5 Easy Upgrades to Save Money on Utilities

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(Editor’s Note: We’ve just received emails from our utility providers that prices are about to increase this winter. I am hearing a lot of people are also receiving such notices. Now would be a good time to prepare for high heating, water, and power bills.Today’s guest article gives some ideas on easy, non-permanent upgrades you can make that can help you save money.)

Written by Jessica Thiefels

Moving into a new apartment is full of unknowns, many of which are expensive, like a security deposit, moving costs, and furnishing a larger space.

However, once you settle into your new apartment and assess all of its features, you can make a plan for saving money going forward. Simple DIY upgrades here and there can make a huge difference with electricity and water bills, among other expenses. Add these five non-permanent upgrades to your to-do list so you can start saving money in your new apartment.

Replace Fireplace Doors

If your new apartment comes with a fireplace, do a little jump for joy—how fun! Next, examine the doors that are installed—if any—before cooler temperatures arrive. Fireplace doors stop air from coming in and going out, helping you save on heating and cooling bills.

Don’t wait until halfway through winter to realize your heating bill is draining your bank account. If there are existing doors, ask your landlord how recently they were put in. If they’re old, or look cracked or broken, replace them yourself with glass doors, which are timeless and effective.

Follow this step-by-step tutorial for installing glass fireplace doors (hint: there are only two steps!) to do it yourself and start saving on energy bills.

Save With Interior Design

It’s easy to get carried away when decorating a new apartment. Before spending a lot, however, research which interior design elements will save you money after the upfront investment. For example, if your apartment has hardwood floors, buy area rugs that will help insulate the entire room and make it feel warmer—thus using less heat.

Another idea is to opt for heavier curtains, drapes or energy efficient window treatments that will keep the cool air out in the winter and the heat from the sun out during the summer.

Upgrade Your Electronics

According to Energystar.gov, “The average household owns 24 consumer electronics products, which are responsible for 12 percent of household electricity use.” While you may not have the budget to upgrade to to ENERGY STAR-rated appliances like a new refrigerator or washer and dryer, you can easily replace electronics that might be costing you.

The best part is that Energy Star certifies a wide range of electronics, including phones, televisions, computer displays and monitors, media players, tablets and more. If you need to replace some of your electronics anyway, choose one of these certified options, which will use less power, and decrease your electricity bill.

Conserve water; replace the shower head and faucet

While there are several ways to conserve water in your new apartment, one of the first things you should do is assess your shower head and main faucets. Standard shower heads use 2.5 gallons of water per minute and older shower heads likely use even more. It’s a relatively low-cost replacement that you can even switch back when you move out of the apartment.

Consider those with a WaterSense label that meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criteria. There are a variety of trendy water-saving faucets you can choose from—try the new touch technology, for hands free.

Replace old light bulbs with energy efficient ones

Lighting is one of the easiest ways to cut your energy bills and perhaps one of the most affordable. Besides motion sensors and timers that help control the usage of lights, when replacing the bulbs throughout your apartment, opt for energy-efficient brands and types, including CFL and LED.

These halogen incandescent bulbs come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and can last up to three times longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs. Start in rooms that you frequent the most such as the living room, kitchen and bathroom to see the biggest savings.

After spending more than you’d like on moving, find ways to save big in your new apartment. These ideas are a great place to start and perfect for a tight budget.


Jessica Thiefels has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and is now a professional freelancer and consultant. She’s been featured on Forbes and Market Watch and is also an author for AARP, House Hunt Network, Reader’s Digest and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 and connect on LinkedIn.

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  1. If your landlord, like many, insists that you only have white window coverings visible from the street and you still want to add heavy insulation to keep the place warm, look at 2 x 4 sheets of rigid foam insulation at the home improvement stores.

    Use duct tape to size them up, or cut them smaller with a box cutter and yardstick to measure, then tape the edges with duct tape. Then make them a slipcover with either bleached muslin on sale, white sheets, or cotton tarp. The cover should look like a pillowcase with one open end which you will stitch shut with very large stitches so you can remove it for washing. Take your time and get it sized properly so it’s neat appearing from the street, instead of looking like a sheet or blanket which landlords do object to.

    If you have miniblinds you can move them further toward the window and put these on the inside. Face the reflective surface to your apartment to help hold in heat.

    These are also a fantastic light blocker if you do shift work, and they cut down on loud noise from the street. We’ve had ours for five years and just recently had to re-tape them as the duct tape failed. We have glass patio doors so the bedroom was never really dark enough to sleep with the security lights shining in, and it got really cold during the winter no matter how high the heat was. Now we’re more comfortable in many ways, and because of the covers nobody complains. Hope this helps as people turn the thermostat down!

  2. Prices on LED bulbs have come way down in recent years. I have them all through my home and have NEVER had one burn out. There is significant saving with these.

    Changing shower heads to conserve water while a good thing for the environment is not really going to save you money. Most people’s bill is going to be around 30 dollars and the new shower head may save 2.00 a month.

    1. Hi poorman, Good thing LED bulbs have come down in price compared to prior years. Good point- it may depend on the area of the country. Swapping out the shower head may be more of a cost savings for folks who live in states with high water bills such as the Southwest/desert areas. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Also, close the flue on the fireplace unless you’re using it. Many folks unfamiliar with fireplaces know this even exists.

    LED bulbs are superior to CFLs. They don’t break (also, CFLs contain mercury vapor) easily, and come in a variety of “temperatures.”

    Halogen bulbs are energy efficient, ONLY compared to old time incandescents, and even that figure is only about 30% more. A halogen can last three times more than an incandescencent (2000 vs 750 hrs), but an LED lasts 10,000 hours and costs less than a halogen.

  4. I am constantly going around and turning lights off in my house. Children and husband are terrible at remembering to turn them off. Good thing we have LED bulbs in all of the fixtures. For heat we’ve kept our thermostat at 68, and our house is well insulated so that’s a huge help. If we’re cold we put on a sweater or wrap up in a blanket. On sunny days blinds/drapes get opened up which helps add warmth to a room.

    1. Hi Julie C, Keeping the thermostat at 68 is perfect, just put on a sweater if needed. Those lights left on around the house do add up, someone has to constantly monitor them, usually mom 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

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