Let’s Talk Utility Bills

Alright- we can all agree that saving the earth is good thing, right? Exactly. None of us are out there trying to sabotage the planet.

So what if you could save the planet AND save your monthly bills at the same time?

I’m here with some utility hacks to help aid in the never ending search to reduce the cost of utilities. And take it from someone who loves long showers, the search never stops. But there are always changes you can make that will help, and no matter how small, they’ll make a difference.

First things first – how the heck do you calculate energy usage? For reference, energy is calculated using kilowatt hours (kW/h), which is then turned into a monetary value that is generally based on a multitude of factors including where you live, how old your building is and how energy efficient your appliances are.

On average, the energy usage for a single person living in a one-bedroom apartment built in 2015 will use 550 kW/h of energy per month. At the US 2018 average cost of 13.5 cents per kW/h, you’ll end with an electric bill of $74.25 per month. (Of course, it can be much higher in your city. For comparison, in New York City the 2018 cost is $19.8 per kW/h,  so electric for the same apartment would cost $108.90.) Check your bill and if you are in this monthly range, consider your utility usage to be average. If you’re above this range, let’s take a look at some small ways to start monitoring your usage!

  1. Turn off the lights!

If you walk out of the room, flip off the lights. Just make it a habit. Your furniture and decor don’t have eyes, so they don’t need to have the lights on. A few lights left on around the apartment will add up over time. According to ClearlyEnergy, leaving on a single light while you are at work can cost you around 6 cents a day. That’s per light bulb, per 8 hour workday. Looking at a normal apartment space that uses 4 fluorescent bulbs, turning off the lights can make a real difference. You turn them off when you are at work and you can treat yourself to a margarita at the end of the month, or put $50 or more in your bank account at the end of the year.

Save even more, if you switch to energy efficient or compact fluorescent light bulbs instead of old school light bulbs; it’ll cost you a sixth of what it normally would cost to keep them turned on. Now I’m not saying you should keep energy efficient lights blazing all the time, I’m just pointing out that they’re a great investment for the environment and for your wallet.

  1. Only use the water you need.

Don’t run the faucet while brushing your teeth. No explanation needed here. If you don’t use it, lose it. Running water while brushing your teeth will only accomplish one thing, and that is take money out of your monthly paycheck while making you look foolish for running it in the first place.

Unless you live in the rural 1950’s, it no longer takes 5 minutes to warm up a shower. Give it a minute and hop in, I guarantee that 15 seconds of cold-ish water is less painful than having no money in your bank account.

The average person uses 50 gallons of water per day in their apartment, which includes showering, brushing teeth, cooking and any other activities that involve using water. This cost adds up to an average of $35 per month. Now, say you love to take long showers and leave water on while brushing your teeth. Water usage can rise to around 80 gallons a day and your monthly cost will rise to an average of $56 per month.

The numbers don’t lie! Simply reducing water usage is not only better for the environment but potentially could save you $252 during the year!

  1. Fix leaky faucets or file maintenance requests rights away.

A leaky faucet can lead to a high water bill if you let it constantly drip. If you notice that your faucet or shower is constantly leaking, make sure to notify your maintenance team or file a maintenance request right away. They are professional and will fix the problem for you, often at no cost. And please, please- do not try to DIY leaks. You may end up breaking a pipe and flooding your apartment. Even if you have renters insurance, these can be very costly mistakes to fix.

The average cost for a plumber in the United States is $200, which can make a substantial dent in your wallet if the problem isn’t taken care of right away. If you let a problem persist long enough and a pipe would burst, it can cost up to $2,000! So, sooner rather than later is the best advice I can give when taking care of these issues.

  1. Use lids on pots to help water boil faster and reduce stove energy use.

Adding salt to water will help it boil quicker. But throwing a lid on pots and pans not only helps them to boil quicker but also helps to reduce the energy your stove uses. If you’re a kitchen aficionado and are constantly whipping up food for friends and family (lucky them), you’ll want to keep this in mind.

By simply covering pots to reduce cook times of the food you prepare, it can save you couple of dollars a month. Again, it may not sound like much, but things add up quickly when you’re living on your own!

  1. Natural light is your friend- nix the lights and keep the shades open whenever possible.

The double light source combination of sun and indoor lighting is unnecessary. If it’s bright enough to see out your windows, it’s bright enough to nix the indoor lighting for the day. Turning off your lights indoors in favor of natural light can not only aid in heating and cooling your apartment, but reduced the amount of energy it takes to light it.

Natural light also acts as a dust and odor reducer for your apartment, which means a cleaner and healthier living space for you!

Plus, natural light is the best light for selfies…

  1. Don’t overheat or overcool your apartment.

Constant fluctuation extremes of your heating and cooling system will cost you a pretty penny over time.

This tip is coming from rule breaker #1. It’s so hard to come inside after a summer run in the 90 degree weather and not blast the AC on 60. It just feels so good. Until you are freezing 2 hours later and crank up the heat. And then get the bill. Ohhhhh, the bill! I swear the employees at the energy company must think I sit down by my thermostat 24 hours a day and mess with it the entire time.

While keeping your thermostat on the extremes may feel good in the short-term, keeping it at an even  70-72 will be best for your body and bills in the long-run. It also pays to turn off your AC and heat system while no one is home, for example, when you are at work during the day or taking a weekend vacation. If you live in a cold climate, leave your heat on at least at 60 in the winter.

Constantly running your air conditioning every day can cost up to $877 per year. Whereas, if you only run your A/C system for 12 hours a day during the 6 hottest months, it will save you over $200 a year! The heat is usually included in the rent, so turning the radiator off or thermostat down may not save you cash, but it will still help the environment.

  1. Don’t leave your TV on.

I never realized that people left there TV’s  on at night until one evening I witnessed my boyfriend walk to bed and leave a perfectly good Netflix session sitting up on the TV. And I cannot convey how much it irked me.

Due to the nature of how TVs are made, the inherently drain a ton of energy, especially if you own a tube TV! If your TV does not have an auto-shutdown function after inactivity, that means that if you leave it on overnight, you could end up paying over $100 per year! No matter how tired you are at 3am as you shuffle to bed after a Stranger Things bender, make sure to flip the power switch on the TV.

A couple other tips: when buying a TV, keep in mind that LED TV’s use substantially less energy than plasma TV’s and can save you up to $30 per year in energy costs. Also, keeping your TV in standby mode instead of left on, will save up to $1 per week in energy costs!

  1. Air dry your clothes.

This is a two-birds-one-stone situation in my book. Reducing dryer time will decrease your energy bill and also extend the longevity of your clothes and keep them in great condition. Dryers use lots of energy, especially if you have them set at a high heat setting for a long amount of time.

Invest in a drying or clothes rack to hang clothes on and never iron another day in your life! Running a dryer every week will cost you up to $5 extra dollars per month, meaning $60 per year out off your bank account!

At the end of the day, when you crunch the numbers and look at the total amount of savings you can achieve by making more energy efficient choice in your apartment, it can equal to more than $600 per year in savings!

While utility tricks may seem silly or small in the moment, they can make a big difference over time with respect to your environment and your checkbook. The best thing to do is to try and make little continual improvements whenever you can, to ensure a better future for yourself and for the world.





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Author My First Apartment

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Digital marketing specialist from Milwaukee, WI. I semi-hibernate through Wisconsin winters and eventually make it to spring. My hobbies include reading, piano, the gym (gains?), and spoiling my puppy. I've never met a hobby I didn't like. Follow along on my journey of apartment triumphs and defeats, served with a hearty side of sarcasm.

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