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

Danish homes are set to see energy costs go up this winter. We asked our readers for their tips on limiting the damage of costly bills.

'Semi off-grid': Readers' tips for coping with expensive energy bills in Denmark
Adapting cooking habits is one of several areas in which savings can be made to help deal with expensive energy, our readers in Denmark said. Photo by Uwe Conrad on Unsplash

The cost of both gas and electricity is high in Denmark as inflation and the Russian invasion of Ukraine combine to increase the price of gas, affecting energy costs across the board.

The government has sent money to some homes impacted by high gas prices and parliament is discussing other measures, while public buildings are set to see thermostats turned down and outside illumination switched off.

While government action could provide some relief, there are things that can be done by private individuals to limit power use and therefore keep costs down.

As we’ve previously written about, tracking the cost of power and using appliances like washing machines and dishwashers at night could help to limit bills.

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

“See which electricity provider you are using. The different providers, their offers and conditions can be examined at elpris.dk,” advised Maksim.

“Switch off the Wi-Fi during the night,” said Lasani.

One reader, Cornelia, provided us with a bullet-point list of energy and money-saving tips that could help to balance budgets if bills go up.

These include the following:

  • Air homes with heating off and windows wide open, then close windows, not leaving them ajar
  • Dry clothes hanging up, no drier
  • Cook with vegetables, cut down on expensive processed food
  • Consider cutting down on meat, which is both expensive and energy intensive
  • Use an eco dishwasher programme which cleans just as well but takes longer
  • Don’t wash too much by hand – the dishwasher saves water
  • Defrost that fridge

She also advocated buying “reconditioned phones and tablets instead of new [ones], you save money and rare earth elements – and do you really need the newest tech gadget anyway?”

“Buy second hand: clothes, furniture, etc,” she also wrote, noting that “excellent quality” can be found in charities stores such as Red Cross, particularly in affluent areas.

Another reader said they had spent a year living a “semi off-grid life”, which they said kept electricity bills to a negligible amount of 50-100 kroner per month.

To do this, the reader said they lived in a campingvogn (caravan) “for a year as a semi off-grid life, no heater. I turned the light on only when I must read, dress up, eat or cook,” they said.

“At night, I slept inside a sub-zero sleeping bag. I didn’t use the fridge, I only bought fresh food that is enough to eat each day via the TooGoodToGo app, or otherwise, I put the fresh food in a plastic box and left the food outdoor because it is very cold,” they explained.

“I used a torch many times because I tried to use as (little) electricity as I can. I only used electricity when I needed to cook, charge my phone and my computer. I took a shower at the gym. Washed clothes with my hands and hung them outdoors,” they said.

“If anybody finds my real-life experiences are useful, they are welcome to use it,” they said.

Doing all of the above and going partially “off grid” might represent a significant and perhaps impracticable change in lifestyle for most people, but other readers who contacted us mentioned elements of it in their own strategies.

“Turn off the electric stove little early. The stove will release enough heat to finish up the cooking and save electricity,” Lalitha wrote.

“If we start using induction cooker (not rice cooker) it will save lot of cooking time and hence it is cost effective too,” wrote Swati.

Heating can be made more efficient by keeping doors closed as well as windows, Rahool noted.

“Use appliances at night. Do not mow lawns. Use public transport. Instead of vacuum cleaners, clean homes with brooms. Reduce water consumption,” he also advised.

“Don’t turn on the thermostat unless it’s freezing cold. Keep the windows closed and wear more clothes. If you have space, do a bit of yoga or exercise which requires engaging your muscles. It’ll really heat you up,” an anonymous reader chimed in.

“Turn off the heat when you leave the house and if possible turn it on slightly before you come home so that you don’t go to extreme heat when you come home,” they said.

“Try to use the kettle and other stuff when everyone needs hot water, so you don’t heat it again and again,” they further recommended.

Cooking outside was the recommendation of another reader, although this step could prove more tricky as the weather becomes autumnal.

“When it was really hot this summer, we started barbecuing enough meat to use throughout the week so we wouldn’t need to turn on the oven, and discovered how much energy we saved. We are now doing that more regularly to save on bills,” they said.

Many thanks to all readers who took the time to send their tips and advice to us.

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ENERGY

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.

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

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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