What Are Utilities?

Renting a new apartment can be a fresh start and an exciting chapter in your life, but there are a few things to consider before setting your rent budget. It’s easy to overlook the cost of utilities when planning your move, but with all of the monthly expenses the cost can quickly add up. With this in mind, many people find themselves questioning what are utilities, which utilities are essential and how can I save money on them?

The utilities that you typically need to pay for when renting a home or apartment are water, sewage, natural gas, electricity, trash and recycling. While it is not mandatory, many people also opt to pay for internet, telephone and cable service as well.

A utility is a service offered to a property that connects to a more extensive structural system offering those same services to other properties across the city. For example, water service at a property is considered a utility.

Types of utilities commonly found in households

There are a lot of different utility options and pricing, depending on where you live. However, there are certainly some common amenities that you may find when renting in the U.S.

Water and sewer

Water and sewage utilities includes everything from the water that comes out of your shower faucet, the water that allows you to flush your toilet, the water in your dishwasher and much more. Usage is measured by a meter and then reported to the public utilities commission. This utility bill is sent to the individual apartment or home, or to the apartment complex, where an apartment manager will split the bill evenly among tenants.

Trash and recycling

This utility includes the removal of recycling, trash and organic waste. Apartment landlords usually have a contract with the city’s waste management company to collect tenants’ trash and recycling. Usually, this service comes with a small monthly fee.

Natural gas and electricity

This utility includes light in your home, power for appliances and heat in the winter. Natural gas and electricity use a meter to measure the amount you use. Tenants are charged a cost based on an agreed-upon rate and usage. You will typically get this bill at the end of each month.

Internet, telephone and cable

These utilities are not essential but are very common and can often be purchased from the same company. The cost of this utility can vary greatly depending on the type of service. You typically pay a monthly fee for each of these services.

What is the difference between a utility and an electricity provider?

Utility companies facilitate the distribution and transmission of electricity. Depending on where you live, these companies might exclusively provide your electrical power. Utility companies are responsible for the maintenance and stability of power lines that they own in each area. Utility companies bill tenants based on the electrical wattage they use each month.

Electricity providers provide an alternative supply of electricity and work with utility companies to send power to people’s homes using the utility company’s power lines. These providers offer price and contract regulators to customers, which allows them to provide more price and contract options. These rates are often lower than the rates they would be paying directly through a utility company.

How much do utilities cost in an apartment?

Utilities are essential to making a property livable, and as such, are not free. However, depending on the terms of your lease, as a renter, you may not be obliged to pay them yourself.

To give you an idea of how expensive utilities will be, here are some average numbers for how much apartment utilities cost each month taking the averages from across the United States:

  • Electricity: $70 (excluding air/heat/stove)
  • Heat: $65 (averaged over the year)
  • Internet and cable: $100 (depends on the services you choose)
  • Water: $50
  • Trash and recycling: $20
  • Cooking gas: $10

These prices will vary greatly depending on where you live.

How to save money on utilities

Utility bills can add up to a considerable expense between the multiple services we need to pay for each month. Thankfully there are ways you can save money on plenty of those utilities.

Here are some ideas to cut costs:

  • Use appliances wisely: Simply waiting for the dishwasher to fill up before running it, only doing laundry when you have a full load and letting your clothes air dry instead of using the dryer can add up to some significant savings.
  • Turn off lights and electronics: Many people ignore this obvious tip. Get everyone in the habit of turning off lights, fans, televisions and other electronics when they’re not using them, and you’ll see your electric bill decrease quickly.
  • Use apps to save: Some apps show you how much energy you’re consuming so you can change your habits and lower your monthly bills. Other apps will negotiate a lower bill on your behalf.
  • Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs: Switching your light bulbs to LED and fluorescent bulbs will use less energy and be better for the environment.
  • Replace old appliances: Trading out your old devices for new ones will save you money and reduce your carbon footprint. New appliances use less energy, meaning that your electric bill will go down too.
  • Change air filters: Air filters can trap dust, dirt and other pollutants. A clogged air filter can make it more expensive for it to run, so it is recommended you change out your filter every month or so.

Do all rentals offer utilities?

Not all rentals will offer all of the utilities mentioned above. Again, it depends both on where you live and what your apartment community or neighborhood offers.

However, there are laws regarding livability, so property owners are required to provide at least the basics like water and electricity.

Looking for a great apartment with the utilities and amenities that are right for you? Thankfully, Apartment Guide’s finder tool can help you find your dream apartment today in no time!