Types of Utility Bills

Types of Utility Bills: How to Balance All the Expenses of Owning a Home

Owning a home comes with a lot of liberties and possibilities. It also comes with many bills: mortgage, insurance, utilities and other costs need to be paid every month. While renters often have water, garbage pickup, maintenance work and sometimes gas included in the rent, homeowners have to pay these bills themselves.
There’s a lot of expenses to consider when buying a home. There are many types of utility bills you’ll need to pay each month. Before buying a home, make sure you have enough money for more than just your mortgage.

For homeowners, mortgage payments are typically the biggest bill every month and often include real estate taxes and homeowner’s insurance. The second biggest portion of your monthly bills is usually the combined utility bills including electricity, natural gas and water.

Cost of Utilities

Generally, utility expenses include electricity, gas, water/sewage and garbage disposal. Sometimes, other services such as internet, cable TV and phone services are considered to be additional utilities since they are now considered standard in most American households. The cost of utilities can vary significantly, mainly based on your location, local climate, your usage habits and the size of your home. Another important factor is the age of your home and it’s energy and water efficiency.

Utility costs are mainly driven by the climate in your area. The amounts you have to pay on your utility bills depend mainly on usage. As a rule of thumb, the amount on your utility bills is directly related to the usage of gas and electricity, which typically increases relative to the size of your home. It also depends on the heating and cooling system in your house and the energy source you use. In general, natural gas is a cheaper option for heating your home than electricity, especially in colder climates.

Electric Bill

The most important utility and for most American households the biggest utility bill is the electricity bill. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average residential monthly electric bill in the United States was $111.67 in 2017. The amount varies significantly by state from a low of $81.65 in Utah to $149.33 per month in Hawaii.

Gas Bill

According to the EIA, the annual average gas price for private households in 2017 was $10.91 per thousand cubic feet (MCF) or $1.05 per therm. Gas usage varies significantly based on your climate, natural gas price and for how many purposes you use it. For example if you only use gas for cooking, usage is typically very low.

Some households don’t use gas at all. Depending on your home’s heating system you may also use other energy sources to heat your home such as fuel oil or wood, which are billed separately. If you’re using an electric heat pump, or your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) to heat your home, the cost to operate it will reflect on your electricity bill.

Water and Sewage

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the average water use per person in the Unites States is about 80-100 gallons of water per day. Water prices vary significantly throughout the United States, ranging from $1 per 1,000 gallons (kgal) in Rochester, Minnesota to about $7.50 in Lubbock, Texas, according to a study by the Department of Energy (DOE). At the same time, sewage or wastewater prices range from about $1.50 in Oakland, California to around $17.50 in Seattle, Washington. Data collected by the research group “Circle of Blue” suggests that in 2018, the average monthly water bill for a family of four using about 400 gallons a month is only about $70.39.

Your water bill is mainly influenced by your usage but also on other factors such as the local cost of water and sewage, rate structures and the size of your water meter. Water usage varies mainly based on local climate and weather patterns and whether you live in a city or in the country. City dwellers use considerably less water than others. If you live in a regulated state or area, your utility company may also bill you for your water and sewage on your electric bill.

Trash and Recycling

Another utility bill homeowners have to pay is for waste removal. This bill typically includes the cost to dispose of your garbage, recyclables and organic waste. Depending on your city, you may have different bins for the different types of waste, which are sometimes picked up at different rates. The collection of recyclables may be handled by a different authority and billed separately. Typically, recyclables will be picked up at a cheaper rate, which can save you money, especially if you can reduce the frequency of your regular garbage pickups or if you can switch to a smaller garbage cart.

The monthly garbage cost is set by the city. Depending on your city or county you may have one or two free bulk, brush or appliance collections per year. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay extra for these services. In regulated areas, your utility company may include the cost for waste removal and related costs as a city service, for example on your water bill. In some areas, trash pick up and recycling services may be included with other city or town fees. You can expect monthly rates between $20 and $50 depending on your location.

Internet, Telephone and Cable

While Internet and phone services are not public utilities, most households are signed up for internet connections, phone services and cable TV. You can buy these services from various providers, and the cost depends on what you actually need.

Whether you rely solely on a mobile phone or you want to connect a home phone, you’ll receive a bill for your phone service. Some phone service providers also provide cell phone, internet and cable services; if you’re with the same company for some or all of these services you can often bundle them under one bill and receive a discount.

Buy your own router. If your Internet service provider offers you to rent a router keep in mind that, at a rental cost of $12 a month and a purchase price of $199 for the same router, you’ll pay more renting it after 16 monthly payments.

As an alternative to cable television, some households use media-streaming services. These services cost an average of $10 to $20 per months and are billed separately.

Other Costs

Other costs homeowners face include, maintenance costs, home security and lawn care. If you live in a subdivision or a condominium community, you may also have to pay homeowner's association fees.