When it comes to renting an apartment, one of the most easily overlooked aspects of budgeting is the extent to which your utility bills can range in cost. There are many factors that affect the price you pay for utilities, including the number of people in your apartment, whether or not the building offers gas in addition to electric, whether or not the unit has large appliances like a washing machine or dishwasher in it, whether or not there’s central air or window units, etc. — which is exactly why it’s important to have a good upfront idea of what your budget is and what you can do to keep these bills to a minimum. Of course, it’s also important to know what’s normal in terms of utility costs, so a good rule of thumb is to look up the average prices in your area.
Electricity and Gas
When considering average utility costs per month, electricity and gas are likely to be your most expensive bills. If you want to bring the prices down a bit, take the size of your apartment and the general climate into account. The money spent heating an apartment in Florida would obviously yield a much cheaper bill than heating a similarly-sized unit in Colorado would, simply because of the local temperature.
Some apartments don’t provide gas at all, meaning all the appliances in them run solely on electricity. This can be both a positive and a negative, for while your electricity bill will be higher each month, you won’t receive a gas bill at all. If your apartment does have gas, your hot water usage is an important factor. Every time you turn your sink’s left knob, the gas-powered water heater in your apartment is activated. Many people turn the water on without even thinking about which knob they twist. Trying things like washing the dishes and brushing your teeth with cold water rather than hot is a great way to cut back on gas usage.
Water and Sewage
Water and sewage fees are oftentimes included in your monthly rent. If they aren’t, you will most likely be billed for your water and sewage usage by your city. On average, dry cities like Las Vegas and Phoenix have higher water usage rates than places like New Orleans and Portland, where the average annual rainfall is much higher. This can drive up water prices in certain areas.
To better understand your personal water usage, check to see if your water company provides a water usage graph in your monthly statements. These graphs often show the lowest and highest points of water usage over the course of a year (or more), which can be very helpful information when it comes to controlling the amount of water your family uses during those times.
In the words of the EPA, “While using water efficiently is important throughout the year, sometimes the timing of water use can make a big difference for community water supplies — and your water bill… Some systems may be forced to restrict outdoor watering during the peak to ensure that water is available for more important community needs. Some utilities provide information on how your household compares to that of your neighbors. This can help you see how your usage stacks up versus other users in your same climate area and can be a helpful way of gauging your ‘WaterSense.'”
Trash and Recycling
Although many apartment complexes have large community trash and recycling receptacles, you are still likely to be billed each month for pick-up. If your complex has relatively average utility prices, you can expect to pay between $10 and $40 a month for trash pick-up, but the fee can be higher if your apartment offers recycling services as well. Some apartments also offer doorstep trash valet services for an additional charge, in which case you can just leave your trash in a receptacle outside your front door, and a representative will take it out to the bins for you.
Many people don’t realize that refrigerator upkeep can contribute greatly to monthly energy costs. Most refrigerators have built-in ventilation filters on both their back and front sides. Over time, these filters can become clogged with dust and debris, so it’s important to clean them out when you can. Take your vacuum hose and run it along the front bottom of your fridge. Then pull the fridge out and do the same thing all along it’s back. You will find that not only will the refrigerator work more efficiently, but you will also save some serious money. The same is true for clothes dryers, so make sure to clean the lint filter between uses. Most dishwashers and washing machines have “eco” and/or “cold water” settings that skip the heating phase to save energy. You should also make sure that the temperature inside your refrigerator/freezer is not set too cold. Ice accumulation in the freezer, constant freezer burn, and chips of ice floating on the top layer of liquids in the fridge are all signs that your settings might be too cold.
Go Green To Save Green
Pretty much the easiest and most efficient way to take control of your utility bills is to go green. If you think about the amount of resources you use in terms of their effect on the environment, you’ll quickly see how many little steps can be taken each day to cut down your monthly energy usage. Do you leave the lights on in rooms you’re not in? Do you turn on the central air when a ceiling fan would be more than enough? Do you leave the water on when you’re brushing your teeth? Make sure that your unit is properly weather sealed and insulated. Switch from incandescent bulbs to eco bulbs. Check the EnergyStar rating on new appliances before you buy them. Inspect the front door, patio doors, and windows to make sure their weather stripping is intact. Hold your hand over the edges of windows and doors to see if you can feel air coming in from outside. If you can feel air coming in or see any outside light, the weather stripping may need to be replaced.
The more conscious you are of taking your energy usage into your own hands, the easier it will be to control the normalcy of its price range.