If you take a stroll through the streets of a cute little Swedish town at night, you will notice that many windows are not covered by curtains and are lit by candles or small lights. This seems quite strange. What about privacy and energy consumption? Why do Swedes leave those small lights in their windows?
For us it is customary to close the curtains at night – this is how we protect our privacy. As soon as lights are turned on, our windows become screens in which our lives are broadcasted – we don’t need to show ourselves in this way to our neighbors and random passers-by. Also, we use lighting where we need light and nowhere else. If you’re leaving the room, you need to switch the lights off – your mom taught you that.
But it’s not like the Swedes won’t care about the prying eyes or efficient use of electricity, in spite of what you may think looking at their windows at night.
Many windows in Sweden at night have little lights in them. Some are literally installed right above the window frame, others are standing on the window sills. The light in the windows is a tradition in Sweden. It is believed that it was once used to help people that may be lost in blizzards. The lights in the windows framed the streets and indicated in which houses one could get help if you find yourself in trouble.
Furthermore, that little lightbulb or a candle may not look like much, but it is producing a little bit of heat, which can prevent the glass from frosting up. Frosted windows do not let enough natural light through and definitely do not contribute to the heating efforts.
Chris Ebbert was not born in Sweden, but after moving there he was also surprised that Swedes seem to waste energy with their window lights. But now, after some time living there, he also turns on the light in his windows. On Quora.com, he writes that this is how Swedes mark houses that are not empty (both for safety and for the possibility of assistance), and create the image of friendlier towns and cities.
“It’s a Swedish tradition to contribute to a sort of “pretty city image” by having little lights in the windows; it literally lights up the street, makes the place look lived in, and friendly,” says Ebbert.
So window lights look nice and cozy, but what about the electricity and the environment? Well, they use very weak bulbs – just 1-2 Watts of power are enough. As light bulbs produce some heat, it contributes to the heatings of the house in winter. In addition, Sweden produces a lot of its energy in clean ways, especially hydroelectric.
What about privacy? Swedes, of course, care about the privacy of their homes as much as anyone else. They only light the windows that are not exposing anything. Lights can shine behind closed curtains too.