Improve energy efficiency and get help to pay for it: Here’s how!

The old country house of your dreams is finally for sale, but inevitably requires an energy renovation? Then don't forget to ask the state for support. To promote environmentally friendly measures, Switzerland is rolling out the francs. What conditions these subsidies are tied to and how you should behave when applying is explained in the following article.


A middle-aged man fills out applications for the granting of subsidies for an energy-efficient renovation. His wife is in the background looking after an advisor.

The charming country house in the picturesque Bernese Oberland captivates you with its allure, and you can hardly wait to move in? Yet, the anticipation is quickly clouded by concerns about future exorbitant electricity or gas bills, which are often inevitable with an old house. Indeed, a lot of money is literally thrown out the window in old houses with poor insulation. The solution to this problem - an energetic renovation. And the best part? To reduce the financial burden, you can apply for government grants.

We sat down with Stefan Müller, architect and managing director of Raumtakt GmbH to get all the key “must-knows” about possible financial aid in Switzerland for you. Find out which offices to contact and when - and everything you need to consider to make your application a success.

The Building Program – your key contact points

Switzerland’s most important energy funding program is the Building Program, run by federal and cantonal governments. Since 2010, its aim has been to reduce energy consumption and CO₂ emissions from properties countrywide, by subsidising various energy measures for homeowners. These include, for example, renovations that make homes more energy-efficient, replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources or reducing CO₂ emissions.

And it’s not the only source of money either. Architect Stefan Müller also recommends checking for regional funding: “Some municipalities offer additional financial aid under the ‘Energy City’ label – check if that includes your community.”

Which concrete measures does the Building Program offer?

The Building Program subsidises both over-arching building-wide measures as well as smaller individual energy measures.

Examples of individual measures include thermally insulating facades and roofs and replacing windows and doors, as well as installing renewably powered heating systems like heat pumps. Subsidies for individual measures are usually granted per square metre of glass and facade area or as a collective lump sum and vary according to geographical or political location.

Comprehensive measures refer to the complete renovation of old properties or constructing new properties to replace them. And unlike individual measures, financial aid for comprehensive energy renovations is more strictly regulated. For example, a GEAK certificate (Cantonal Building Energy Certificate) is mandatory when funding the renovation of old properties and the constructions replacing them must be built according to the Minergie P standard.

However, whatever type of renovation you embark on, the general rule to remember is that a professional energy consultation and the creation of a GEAK (Plus) always makes sense, even if not always mandatory.

Are subsidies guaranteed?

As a general rule, all applicants who meet the necessary conditions can apply for funding under the Buildings Program. The final decision is made by each canton in accordance with the tried and tested principle of federalism and may vary depending on the measure involved. For example, the cantons individually define the insulation value that must be achieved by a particular renovation measure. The Energie Schweiz (Energy Switzerland) website gives you a quick and easy overview of which measure is supported at your place of residence and under which conditions. Just enter your postcode to get this information.

In theory, there is a risk of the cantonal funding budget for the current year having reached its limits, which would mean you would have to postpone your application until the following year. According to architect Stefan Müller, however, this rarely happens and more often than not, approval of the subsidies is a mere formality. To ensure it all goes smoothly, keep these three golden rules top of mind:

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare: Allow sufficient time for the preparatory phase. The energy report, renovation concept and construction plans all underpin the funding application, which is why preparing them carefully matters. We explain the ins and outs step by step in the following section!

  2. You need an expert: Have a qualified expert issue an expert opinion confirming that the renovation improves the energy efficiency values needed to the required extent. Even if the GEAK is not mandatory for every renovation, we still recommend having such an energy certificate drawn up.

  3. The early bird catches the worm: Getting the subsidies approved depends on applying for them before the ground-breaking ceremony. If you submit the application after construction is underway, the subsidies will no longer be granted!

Provided you follow these rules and your project ticks all the cantonal boxes, you should receive the funding you apply for. However, don’t forget this key pointer from Stefan Müller: “You only actually receive the funds after the project is completed and red tape may mean it takes up to half a year. Take this into account in your financial planning!”

Getting the state to subsidise your renovation: step by step

Keen to apply for funding, but unsure how to go about it? The following step-by-step guide may help:

  1. Consult experts: Hire a GEAK expert to prepare a detailed energy assessment of your property. You can find the right professional for you in your area in the directory on the GEAK website.

  2. Clarify the scope for funding: Clarify your funding options open to you and the specific terms and conditions that apply based on where you live as soon as you can - contact the GEAK expert or your nearest cantonal energy office. Doing so helps you ensure the appraisal contains all the calculations and analyses required for funding. You can also get an overview of the funding measures on the Energie Schweiz (Energy Switzerland) website.

  3. Have someone draft out the renovation details: Once you have received your building energy certificate and other documents from the GEAK expert, have your trusted architect draw up a renovation concept. This is crucial before you get a green light for the subsidies, since they are approved based on the construction plans and other construction documents. Incorrect or excessively inaccurate planning may preclude any decision to grant funding.

    Stefan Müller’s additional tip: “If you live in a listed property, expect any work to take longer and be costlier! It may also mean you cannot change the exterior, but only insulate it from the inside, which could make it difficult to meet the energy efficiency values the cantons require. More intensive planning and advice from the architect is therefore required.”

  4. Get a building permit: Once you have decided how you want to renovate, you’ll have to obtain the necessary building permit from the responsible office. The individual measures this requires depend on the canton and are very much decided case by case.

  5. Submit a funding application: Always submit your application before construction gets underway. This includes documents like the construction plans, a calculation of the eligible areas, offers or even photos of which building sections are to be renovated. Look for help from your planning team when it comes to selecting and compiling the documents.

    Caution: Approval of the subsidies can sometimes take considerable time. Although you can start the construction without a final green light, it is at your own risk. If the financial planning behind the renovation depends on the subsidies to be viable and your project cannot progress without them, you are better off waiting for your project to be rubber-stamped before any earth is moved.

  6. Wait for the building permit: Don’t expect your construction to be approved overnight. The actual time it takes depends on a few things such as the scale of the construction project or the local regulations that apply. Three to four months should be expected as a general rule.

  7. Implement the energy renovation: Once the building permit has been issued, the construction phase starts and the energy renovation can get underway.

  8. Submit the completion form: When the construction is finished, submit the completion form to the competent authority, as well as all other documents prescribed by the municipality.

  9. Receive the funding amount: Once the payment letter has been issued by the municipality, the subsidies will be transferred.

  10. Optimise taxes! You can deduct energy-saving and environmentally friendly investments from your taxes, giving you a triple header of gains!