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How to Make That House Your Home: Utilities in Switzerland

For expats, utilities are often at the bottom of the list of things they need to figure out. But when you move to Switzerland, you will want to make sure that electricity, water, and heat are up and running and that your garbage is picked up regularly. This article covers all of this, and more!
In order to set up your electricity connection, you need to find out which provider is responsible for the supply in your canton.

At a Glance:

  • Setting up utilities for your home can take a while, so it makes sense to start this process before your move.
  • Electrical appliances brought from abroad are not always compliant with the voltage in Switzerland.
  • Many providers offer bundle deals for internet, phone, and TV connections, so make sure to shop around.
  • Mobile phones come either with a 24-month contract or a pre-paid deal.

 

Once you have rented an apartment or bought a house and packed up all your belongings, you may feel like you have finally sorted out everything and are right on track to starting your new life in Switzerland. However, setting up utilities for their new place is another hurdle expats have to take and that they shouldn’t forget about.

As connecting your utilities, and especially your internet and phone connections, can take a while and it makes sense for expats to start this process well before their move to Switzerland.

Setting up Your Home: Heat, Water, Electricity

Electricity and water services are considered standard utilities in Switzerland and at least water and heat are often included in the rent of your apartment. In this case, it is often easiest to simply take over the contract of the previous tenant. Make sure that your landlord provides you with the name of the previous tenant and the contact details of the energy provider, so that you can contact them and ask for a change of name on the contract.

If you are renting a house or buying your own property, you will probably have to set-up the connection anew. Luckily, there is one main provider responsible for each region or canton, making it easy to find out where to turn to. Since sustainable energy is becoming more and more popular, many providers also offer eco-friendly options.

In any case, you should get in touch with your energy provider before your move and let them know when you are going to move in, so that everything will be set up by then. Make sure that you get the complete paperwork back to them in due time. You should also try to find out if you need to hire an electrician to connect everything. This may be the case if you move into a new building. You can find an electrician through Local.ch or by asking friends and co-workers for a recommendation. Remember, though, that you may have to pay in cash.

Electrical Appliances

Before you bring your electrical appliances, make sure that they are compliant with the voltage used in Switzerland. That new TV or washing machine you have just bought and that you are ready to wrap up and ship might just not work in Switzerland.

Smaller electrical appliances need a single phase voltage supply of 230 volt / 50 hertz. However, larger appliances such as ovens, washers, and dryers need a three-way supply of 400 volt. If you decide to bring along something that runs on electricity, keep in mind that you may need a transformer, in addition to a power adapter.

Moreover, TVs and DVD and Blue-Ray players, for instance, can come with regional restrictions and/or work with different technical standards, causing them not to work in connection with media and appliances from another country

Waiting for the Garbage Truck: Waste Disposal

Waste is usually recycled and should be picked up at your Swiss home or taken to collection bins in your neighborhood. This applies to organic waste, which you can also put in the compost, paper and cardboard, as well as plastic.

PET plastic bottles can be returned to the store for recycling and the same applies to aluminum cans. Glass bottles and jars, on the other hand, are often recycled by color. That way, white, brown and green glass can be melted and re-made into new containers. In some cases, glass bottles can also be returned to shops to be re-used.

Some items have to be taken to recycling centers or communal collection points, such as renovation and construction waste, for instance. If you have any bulky items that you need to dispose of, you may have to make an appointment for them to be picked up or store them until a set, regular pick-up date. Electronic devices, especially larger ones, also have to be taken to recycling centers or to the store where you purchased them.

You can find out more about Swiss recycling, recycling centers across the country, and how to recycle specific types of waste online but remember that some of these websites are only available in French, German, or Italian.

Cable TV: How to Get All Those Channels

Most apartments will have a basic TV connection and if you are renting, chances are that the landlord has already included the cable fees in your rent. In any case, it might make sense for you to book an additional TV package from a private provider to receive more channels, including some in your native language. Some of them also offer landline and internet connections, so it might make sense to look for bundle deals. If you need to install a satellite dish, you should get permission from your landlord beforehand.

Some of the most popular providers of digital TV in Switzerland include:

However, before you pack up your TV to ship it overseas, keep in mind that TVs may not work in your new home due to different encoding and transmitting standards. This is especially the case when it comes to built-in receivers. Therefore, it makes sense to check if your device is compatible before you take it along.

Another thing you need to keep in mind is that you will have to pay a license fee if you have a radio, television, computer, or smartphone. Every expat who plans on staying for more than three months needs to register with Billag within 14 days. The combined fees for radio and TV per household amount to 451 CHF annually or 113 CHF paid every three months. If you refuse to pay these fees, you may end up with a hefty fine.

Landline and Internet Connection

The main provider for landline phone and internet connections is Swisscom. While there are various providers, the phone connection itself is handled by Swisscom.

Many providers offer bundles that cover both internet and phone connections. This can make a lot of sense if you want to use not only your mobile phone and if you want to save some money and time, setting up both at once. Some providers may offer a flatrate for calls to your home country, while others may have faster internet packages at reasonable prices. So it does make sense to shop around.

In order to set up a connection, you will need to present your passport and a copy of your residence permit. You will also be asked to pay a connection fee and, depending on your visa status, a deposit. If your new apartment has had a previous tenant, knowing their name will probably help to insure a speedier connection. If there has been no previous connection or you have moved into a brand new building, a contractor will have to come by to take care of everything.

There are various telecommunications providers in Switzerland, including:

Call Me on My Mobile: Pre-Paid Phones and Contracts

Some of the providers above also offer mobile phone contracts in Switzerland at different rates. These contracts usually run for 24 months and are renewed automatically if you don’t cancel them. Although many of these contracts don’t come cheap, they usually allow you to easily pay off a new phone.

When you take out a mobile subscription, you might have to present your passport, work permit, and proof of residence. A bank account and credit card may be required as well. Please get in touch with the provider of your choice to find out which documents they ask for.

As an alternative, pre-paid mobile cards are becoming more and more common. They are sold at various shops, supermarkets, and kiosks, and offer a higher flexibility and lower monthly rates.  Contrary to the contracts mentioned above, these options typically don’t include a phone. Particularly expats who only stay for a limited amount of time may benefit from this. In addition to some of the providers mentioned above, Yallo is another one offering cheap mobile rates.

 

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