Keeping Utilities Low in Your Condo
The cost of living seems to go up each year, especially prices for food and utilities. While you can’t control everything, there are things you can do to help keep your utility bills manageable.
Heating and Cooling
Two of the biggest contributors to your utility bill costs are heating and cooling. If your condo runs on gas heat, expect your gas bill to be higher in the winter. Conversely, you can expect your electric bill to be higher in the summer when the air conditioner is running more. While some energy drains are out of your control, here are some things you can do to help make your condo more energy efficient.
Fix those drafty doors and windows:
- If you can see light around doors and windows, install weather stripping to seal the gaps.
- If the draft is coming from under the door, install a sweep. If a sweep won't do the trick, try a draft blocker, which is just a fabric tube filled with sand, foam or any other material that can block drafts.
- For drafty windows, you can install a window insulation kit, which covers the window in plastic. Another easy and far more attractive solution is to put drapes or curtains on the windows to keep drafts out.
- Install a programmable thermostat. According to energy.gov, you could save an estimated 10% per year on heating and cooling costs by using a programmable thermostat. Set it to be a higher temperature in the summer (or cooler temperature in the winter) when you are away, and to a more comfortable temperature about 30 minutes before you get home so you won’t have to sacrifice comfort.
Other ways to keep your heating and air conditioning costs low:
- If your windows aren't drafty, you can open curtains or blinds to let the sunlight in during the winter for additional heat, and close them in the summer to keep things cool.
- Have annual maintenance performed on the furnace and air conditioner. It costs on average $50-$140.
- Clean or change the air filter every 6-12 months. (This is inexpensive and something you can easily do yourself.)
- If you or those who live with you don't have allergies, open the windows and use fans and an attic fan (if you have one) during the spring and summer.
- High ceilings can make your condo feel more open, but heat rises, which can make it difficult to heat the space in winter. Change the direction of your ceiling fan’s rotation to push some of that warm air down.
Appliances and Electronics
Appliances and electronics can be another energy drain, especially those that heat up. Anything that produces heat or heats up can really make your electric bill skyrocket. Space heaters are a prime example of this. They may help you save on your heating bill, but your electric bill will go up from using it. In addition, they are a fire hazard. If your space heater causes a fire and you don't have condominium insurance, you may be liable for the property damage. In addition, electronics use a lot more energy than you'd think, even when they are plugged in and not being used. Here's how to control energy consumption of appliances and electronics:
- If feasible, unplug these items when you are not using them. This is especially important if you use hair straighteners, curling irons and irons. Although most will power off after a certain amount of time, it’s always best to unplug them immediately after use. In addition to using energy when they are being used, they can be a fire hazard as well.
- Plug computer components in to a power strip and turn the power strip off after you turn your computer off every day.
- During the summer, only use your dryer and oven in the mornings or evenings if possible since it's not quite as hot outside during those times.
- Use smaller cooking appliances when you can. For example, use toaster ovens, crock pots and indoor or outdoor grills as alternatives to heating the oven or stove.
To get a better idea of how much your utilities will run you on a monthly basis, ask the utility company to give you an average of past utility bills when you move in to your condo. Bear in mind that if your condo complex is brand new, they may not yet have any data. They may be able to give you an idea though based on newer condos of similar size in your area. They may even give you some ideas about how to be more energy efficient.