Setting Up Apartment Utilities: Everything You Need to Know
As more and more people move, switching utility companies and utility providers has become a necessary part of everyday life. As this can be a big headache, especially for first-time movers, we suggest you read through our guide and learn how to set up utilities in your new apartment. As it goes, the process is straightforward, but you will need some time and planning. Let’s dive right in.
List of Apartment Utilities
As you start making plans to move, you should bear two things in mind when it comes to your utilities: you will need to cancel your old utility services and set up utilities in the place you are moving into. As this can take a considerable time, sometimes over a week for certain utilities, it is a good practice to start planning on setting up new utility months ahead of the move-in day, to avoid spending even a single day without some of the essential utilities.
As any kind of setup can take considerable time, good planning is of paramount importance. You can go for a few days or even weeks without some utilities, such as the Internet connection or the cable box, but moving into a home with no heating or electricity can be a bigger headache than you may think. Natural gas providers, for example, can take around a week to connect you to their service, even with no delays.
As we’ve mentioned before, your essential utilities are a must before you move in. This means that they should be enabled one day before you actually move in. Your old utilities and utility companies should cancel your service preferably a day after you move out. This way, you will pay a bit more money (two days’ worth of utilities to be exact) but will benefit from the comfort that comes with it. A longer delay may mean that you overpay for the services without really using them.
One of the essential utilities in your new apartment is electricity. There is not a single device or appliance in your home that does not use electricity. Most natural gas stoves, for example, use electricity to ignite the gas and provide heat for you to prepare your meal. The same goes for gas-powered AC units, heating, and laundry dryers. As it is so essential, you should start looking for a new utility provider some three weeks before your move-in date.
This will give them plenty of time to connect you to the grid if you are moving into a newly constructed building. It will also ensure that you have electricity on or a day before the move-in date. Make sure to specify what your move-in date will be to ensure that you can move into a flat or apartment that has electricity already.
It is worth mentioning that, to set up electricity service for an apartment, you may need to contact two companies, especially in the states where energy deregulation is in place. To do so, you need to contact the utility company servicing the area, as well as the preferred energy provider. While you cannot choose your utility company, as there is only one covering entire portions of a state, you can choose your energy provider.
When choosing an energy provider, there are several things that you should know. You need to know:
- Your estimated or exact energy usage,
- The estimated energy usage for the property you will be moving into,
- The type of electricity that you would like to use (renewable vs. non-renewable),
- The length of your stay in the new place (can be set at indefinite), and
- Who is your current energy provider is.
Once you have all these details, head over to Electricrate.com and browse energy plans available in the move-in area. Once on Electricrate, simply enter your ZIP code and filter for the plans that you need to use. This platform allows you to filter available energy plans by the type of electricity, type of energy plan, energy plan length, and the service rate that you will be paying for every kWh you use.
Once you have found your desired provider, simply contact them and let them know about your move-in date. In places that already have a power connection, you only need to contact your new service provider, rather than the utility company. Being careful with the energy plan you choose will help save money on your basic utility costs and make savings that accumulate over time.
Water and sewer are other essential utilities that you should not move in without. Without water, many of your appliances will not work: your dishwasher, laundry machine, and even your shower and toilet will simply be unusable. Being careful with this service and scheduling the turn-on date is essential, and you should do so at least a week or two ahead.
In most areas, there is no possibility to choose who you get your water and sewer/sewage service. This is also the case in many small towns across America, especially as the water and sewer lines have been designed in such a way that there is only one company that can deliver water to your home. Most areas will be able to tell you whom you need to sign your contract with – this is the provider in that particular area.
The important thing to note with water and sewer utilities is that they usually come together, in a bundle. These two utilities are usually provided by one and the same company. In some areas of the US, they are provided by the local municipality. In some towns across the US, especially Texas, the same service will also include the trash.
Natural gas is an essential service that you should consider when you want to set up utilities. Most areas have a preferred provider, especially if we talk about smaller towns or apartment buildings, or even apartment communities. As getting gas connected requires that your natural gas supplier sends workers to your home, you should plan ahead and count that there may be some delays in providing this service.
