A grey and rainy Friday in Örebro. But our flat is warm and cosy. Cosiness seems to be an important part of life here in Sweden, no doubt because of the weather. Candles are standard fare, and the Swedes have always been known for their attention to indoor lighting. When you move house in Sweden you take your ceiling lamps with you.
But cosiness requires more than good lighting. The most important thing is warmth. In Australia we assume that we will be cold in winter. We assume we will have a huge heating bill. But here in Sweden warmth seems to be regarded as the norm, in spite of the weather. Our flat in Brickebacken is always warm. It is centrally heated, as are most houses and flats in Örebro. We have little control over the heating system. It was turned on about 6 weeks ago, at the beginning of September. It now remains around 24 degrees indoors day and night.
I have wondered where all this heat comes from and had some idea that it came from a central source in the city. An article I read in a magazine the other day revealed all. There is a network of piped hot water which supplies heat to a large part of town. It originates from the city power-station, owned by E.ON, one of Sweden’s biggest power companies, and utilizes a combination of wood chips, peat and industrial waste as fuel. Hot water is piped through a network of some 350 km of underground pipes, leaving the power station at around 90 degrees centigrade, dropping to 40-50 degrees by the time it returns. In the coldest part of winter oil is used to top up the heat generation, but it only accounts for about 5% of the fuel used per year.
This extraordinary system has been operating in town since the late 50s. Before that the main sources of heat were coal, coke and wood; houses had a boiler in the basement which provided heat via circulating hot water. Many of the older buildings still have tiled stoves indoors which were once the heaters for the expansive high ceilinged apartments which are now much sought after by the more sophisticated city dwellers. But nowadays most stoves are for appearance or occasional use only, since the heating system of Örebro takes care of most.
So we remain snug and warm in our little flat in Brickebacken. Sweden is a cold country for most of the year. But staying warm is not difficult. As someone said to me the other day – there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. For us, even without the stockpile of winter clothes that everyone here seems to bringing out these last few weeks, we have really not suffered from the impending winter.