When renting an apartment or home it is important to consider the utilities you need to pay for in addition to your rent.
Here are some general tips to help you get prepared when your utility bill comes in.
- Find out what you are responsible for. Renters are often expected to sign up and pay for electric and gas services. Be sure to ask about your landlord’s policies and carefully study your lease to understand what utilities you are expected to pay for. In addition, make sure to read your lease carefully on details of who is responsible for maintenance and repair costs. Updated energy efficient systems will help both you and your landlord save money.
- Estimate expected energy bills. Ask you landlord what the typical summer and winter bills are. In addition, ask if there are any special requests related to energy such as being required to run a dehumidifier in the summer.
- Learn how to read and understand your bill. Make sure to read through your bill carefully and confirm what you have been charged for. Take a look at our page on how to read a bill. If you have more questions or unsure about your charges, contact CUB or your utility provider.
- Check major appliances and mechanical systems. Ask your landlord about major mechanical systems such as the furnace, water heater, and air conditioner. Confirm who is responsible for having the furnace and air conditioner serviced each year, and understand how efficient the appliances are, as well as whether they use electricity or natural gas. This is important to consider, as inefficient appliances can add onto your energy bill. Check out this Appliance Energy Calculator developed by The US Department of Energy to measure how much energy your appliances use.
- Know what programs you are eligible for. The Weatherization Assistance Program and Energy Assistance Program provide free services to eligible low-income utility customers to help pay for heating costs, energy efficiency, and appliance maintenance and upgrades. Many utilities also offer discounted rates based on income. CUB’s website has links to programs that can help you to save energy and money.
Here are some common things renters can do to reduce their energy use and ultimately their energy bills.
- Replace any incandescent light bulbs with LED lights as they can last longer and consume less power.
- Install a programmable thermostat. These can automatically adjust your homes temperature settings even when you’re not at home or sleeping.
- Use power strips to reduce vampire energy use. A smart power strip can cut off power to multiple devices when they’re not in use — and a “dumb” power strip can do this, too, if you turn it off when it’s not needed.
- Caulk and seal around windows and doors, to reduce air leaks.
- Most utilities provide discounts and rebates to help you buy energy-efficient products like these.
For more information check out CUB’s Renter Resources.
It is important that both you and your landlord are on the same page on what payments you are responsible for and that you ask for permission from your landlord before making any permanent changes to the home. Work together with your housemates and landlord to save energy and money by adopting energy efficient practices that can reduce your energy bills.
If you’d like to do more after taking in these tips, contact your utility or CUB to discuss your energy bill and ways you can save energy and money.