The fact is that most utility companies do not overhire, to keep their prices low, so the same team of people that are supposed to make a connection to your home may also be in charge of maintaining the gas lines and even working on modernization projects. For these reasons, plan ahead and schedule to have the service connected two to three weeks before moving in.
As you cannot use gas when not around, you should not overpay for the service even if it gets connected days ahead of the schedule. You will pay more for the connection itself, the fixed part of your natural gas bill, but this usually costs less than $25 a month, so it should be no burden on your wallet. You can also contact the property manager and see if there is a connection and natural gas provider for the apartment so that you can avoid all the hassle.
In some towns and cities in the US, trash is included in your water bill, as the same companies that provide water and sewer services take care of the trash collection as well. In most cases and communities, you should contact the property manager and see what their preferred utilities are. In most cases, you will be able to take over contracts with existing utilities.
In some cases, your utility service provider may try to offer you some benefits to stay with them, especially in areas where there is a lot of competition. Your trash service should not be an exemption here, especially if there are multiple trash collection services working in the area. It is our recommendation that you take over all the utilities, except electricity, Internet, and cable, as the energy habits and the preferred internet and cable provider do not have to match the taste of the previous owner.
Internet, Cable, and Phone
Your Internet, cable, and phone are relatively easy to set up. You will usually be able to get the service days or even hours after you’ve made the request, especially if there are existing connections for all these services on the property already. In this case, setting up the service is relatively easy and it takes a short time as well.
However, if there are no existing connections or no connections for the companies that you would like to purchase the service from, it may take longer to install them. In this case, contact the manager of the property, as well as the utility company that you want to purchase the service from, and schedule the setup and the initiation of the service.
When looking for new providers, check out whether any of them offer bundle services – this way, you may be able to save some money even before the setup takes place. Additionally, you can use this time to revise your existing services and plans and decide whether or not some plans are right for you. Cable with over 200 channels offered that you really watch two out of, may not be worth repurchasing, especially as you may already be subscribed to streaming services.
Your security system is also a necessity, especially if the house or the apartment will be left out unsupervised for longer periods of time. Security cameras, alarms, CO2 and CO detectors, and a (silent) alarm system are all necessary for your own security so being detailed about your requests and asking for the service in neighborhoods with no neighborhood patrol may be necessary.
Setting Up your Utilities
Considering just how many utilities there are to set up, starting early may be the key to a smooth move from one apartment to another. To ensure this, you will need to check all your monthly utility bills, check for preferred providers in the block of apartment buildings (or just a single building) you would like to move to, and contact utility companies to see whether they provide service in the new address.
You should do this to reduce headaches and limit the number of cancellation fees you have to pay. Electric utilities offer a free switch, even to a new state, if the ZIP code area you will be moving to is also covered by them. Not every electricity provider offers this handy service, but it sure makes transferring utilities much easier. Let’s consider what else needs to be done when transferring utilities.
Create a Schedule
Create a schedule that suits both your daily schedule and that of utility companies. Since there are a lot of utility bills to take care of, transfer or set up, being on time with these changes can help you a lot. In reality, you should start asking around or checking Electricrate and similar websites several months before. Once you know who your preferred providers are, simply write down their contact information and make sure to contact them on time.
Initiating contact with the providers a month before the move-in date will help you refresh all the information you may need, such as the pricing, a typical monthly bill, and security deposit, if any needs to be made. You should generally start with a service announcement three weeks before the move-in day.
Research and Contact Local Utility Providers
Utility setups take a considerable time in most cases. With this in mind, you should start researching them online weeks or even months before you actually move in. If you want to set up utilities, the first thing to note is that there are differences in the way that utilities are set up throughout the US. While some states only have one or two energy providers, others, such as Texas, may have hundreds, thanks to deregulated electricity.
Furthermore, in many areas, even in Texas, there are towns and apartment communities that have their preferred providers. This is the best choice to go by. In some areas, several utilities may be combined in a single bill: water, sewer, and garbage are usually charged through one bill and are provided by the city authorities themselves. If unsure, you can always rely on blogs and Reddit to ask how things are done in the area.
