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EXPLAINED: When should I turn on my heating in Denmark this year?

Energy costs in Denmark are set to reach sky-high levels this winter, which will leave many people wondering when they should start heating their homes and by how much. Here's what you need to bear in mind.

A radiator with a vent valve
Denmark is soon entering the "heating season" or fyringssæson where heating systems are switched on. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

What’s happening?

As a result of supply stoppages for cheap Russian gas, on top of inflation; energy prices in Denmark have been at record levels for months.

Due to the situation, the Danish government has sent money to some homes impacted by high gas prices and parliament is discussing other measures for households. Public buildings are set to see thermostats turned down and outside illumination switched off.

As the temperature starts to drop throughout the country, the heating season is getting underway and many people are wondering about the best way to heat their homes, and if they have to follow any rules. 

READ ALSO: How much will Danish energy bills go up this winter?

Does it make a difference what type of accommodation I live in?

The right time to start heating up your home depends on several factors including your own personal preference, the weather, whether you live in rented accommodation or own your home, and on the heating system in your property.

How does the heating system work in Danish homes?

Around 65 percent of homes in Denmark use district heating. This system distributes hot water from heating plants to houses and apartments through underground water pipes. The system is designed to be able to heat a room to 20 degrees when there’s an outdoor temperature of 12 degrees.

This is known as fyringssæson meaning “heating season”, which usually runs from the 1st October to April 30th and is calculated when the outside daily average temperature drops to 12 degrees Celsius and below for at least three consecutive days, and ends in the spring when it reaches 10 degrees or above for at least 3 consecutive days.

Does my landlord control my heating?

A lot of rented accommodation will use fyringssæson and under Danish tenancy laws, landlords are required to supply adequate heating and hot water at all times. A daytime temperature of at least 21 degrees, sometimes 22-25 degrees, is generally recommended in all rooms via the heating system.

However due to energy costs this year, the government has announced that the temperature in public buildings will be set to 19 degrees, unless there are special circumstances requiring it to be higher. Hospitals, care homes and preschool care are exempted. The temperature in public buildings is usually set between 21 and 23 degrees.

The government has also recommended that people reduce their own heating at home by 1 to 2 degrees.

READ ALSO: How people in Denmark are changing their energy use to keep bills down

How can I keep track of my heating bill?

Earlier this year, the Danish Parliament made a rule that heating companies are obliged to provide information on energy consumption which is sent to consumers seven times a year during the heating season, where you can see how much heat is used. 

It is worth keeping an eye on energy prices and asking the property owner whether the heating system is optimally adjusted.

How can I use the radiators effectively?

“It’s a common a mistake that people sit in one heated room and leave other rooms with the radiator turned off and the door closed,” Michael Nielsen, product manager with Danish cleantech engineering company Danfoss, told The Local.

“But it’s actually more important to use all radiators at same time to heat the whole house and maybe set them a little lower. You will save energy and get more comfort this way,” he said.

Nielsen also recommends not going below a temperature of 14 degrees inside the home.

“Such a low temperature may lead to unpleasant conditions such as condensation on surfaces and mould on the walls and carpet,” Nielsen said.

Setting your radiator to the right temperature will help it work more efficiently. “In Denmark this is usually 21 to 22 degrees but the public advice is to lower this by 1 to 2 degrees this winter, to save on energy costs,” Nielsen added.

Another important thing is to check your thermostat is working and change it if it’s more than 15 years old.

“You can save around 8 percent of energy consumption on each radiator by installing a new thermostat,” Nielsen told The Local.

READ ALSO: ‘Semi off-grid’: Readers’ tips for coping with expensive energy bills in Denmark

How else can I save on heating costs?

There are plenty of ways you can help to keep your heating costs down, the most simple of which are keeping doors and windows insulated with draft excluders, and regularly airing out rooms.

“We recommend airing your house twice a day by opening the windows and turning down the thermostat.
“At other times it is better not to turn the heating off completely as it may take more energy to heat up the room again. Instead you should reduce the temperature by 3 to 4 degrees at night,” Nielsen said.

The Danish Energy Agency also recommends the following:

  • Check your house or apartment for any cracks where heat could be escaping.
  • Check your radiators are working efficiently and don’t put furniture right in front of them.
  • Check your windows and doors are keeping heat in or whether they need upgrading.
  • Check the insulation in the outer walls, attic, roof, floors and pipes.
  • Check your heating system is running as efficiently as possible.

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What can ‘negative’ electricity price in Denmark do for your bill?

The hourly rate for electricity is set to take a big tumble in Denmark on Wednesday as windy weather conditions give production a big bump.

What can ‘negative’ electricity price in Denmark do for your bill?

A negative unit price is possible this afternoon, such is the extent of the price drop according to energy stock exchange Nord Pool.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you will be paid for switching the lights on, because taxes and transport costs must still be added to the base price.

Nevertheless, it will be a good time to run appliances according to Kristian Rune Poulsen, senior consultant with sector organisation Green Power Denmark.

Lower electricity prices can be taken advantage of by setting timers on thirsty appliances like dishwashers and tumble dryers and running them at these times. This can include off-peak times of the day when there is less demand for power, as well as fluctuations related to production.

“Electricity prices are formed of the raw energy price, which will be a negative contribution [on Wednesday, ed.], and then we also pay to have the electricity transported and some taxes,” Poulsen explained.

“All in all, that means we still pay money to use electricity, but the amount will be somewhat lower than on the many other days when the electricity price is not negative,” he said.

READ ALSO: How a new app function can help cut your Danish electricity bill

Geographically, people in western Denmark will benefit the most from Tuesday’s price dip. The price west of the Great Belt Bridge will drop to 61.55 øre per kilowatt hour between 2pm and 3pm, including transport costs and taxes. That figure comes from energy provider Norlys.

Zealand and other parts of eastern Denmark will get a low rate of 62.69 øre per kWh between around 3pm and 4pm, according to Norlys data.

This year has seen a total of 302 hours in which the hourly electricity rate has dropped below zero, according to financial media Børsen. That beats the previous record from 2020.

“We have seen high prices [in 2023], but especially negative and very low electricity prices when we’ve had a lot of wind,” Poulsen said.

A second important factor affecting Danish electricity prices is solar power. An increased solar power capacity means that days with negative electricity unit prices due to sunny weather are also now becoming more common, according to the consultant.

“On the way out of the energy crisis it has become evident that all the sun and wind we’ve strived to get going in recent years has really begun to have its effect on electricity prices,” he said.