temperature. It may be tempting to come back after a few minutes and turn it up to max because the room still feels cold, but it takes time to warm up all the cold air in a room – you may need to wait a couple of hours for the room to warm up.

Some housing associations may even have rules on the maximum temperature your thermostat can be set at – usually around 21C – meaning that you might just have to get used to it if this is too cold for you.

You can also try lowering your thermostat by just one degree and see if the temperature is still comfortable. According to Energirådgivningen Stockholm – a company financed by the Swedish Energy Agency to provide energy-saving advice in the Stockholm region – a decrease of just one degree in your home’s temperature can lower your energy use by around 5 percent.

Learn how your thermostat works – and use it effectively to save money and energy. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
 
Additionally, try not to have your windows open when your heating is switched on. If you want to air out your home, open the windows wide for a few minutes rather than having them slightly open for hours. This means that your heating system will not have to work as hard to keep your house warm, saving you money.

Similarly, don’t block your radiators with curtains or furniture. This will stop the warm air generated by the radiator from circulating around the room effectively, meaning you will need to use more energy to heat your home.

Make sure you check your windows and doors for draughts, too. Cold air coming in means that warm air which you have paid to heat is leaking out, so check the seals on your doors and windows and change them if they’re old and dried out – if you live in a bostadsrättsförening, then you may need to contact your housing association’s janitor or vicevärd to sort this out for you.

This might be an obvious suggestion, but try putting on warm socks and slippers before resorting to turning the heating up. Swedish homes are usually well-insulated, but they are unlikely to have wall-to-wall carpets, meaning that you probably have wooden floors in your house or apartment. This can feel colder on your feet, meaning that you may feel as if you need to turn the heating up.

Member comments

  1. My December bill just came in… Bearing in mind my energy use is only 100kw higher than last December, my bill has gone from 2500:- to a whopping 10,000:-!!! No idea how in the hell I’m going to pay this.

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For members

EUROPEAN UNION

Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you’re moving country

Have you ever wondered what to do with your private pension plan when moving to another European country?

Pensions in the EU: What you need to know if you're moving country

This question will probably have caused some headaches. Fortunately a new private pension product meant to make things easier should soon become available under a new EU regulation that came into effect this week. 

The new pan-European personal pension product (PEPP) will allow savers to take their private pension with them if they move within the European Union.

EU rules so far allowed the aggregation of state pensions and the possibility to carry across borders occupational pensions, which are paid by employers. But the market of private pensions remained fragmented.

The new product is expected to benefit especially young people, who tend to move more frequently across borders, and the self-employed, who might not be covered by other pension schemes. 

According to a survey conducted in 16 countries by Insurance Europe, the organisation representing insurers in Brussels, 38 percent of Europeans do not save for retirement, with a proportion as high as 60 percent in Finland, 57 percent in Spain, 56 percent in France and 55 percent in Italy. 

The groups least likely to have a pension plan are women (42% versus 34% of men), unemployed people (67%), self-employed and part-time workers in the private sector (38%), divorced and singles (44% and 43% respectively), and 18-35 year olds (40%).

“As a complement to public pensions, PEPP caters for the needs of today’s younger generation and allows people to better plan and make provisions for the future,” EU Commissioner for Financial Services Mairead McGuinness said on March 22nd, when new EU rules came into effect. 

The scheme will also allow savers to sign up to a personal pension plan offered by a provider based in another EU country.

Who can sign up?

Under the EU regulation, anyone can sign up to a pan-European personal pension, regardless of their nationality or employment status. 

The scheme is open to people who are employed part-time or full-time, self-employed, in any form of “modern employment”, unemployed or in education. 

The condition is that they are resident in a country of the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein (the European Economic Area). The PEPP will not be available outside these countries, for instance in Switzerland. 

How does it work?

PEPP providers can offer a maximum of six investment options, including a basic one that is low-risk and safeguards the amount invested. The basic PEPP is the default option. Its fees are capped at 1 percent of the accumulated capital per year.

People who move to another EU country can continue to contribute to the same PEPP. Whenever a consumer changes the country of residence, the provider will open a new sub-account for that country. If the provider cannot offer such option, savers have the right to switch provider free of charge.  

As pension products are taxed differently in each state, the applicable taxation will be that of the country of residence and possible tax incentives will only apply to the relevant sub-account. 

Savers who move residence outside the EU cannot continue saving on their PEPP, but they can resume contributions if they return. They would also need to ask advice about the consequences of the move on the way their savings are taxed. 

Pensions can then be paid out in a different location from where the product was purchased. 

Where to start?

Pan-European personal pension products can be offered by authorised banks, insurance companies, pension funds and wealth management firms. 

They are regulated products that can be sold to consumers only after being approved by supervisory authorities. 

As the legislation came into effect this week, only now eligible providers can submit the application for the authorisation of their products. National authorities have then three months to make a decision. So it will still take some time before PEPPs become available on the market. 

When this will happen, the products and their features will be listed in the public register of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA). 

For more information:

https://www.eiopa.europa.eu/browse/regulation-and-policy/pan-european-personal-pension-product-pepp/consumer-oriented-faqs-pan_en 

https://www.eiopa.europa.eu/browse/regulation-and-policy/pan-european-personal-pension-product-pepp_en 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK. 

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