Say you’re in the market for a new place to live.
You’ve found the perfect neighborhood.
Gone on way too many walk-throughs but finally found the perfect place.
And double-checked the rent/mortgage fits within your budget.
You’re good to go, right?
Quick question: Can you afford the utilities?
No matter if you’re renting an apartment or buying a home, your electricity, heating and air conditioning, natural gas, water, trash collection, internet, phones, and cable are all important costs to consider.
Experts recommend you set aside $200 each month to cover the bare necessities.
But there are a ton of variables that could make your total monthly utility cost way higher or lower.
Yeah, that’s a lot of money.
If you’re thinking about moving and want to estimate your utility costs, it’s important you consider the many factors that dictate your final costs.
Luckily, we’re going to break it all down in this post.
Electricity – The Most Complex Utility
Average Electricity Bill: $65.33 – $88.10
Almost every appliance in your home is going to be using electricity at some point in time, which is why it’s important to know exactly how you’re being charged for your power consumption.
Your electricity consumption is going to be measured in kilowatt hours (kwh), which is essentially a measure of how much power a device uses over time.
Since everyone uses different appliances at different rates, it can be pretty hard to estimate average energy usage, but here are a few constants…
Calculating Power Usage
Determining exactly how much electricity you’re using can be tricky, but there are a few constants you can rely on to give you a baseline.
Here’s the average cost of using some necessary household devices based on data from Duke Energy:
|Ceiling Fan||0.075 kwh/hr||$0.01/hr|
|Energy Star Refrigerator||43.0 kwh/month||$5.72/month|
|Dishwasher||1.0 – 2.17 kwh/load||$0.13 – $0.29/load|
(Cold Wash, Cold Rinse)
|Water Heater||390 – 500 kwh/month||$51.87 – $66.50/month|
|TV (40″ – 49″ LCD)||0.15 kwh/hr||$0.02/hr|
|Computer (Desktop)||0.06 – 0.25 kwh/hr||$0.01 – $0.03 kwh/hr|
|Computer Monitor (17″ LCD)||0.04 kwh/hr||$0.01 kwh/hr|
Still, there’s one major factor to your electric bill that requires special consideration…
Heating and Air Conditioning – Your Biggest Variable
Average Heating Bill: $21.56 – $26.13 (3 – 4 months/year)
Average Air Conditioning Bill: $21.56 – $26.13 (3 – 4 months/year)
Heating and cooling usually make up 35%-40% of your energy bill.
A few things to consider when trying to estimate energy costs…
- How large is the residence? The more square footage you have the more costly it will be to keep maintain a certain temperature.
- What’s the climate like? Very hot or cold climates will mean higher energy bills.
- How old are the appliances? If your HVAC system is 10-15 years old it’s likely going to be less efficient than a newer unit.
- How well insulated is the home? Are windows double-pane and well sealed? Is the house older? Then it likely isn’t as well insulated as a newer home.
Once you’ve figured all this out, here are some energy saving tips.
Energy Saving Tips
While many of the factors above are going to be largely out of your control, there’s plenty you can do to save energy when it comes to heating and air conditioning.
When it comes to setting the temperature in your home, keep things set as warm as you can stand in the summer and as cold as you’re comfortable with in the winter in order to keep your heat and A/C running as little as necessary.
Make sure your ducts are well-maintained, regularly checking for and sealing leaks to ensure efficient use of your heating and cooling equipment.
Ceiling and floor fans use way less energy than air conditioning, as long as you can remember to turn them off when you leave the room.
You can also keep your home cool by closing shutters during the day opening windows at night in the summer. Opening blinds to let the sunshine in can keep things a bit warmer in the winter too.
You’ll want to change your furnace filter every 2 – 3 months to keep your machines running efficiently and improve the quality of air in your home.
But what if your place hasn’t gone all-electric?
Natural Gas – It Powers Hot Things!
Average Gas Bill: $80/month (varies from month-to-month)
While electric devices are typically more common, many homes and apartments have gas-powered furnaces, water heaters, and stoves.
There are many benefits of natural gas, but the main draw is it’s low cost compared to that of electricity.
While gas-powered devices tend to cost more upon installation and require more regular maintenance, many consider the affordability of natural gas to be a big enough draw to justify the initial hassle.
