What to Know About Keeping Utilities Low


The cost of many items continues to go up each year, especially for those who rent a home or apartment.  While you can’t control everything, there things you can do to help control your bills. In this article, we'll outline some of the things you can do to keep your utility bills manageable.

Heating and Cooling
Two of the biggest contributors to your utility bills are heating and cooling. If your rental runs on gas heat, expect your gas bill to be higher in the winter. Conversely, you can expect your electric bill to be higher in the summer when the air conditioner is running more. While some energy drains are out of your control in a rental, here are some things you can do to make your rental more energy efficient.

To fix drafty doors and windows:

  • If you can see light around doors and windows, ask your landlord to install weather stripping to seal those gaps.
  • If the draft is coming from under the door, ask them to install a sweep. If a sweep won't do the trick, try a "draft snake," which is simply a fabric tube filled with sand, foam or any other material that can block drafts.
  • For drafty windows, you can install a window insulation kit, which essentially covers the window in plastic. Another easy and more attractive solution is to put drapes or curtains on the windows.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. According to energy.gov, you could save an estimated 10% per year on heating and cooling costs by using a programmable thermostat, and by resetting it when you are asleep or away from home, you won’t have to sacrifice comfort.

Other ways to keep your heating and air conditioning costs low:

  • If your windows aren't drafty, you can open curtains or blinds to let the sunlight in during the winter for additional heat, and close them in the summer to keep things cool.
  • Ask your landlord to have annual maintenance performed on the furnace and air conditioner.
  • Change the air filter on a regular basis. (This is inexpensive and something you can easily do yourself.)
  • If you don't have allergies, open the windows and use fans and attic fans during the summer.

Appliances can be another energy drain. Anything that produces heat or heats up can really make your electric bill skyrocket. Space heaters are a prime example of this. They may help you save on your heating bill, but your electric bill will go up from using it. In addition, they are a fire hazard. If your space heater causes a fire and you don't have renters insurance, you may be liable for the property damage.

In addition, electronics use a lot more energy than you'd think, even when they are plugged in and not being used. Here's how to control their energy consumption:

  • If feasible, unplug these items when you are not using them.
  • Plug computer components in to a power strip and turn the power strip off after you power off your computer every day.
  • During the summer, only use your dryer and oven in the mornings or evenings when it's not quite as hot outside.
  • Use smaller cooking appliances when you can. For example, use toaster ovens, crock pots and indoor grills as alternatives to heating the oven or stove.

Be Prepared
To get a better idea of how much your utilities will run you on a monthly basis, ask the utility company to give you an average of past utility bills when you move into a place. Bear in mind that previous tenants may have consumed either more or less energy than you will. In either case, it never hurts try and be more energy efficient.