This year will be the first year that I have to pay full utilities in my whole life. Growing up, I didn’t have to worry too much about utilities. Then came residence, where everything was included for the low monthly fee of $1,000 per month (res is such a rip off!), then came a series of apartments where at least some portion of the utilities (usually heat and hot water) was included in the rent. There was even one apartment that I lived in, where the four flats in the building were all on the same thermostat, which was controlled by the landlord. We lived on the top floor, and wore shorts and tank tops all winter with the windows cracked. The basement dwellers froze.
This fall though, my fiancée and I are completely responsible for our heat, hot water, and power consumption. So I’ve started considering different ways to keep our utilities low once the temperatures start dropping.
How to Save Money On Utilities Without Renovating
Perhaps the most disappointing thing that I encounter when trying to find ways to save money on utilities is that most of the tips available are home owner focused. Many of them revolve around making sure the home is well insulated, that appliances are upgraded to energy efficient ones, and that anything with water coming out of it is “low flow”.
I’m a renter, these tips don’t apply to me. If anything, those lists should be called “Ways You Can’t Save Money on Utilities”. As much as I would love to upgrade my little house to be totally efficient, it doesn’t make sense for me because I’m just going to move in a few years anyway. So when I look for energy saving tips, I look for low cost upgrades, and behavioural changes.
Low Cost Upgrades to Save Money
I love low cost upgrades, especially ones I can take with me to a new place when I move – if I chose to. Here are a few of my favourites:
- CFL lightbulbs. I usually switch these out as the old ones burn out, and if I was feeling really frugal, I could take these with me when I move, but I’ve never been that frugal.
- Motion Activated Lights. If you rent a house, you’ll need outdoor lighting. These lights are only in use for small periods of time, and thus will only use small amounts of energy. Plus they’re easy to install!
- An Electric Kettle. I’m a big fan of tea, and apparently electric kettles use much less power than a traditional kettle and stove tops use.
- A Clothes Line. Inside, outside, it doesn’t matter, as long as that electricity sucking dryer isn’t running. We have an outdoor clothes line that we make use of. As an added bonus, not tumble drying your clothing makes them last longer!
- Removable Caulk or Shrink Film Plastic. Make sure you have the landlord’s permission on this one first. These items can be installed yourself and help reduce heat loss around drafty windows.
Behavioural Changes to Save Money
In the land of renting, behavioural changes make the most difference when it comes to saving money on utilities. Here are a couple of easy ones:
- Turn The Heat Down. Cozy sweaters and big thick duvets are your friend! Keep the heat low while you’re at work and at night, and learn to be just a tad cold. This one is easy for me, since summer has been so hot I’m more than ready to enjoy the cooler weather.
- Wash In Cold Water. By this I mean laundry, I’m not a fan of the cold shower. This can be employed all year round. I don’t think I’ve used hot water (except on stains) in years.
- Take Advantage of Sunlight. Keep the drapes open during the day to allow sunlight to warm your space, then close them in the evening to slow heat loss.
- Unplug Appliances. We all know that appliances, even when in the off position, still drain a teensy bit of power. Unplug those babies! We have our entire entertainment system on a power bar, one easy pull and we’ve unplugged most of our energy vampires.
The Biggest Energy Saver of All: Apartment Hunting
Sometimes there’s only so much one can do when it comes to saving money on utilities in a terribly insulated, built fifty years ago, apartment building. The biggest way to save money on utilities is to live somewhere that is energy efficient in the first place.
So the next time you’re apartment hunting, look for and ask if there were any recent energy efficient upgrades done to the place. Ask your landlord about the possibility of upgrading to low flow shower heads and toilets and get all promises of upgrades in writing before the lease is signed. This will go farther to saving you energy costs than my list of tips ever will.
What do you do to save on your utilities? Do you ever notice a big difference in your power bills? I want to know!