Surface–atmosphere energy exchange is strongly ecosystem-specific. At the same time, as the energy balance constitutes responses of an ecosystem to environmental stressors including precipitation, humidity and solar radiation, it results in feedbacks of potential importance for the regional climate. Northern peatlands represent a diverse class of ecosystems that cover nearly 6 × 10 6 km 2 in the Boreal region, which makes the intercomparison of their energy balances an important objective. With this in mind we studied energy exchange across a broad spectrum of peatlands from pristine fens and bogs to forested and agriculturally managed peatlands, which represent a large fraction of the landscape in Finland and Sweden. The effects of management activities on the energy balance were extensively examined from the micrometeorological point of view, using eddy covariance data from eight sites in these two countries (56º 12’–62º 11′ N, 13º 03’–30º 05′ E). It appears that the surface energy balance varies widely amongst the different peatland types. Generally, energy exchange features including the Bowen ratio, surface conductance, coupling to the atmosphere, responses to water table fluctuations and vapour pressure deficit could be associated directly with the peatland type. The relative constancy of the Bowen ratio in natural open mires contrasted with its variation in tree-covered and agricultural peatlands. We conclude that the impacts of management and the consequences of land-use change in peatlands for the local and regional climate might be substantial.