If your place does end up using natural gas, you’ll probably want to learn how to read your gas bill so that you better understand exactly what you’re paying for.
Once you’ve determined whether your usage is being measured by volume (CCF or MCF) or in heat units (Therm or BTU), you can see exactly how much gas you’re using and what you pay for it.
Taking into account that the average natural gas consumption per household is 567 CFL/year and that the average price of natural gas is around $1.70/CFL, you can expect to pay close to $964.47 annually on natural gas.
Water – For Cleaning and Consumption
Average Water Bill: $17.04 – $68.14 per month
Unless you’re living in a house with a well or an apartment complex that factors water usage into your rent, you’ll probably be paying a monthly water bill.
It’s no secret that city water is usually expensive and the price of water is rising, but it’s not like you can really avoid things like washing dishes and bathing. (Well, you could stop bathing but we really don’t recommend it).
The average daily water usage of one person person is between 80 and 100 gallons.
On average, a family of four using around 100 gallons per person per day would expect to spend $68.14 per month on their water bill. However, if you’re living alone and using the same amount of water, your bill will come closer to $17.04/month.
If that amount seems a bit high, that’s because it is. The price of water is rising in many larger US cities and it doesn’t look like it’ll be slowing down anytime soon.
Trash and Recycling – Yes, This Costs Money
Average Trash Bill: $12 – $20/month
It’s rare for anyone to put too much thought into garbage collection beyond taking it out once a week.
But yes, it does cost money to get other people to haul away your waste.
According to the National Solid Wastes Management Association, the average monthly cost of waste collection is between $12 and $20.
So, fairly inexpensive compared to most other utilities.
While most cities have companies who bill residents directly for trash collection, others factor waste disposal into local taxes.
Other areas have also begun implementing Pay-as-You-Throw systems which charge customers based on how many bags they throw away to incentivize recycling.
According to EPA Collection Cost data, an average household pays about $1.13 for weekly recyclable collection, adding up to a cost of $58.67 each year to recycle.
Internet – A 21st Century Necessity
Average Internet Bill: $56.60/month
Behold the internet!
What was once a luxury has now become necessity.
Unfortunately, there’s a good chance you won’t have many options when it comes to internet providers in your area.
Not to mention, average internet service in the US is slower and more expensive than many other countries.
As of late-2017, the average cost of internet in the United States was $56.60/month, but you should expect that to differ pretty dramatically depending on how many providers are in your area.
Phones – Both Cellular and Landline
Average Phone Bill: $15 – $30/month
Yes, we know, landline phones are so 90’s.
But, over half of the country, still uses a home phone.
So it’s a cost to consider.
For those who need one, you can expect to pay between $15 – $30 per month.
Most major cable companies will offer to include a home phone line in your TV or internet package.
Cable – Your Most Flexible Expense
Average Cable Bill: $0 – $100 (depending on plan)
Here’s where things get interesting.
Yes, we recognize having cable TV access isn’t a necessity, but it’s definitely a quality-of-life choice that most people find to be well worth the cost.
But don’t worry about not having access to entertainment and information, because there are a plethora of great options for audio/visual content available at many price points.
By far the cheapest option, as long as you’re within range of a local broadcaster, digital antennas allow you to watch a handful of television stations (typically including ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS) for free.
Average Price: $0
Here you’ll see fewer options, depending on where you live, but all companies are required to offer basic cable packages along with additional channels and bundles with internet and phone service.
Average Price: $100/month
Recently, many companies have sprung up offering streaming television through the internet, offering customers an alternative to paying whatever their local cable company feels like charging.
Average Price: $25 – $40/month
Dedicated Streaming Services:
And if you’re more into watching things strictly for entertainment, there are plenty of streaming video services that offer a variety of content that appeal to almost every niche from film buffs, to classic television, comedies, and horror.
Average Price: $8 – $15/month (per service)
And that’s…all there is to it?
Look, we get it. There’s a lot to consider here, but hopefully, this guide gives you a decent idea of where to start in budgeting for utilities wherever you’re living.
And if you’re in the midst of planning a move, check out our moving cost calculator for some help with getting everything where it needs to go. You really don’t want another thing to worry about, do you?