How can I lower my electric bill in an apartment? The tools + tricks + behavioral changes + you need for how to save money on electric bill in apartments.
How to save money on electric bill in apartment when you can't make the kinds of changes you could in a home? I keep hearing about unplugging electronics…but does unplugging save electricity?
Owning a home yields many opportunities to increase overall energy efficiency. This is because even if technically a large corporate bank owns your mortgage, you are the master of your own domain and can change things and renovate on your Sims-like whims.
But what if you are one of the 39 million households in the United States that rent instead of own? You may feel like you don’t have a lot of control over making the changes necessary to lower your energy bill.
However, there are many short-term and impermanent changes you can make to an apartment to save you money on electricity, water use, and gas use.
Psst: While you're here? You might want to learn my strategies for how to get a discount on apartment rent, even after signing the lease.
How Much is a Normal Electric Bill for an Apartment?
Before we dive into how to save money on electric bill in apartment, you should probably know what to shoot for.
How much is a normal electric bill for an apartment about your size, and in your area of the country?
According to the Energy Information Administration, here's what apartment dwellers are paying in electricity costs:
- Rented, Single Family: $1,918/year (or $159.83/month).
- Per Family Member in an Apartment: $631/year (or $52.58/month).
Square footage also plays a major part in figuring out your monthly electric bill. Here's their estimates on what people are paying, based on amount of square feet:
- Less than 500 Square Feet: $993/year (or $82.75/month).
- 500 to 999 Square Feet: $1,291/year (or $107.58/month).
- 1,000 to 1,499 Square Feet: $1,689/year (or $140.75/month).
- 1,500 to 1,999 Square Feet: $2,089/year (or or $174/month).
So, how does your own bill stack up to these?
Note: your apartment might lump your water bill in with your electric bill, or something like that. If so, try calling the water company or the electric provider, and ask how much their particular bill was for your apartment unit (you could also try asking your landlord to see if they have a breakdown).
What Uses Up the Most Electricity in an Apartment?
What exactly is using up all that electricity from the “normal” bills above? In other words, let's figure out what uses up the most electricity in a typical apartment so that we know where to target our efforts to get the most savings possible.
Here's a really cool calculator from Energy.gov that lets you put in each of your energy-guzzling appliances (they've got like 30 different options), plus the number of hours that you use it, and determine how much it's costing you each year. Golden information!
In general, your biggest energy guzzlers:
- Air Conditioning
- Heating (including space heaters)
- Water Heater
- Clothes Dryer
BUT, there's more to consider than just how many watts an appliance uses. That's only one part of the equation when you look for solutions to how to keep electric bill down in apartment.
How Can I Reduce the Cost of Electricity in My Apartment?
Every tip and trick you'll find to reduce the cost of electricity in your apartment will fall into these three categories:
- Picking the Right Electricity Plan Tips
- Making Behavioral Changes
- Upgrading Your Tools and Appliances
I'll discuss all three with you so that you can pick and choose which meshes best with your lifestyle.
My overall tip for you? You'll want to choose suggestions from each of these categories in order to decrease your electric bill the most.
Psst: living in an apartment? You'll definitely want to check out my article on 9 tested strategies for negotiating down your rent payment at apartment complexes.
Electricity Plan Tips
If you live in an apartment, then chances are, you have to go with the electricity plan/provider that your landlord already chose.
Psst: Find out how do you shop for electricity right here. You'll be surprised with the free tools available to make finding the cheapest plan a cinch.
What you'll want to do is make sure you are using that plan in a way that gets you any perks available.
Call your electricity provider (you'll find the number on any electric bill you can find), and ask them the following questions:
- Cheapest Times of Day/Night: Is there a cheaper time of day/night when I can use electricity? You want to use the most electricity (such as doing your laundry/running your dryer/running your dishwasher) during non-peak energy times, which might save you extra money.
- Are There Free Times to Use Electricity?: Some electric plans now have promotions where something like nights and weekends are free. This is good info to know, as well as what hour this free time starts. You'll want to schedule any electric-using tasks during those hours, like running the dishwasher, using the water heater (showering), etc.
- Are There any Extra Plan Perks?: Find out if there are any plan perks you might not be aware of. For example, do you get reward points to use towards gift cards for paying your bill on time, or for setting up automatic payments?
- Do they offer a Free Energy Audit?: Ask if they conduct free apartment audits to reduce energy consumption.
Pssst: are you able to choose your own electricity plan? Awesome. You'll find more tips for how to save money on electricity by choosing the best one here.
Behavioral Electricity Use Changes – How Do I Keep My Electric Bill Down
No matter if you live in a dorm room, apartment, or a house, you can always make changes to the way that you use electricity in order to lower your costs.
- Unplug When Not in Use (the Smart Way): Unplug your appliances when they are not being used because they still draw electricity from your outlets. The most convenient way to accomplish this is by plugging as much as possible into one or two smart power strips, and then unplugging the power strip before heading to work or going to bed (or hooking it up to your smartphone to do it from your phone).Not into unplugging? You can now do this digitally, by installing Smart WiFi Plug that you can control by your phone! Again, you can take this with you when you leave.