Once you have a rough idea of how the market is set up, you can start looking for average utility costs, electricity and telephone providers, and ways to set up utilities in the area. Again, if you will be living in a rental unit, you should always contact the property manager and see what can be done to ease the transition for you. Do not forget to cancel utilities in your old place.
Apply for Services
Even though your property manager can help you make the right choices and be present when the utilities are connected to the new property, you should still understand that, if there is a need to sign any contracts (and there will be), this part will have to be done by you. In many cases, the official signing can wait until you move to the area, so that you may not need to go back and forth before moving in.
Conduct an Energy Audit
Once everything is in place and you have moved in, it may be time to do the energy audit. Contact your local utility company, natural gas, or electricity provider and check whether they offer home energy audits for free. Although not all energy providers offer this service, you should still try it as this service can give you insights on how to reduce your electricity, cooling, and heating costs.
Even if the energy company you purchase the service from does not offer this type of service, you can still do this by yourself. All you need is internet access (to check the instructions), a candle or a thin sheet of paper (such as a paper towel), and sometimes, typically an afternoon or less. An energy audit will assess the following:
- Your roof insulation,
- Your attic tent/door,
- Wall insulation,
- Basement insulation,
- Water insulation around your home, especially on the attic and the roof,
- Your windows and doors in search of any cracks and crevices where air could seep in or out,
- Any draft in the house,
- The state of your ventilation and heating bodies,
- The energy efficiency of all your appliances,
- The energy efficiency of the lights,
- The state of the windows and doors, including their insulation properties,
A good energy audit will give you a specific list of things that you should improve around your house to ensure that the least possible amount of energy will be used. An even better home energy audit will present these findings to you in a chronological way that should help you tackle one issue at a time and ensure that you save as much as possible in the initial months from the move-in date.
Are Utilities Always Included in the Rent?
If you are moving to a new flat and will be renting it for a while, you may be aware that some landlords offer rent payments that already include utilities. Your monthly rent is, therefore, higher, but the sheer lack of responsibilities and the headaches of setting up our own utilities and canceling them before you leave the place is priceless.
As there are also rental units where no utilities are included and the rent covers only apartment living expenses, setting up utilities on your own may be necessary. Considering how large the rental market is in the country, there are also variations in these two models. Always check with the landlord, and whatever your agreement may be, it should be reflected in the rental agreement.
As most renters typically purchase or set up their own utilities, it may still not hurt to ask for other ways to pay the utilities that the landlord may be offering on their rental properties. There are four ways that this type of service setup can be realized:
- No utilities included,
- Some utilities included,
- Utilities included limits, and
- All utilities included.
No Utilities Included
No utilities included means that you will have to set up your own utilities or that you will have to take them over from the previous tenant. Although this type of setup gives you the most freedom in choosing your own utility providers, it is also the one that asks for a lot of time and works on your side. While this type of setup may be perfect for some, others shy away from it and prefer to have the landlord deal with all the paperwork.
In some areas, your apartment community may simply not support this kind of payment. The thing is that some buildings have only one electricity or water meter and that all the tenants in that building have to pay equal amounts of money every month. In other communities, this may be regulated through a flat fee, or the same amount of money being paid every month throughout the year irrelevant of your actual water and power use.
Some Utilities Included
In many places, however, some utilities are included. The thing is that in many areas in the US, water, sewer, and garbage disposal services are organized by towns or communities themselves. To help with the move-in procedure and since there is no really a choice to be made, many landlords in these areas sign the contract themselves and then include these utilities in the rent itself.
Utilities Included with Limits
Some types of housing, especially those aimed at the student population, include all utilities, but set limits. For example, you may be limited to $50 per month for water use and $70 a month for electricity use. The thing is that this is enough for an individual (and in some states even for a small family), so this may be the right thing for you. Bear in mind that, should your bills go over the limit for several months in a row, your landlord can increase the rent altogether, and may not reduce it even if you invest in energy-efficient solutions.