- Institute a digital-free evening or day: If you cannot go completely without television, cell phones, or anything electric (save for the refrigerator), then try television-free days or evenings. Pulling the plug on electronic communication and the digital information age every so often seems like it could have a wonderful impact besides saving money on electric bills. After half an hour or so of staring at family and friends perhaps we would be more inclined to engage in delicious conversation without the use of a cell phone. We could cultivate focus and presence, living in uncomfortable silence until it becomes comforting to us. Time to reflect, contemplate on, and absorb the world around us could lead to new ideas, thoughts, or explanations of things that have seemed off to us before. Perhaps we could make sense of our lives, more clearly see our next step, grieve for the things we have pushed aside, revel in being, and celebrate our love for those around us. It would also slow down the seemingly accelerated pace of time (just spend one afternoon in a rocking chair on your porch people or nature-watching and you will see what I mean).
- Wash Clothes in Cold Water Only: This uses your water heater less.
- Keep the Sun at Bay: Close blinds/shades before leaving for work during the summer months to decrease the internal temperature in your apartment. During the winter, shut the blinds/shades at night in order to keep heat from escaping. Another great idea? You can put up some thermal-insulated, black out curtains — pull them closed when you leave for work in the morning).
- Maintain Your Appliances: Periodically vacuum your refrigerator coils clean, as well as move your refrigerator a few inches away from the wall to increase efficiency.
- Pay Attention to How You Cook: Crockpots and microwaves use much less energy than does an oven. No matter which kitchen appliance you use, cook once and eat several times. I used to use the oven on average about three times per week and then heat up leftovers in the microwave, toaster oven or stovetop the rest of the time.
- Use Refrigerator Thawing: Stop using the microwave to thaw your foods, and instead plan meals a day ahead so that you can defrost items over time in the refrigerator.
Tools to Purchase that You Can Move With You to Your Next Home
There are inexpensive products you can purchase to decrease your energy use within your apartment.
The great thing is that these products are all transportable, so you can take them with you to your next home.
Note: Just make sure to keep all of the old parts you are replacing — you can stash them in a closet — so that you can switch everything back when you leave.
- Energy Efficient Light Bulbs: Change out your light bulbs to energy efficient ones.
- Buy a Water Heater Cover: Insulate your water heater (be careful when doing this, as your water heater may be hot to the touch if it has recently been in use).
- Buy a Low-Flow Shower Head: Install a low-flow showerhead.
- Install Thermal-Insulated Curtains: Purchase thermal-insulated, black out curtains (or make your own), and pull them closed when you leave for work in the morning).
- Use Dryer Racks: Purchase dryer racks and use them to dry your clothes. Note that you can also dry clothes on a balcony, but only if your apartment complex does not forbid this in your contract (all of mine forbade this).
- Use a Draft Guard: Purchase a draft guard (or make your own) to place at the bottom of your door leading to the outside where temperature-controlled air can escape from your apartment.
- Install a Low-Flow Aerator on Your Faucets: Check to see if there are threads on the inside tip of your faucet. If so, then you can install a low-flow aerator to decrease the amount of water flow. If there is already an aerator installed, check to make sure it is 2.75 gallons per minute (gpm) or less (the gpm should be imprinted on the aerator). If not, replace with a newer model.
Adjust Appliances to Make them More Energy Efficient
You may not have a choice in the type of appliances at your disposal.
Even if your appliances are from the pre-energy efficiency heyday of Friends, you can make adjustments in order to increase their efficiency and decrease the money leaking out of your bank account.
- Increase the Temperature of Your Freezer + Refrigerator: Turn your freezer/refrigerator up a few degrees (just be sure that your refrigerator temperature is still optimal for slowing bacteria growth).
- Turn Your Water Heater Down: Play with the temperature setting on your water heater by turning it down a few degrees until you find the point at which it is no longer hot enough for you.
- Get Your A/C Filter Checked: Ask your landlord to check the filter on your heating/cooling system to make sure that it is being properly maintained. If you have a window A/C unit, you can typically find and clean the filter yourself.
- Turn Your Ice Machine Off: If you have more than enough ice in your ice box, make sure to turn the ice machine off. Periodically you will run out of ice, in which case you can turn it back on until it fills up again.
- Convert Your Toilet to Low-Flush: Okay…this one saves on your water bill, and not electricity bill. But every little bit helps! If you have an older toilet that uses a bowl full of water, try converting it to a low-flush toilet for free.
I rented a total of four apartments after graduating college and before moving into our first home.
While I was very good with monitoring my electricity use, I wish I had put in the research to figure out other ways to turn my apartment into an energy efficient home while I was still living in them.
Think about how far ahead you'll be in energy savings using the tips above!
One last piece of advice: if there is anything on this list that you are unsure of, make sure you receive written permission from your landlord before making the changes. Better safe than sorry!
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