All Utilities Included
In some areas, there are also options for all utilities included. This means that you will be able to rent the unit and not worry about any utilities. This form of rent is common with small rental units, as well as with luxury rental units. Needless to say, this option may also mean that your rent can be increased if your utilities are over the roof.
Even in this kind of setup, you may need to start some utilities by yourself. There are still rental units on the rental market that do not include some utilities, such as the Internet connection and/or landline phone service. The thing is that, as everybody has different habits, some of the utilities may not be necessary. Keeping a landline phone line for emergencies only may not work for some.
Another thing to consider is whether the previous tenant had a lease agreement in place. If this is the case, you may have to take over this lease, which is something that you may not need or that does not make sense for you in your apartment address. A common example is a solar lease or a solar PPA. The issue arises if you do not want to pay for the solar panels, but may rather simply opt for renewable energy and a renewable gas plan.
Helpful Tips for Apartment Renters
As this may be your first time moving, the experience can be overwhelming. In a lot of cases, people forget to cancel some of the old utilities and end up with higher expenses to pay. Security system installation is also a big thing that people tend to forget. Furthermore, going with one of the seemingly ‘most reliable’ aka largest electricity providers may not be the best thing to do, especially as there may be smaller providers offering better service in an attempt to win over their own share of the market. With this in mind, let’s consider some helpful tips for apartment renters:
- Disconnect old utilities – this is an important step, as not doing so means you will have to make payments to the utility company even if you do not use their services. Do not forget that every bill you ever got also had a fixed part of the expenses.
- Pay cancellation fees – if you forget to pay your cancellation fees, you may also have to pay your overdue fees on top of them. To ensure this does not happen, contact every utility provider and see how much you have to pay. Then, pay all cancellation fees and ensure that you go to your new place with not a worry in the world.
- In some cases, you may not have to pay the cancellation fee. To avoid this, read the contract thoroughly and look for cancellation fee exemption cases – if you are moving, or will be continuing the service with the same company but in a different area, you may not have to pay the cancellation fee. Note that this is not always possible.
- When moving into a new area, always go with the preferred provider. The thing is that people living in the area have first-hand experience that you may not be able to find online. Whenever setting up a service, always speak to someone on the mobile phone and verbally confirm the details you’ve found online or have heard from others.
- Beware suspiciously cheap services – in most cases, suspiciously cheap electricity or Internet deals mean that there will be hidden expenses that you have to pay. To ensure that you get the best for your buck, consider going for a more median-cost service and compare several companies before you make the decision.
- Recently, many news headlines state that there are con men that try to trick people into switching to a new energy provider or setting up a new, seemingly cheaper, natural gas service. You may want to be careful with these, as barely any company would send out an agent to go house-to-house in search of new customers.
Does unplugging microwave save money?
Yes, unplugging your microwave may save some money. Your microwave will usually have a display that is always on, that gives you information on the time and the date. When in use, this display will turn into a timer and maybe display some other important information. The thing is that by unplugging your microwave, you save the electricity spent on running this display.
What happens if a tenant abandons a property?
If a tenant abandons a property, you may want to consider contacting the local courthouse or a lawyer. This way, you can end the current contract of tenancy and can start looking for a new tenant. Always try to contact the tenant first and ensure whether they’ve moved out or not.
Do phone chargers use power when not charging?
Yes, phone chargers use power when not charging. The thing is that they are always plugged in and always use small amounts of power. However, this ‘vampire draw’ adds up, as you may easily have dozens of such small users of electricity in the house.
Do I have to pay previous tenants electricity bill?
No, you do not have to pay the previous tenant’s electricity bill. You have to pay your own bills and do so from your move-in date or even earlier, in case you’ve requested an early start of the service. However, you do not take over any debt from the previous tenant.
Getting utilities set in a new apartment may be a big headache. It can take weeks to have them all setup and, at the same time, you should be able to cancel all your old utilities. To have the utilities set in the new place smoothly and with no headaches, follow our guide to getting electricity (and other utilities) set up in an apartment.