Senior man rolling garbage can

Trash pickup is one of several utilities you’ll need to set up in your new home. (Getty Images)

Preparations for your move to a new home are underway and you’re starting to pack, get rid of items you don’t need and schedule movers. But you’re not ready to move until you’ve set up your utilities at your new address.

Here are answers to common questions about setting up your utilities:

[Read: The Guide to Title Insurance]

The following are the utilities you’ll need to set up in your new home (some, like phone and cable, are considered optional):

  • Electricity.
  • Gas.
  • Water.
  • Sewer.
  • Internet.
  • Trash and recycling pickup.
  • Phone.
  • Cable.

How utilities are split up or managed may differ by city or neighborhood. In many communities that have a homeowners association, for example, trash pickup and sewer are included as part of the monthly HOA dues.

In places where septic systems are used as opposed to a municipal sewer, the utility is not required, though a septic system needs professional maintenance from time to time.

Often, your real estate agent or landlord will be able to provide detailed information on the available utility companies for you to consider and contact regarding starting service. You can also visit InMyArea.com and search by ZIP code to see which utility companies are available, or ask neighbors, friends or family who live nearby to get recommendations based on service experience.

Many states and counties allow for a monopoly on specific utilities – gas, water and electricity in particular. These will limit your options to one or two companies to choose from for certain utilities. Water is often monopolized and operated by the local government, so the water authority will be a department under municipal or county management.

When you do have choices, get recommendations from long-term locals. Consider frequency of connection or service issues, response time to questions, overall ability to resolve issues and total cost.

Texas has a competitive power market, for example, which gives residents multiple choices when it comes to selecting which company will provide their electricity. Bill Clayton, vice president of customer care and retention for Reliant, a Texas-wide electric provider, says this type of market means the company works hard to appeal to customers in the long term, leading to “better offers, better services and better products to our customers.”

[Read: Everything You Need to Know About a Pending Home Sale]

Many utility setups can be initiated online or over the phone – the best place to start is by visiting the utility company’s website for instructions. Many utility companies are able to turn on service within a few hours of setting up an account, but it’s often a good idea to reach out a few weeks in advance.

To set up your account, be sure to have this information on hand:

  • The address of your new home. This includes the apartment number if you’re moving into an apartment or condo community.
  • Meter number for your new home. This isn’t required but can make the setup process easier for power or gas if you have it on hand, Clayton says. This number should be visible on the meter itself. If you’re renting, your landlord may have this number as well.
  • Forms of identification. A driver’s license and Social Security card are often sufficient, or your passport can work as well.
  • Email address. Know which email address you’ll want to use for bills and other communications. It’s possible you’ll need to be able to access the email while you’re setting up your account.

Depending on the company and where you live, there may be a credit check using your Social Security number. “A deposit may be required depending on the customer’s credit score and credit history,” Clayton says.

However, Clayton stresses that there are alternatives to a deposit – which can be a couple hundred dollars or based on the last bill that went to that address. The deposit may not be affordable if you’re starting a new job and haven’t yet received your first paycheck. A letter from your previous utility company noting consistent on-time payments may help, or you may be able to have a local relative co-sign to the account.

“Each utility is going to be a little different, but there are options available for deposit waivers,” Clayton says.

The Federal Trade Commission notes that deposit or letter of guarantee requirements must be the same for all customers. The FTC also states that if you are denied service or required to pay a deposit, you have the right to know why, as long as you submit your request in writing within 60 days of the response to your application.

If you already have an account set up with a utility company at your current home and will have access to the same provider at your next residence, you don’t have to set up a new account – just notify them of the change in address and schedule the turn-on and turn-off dates for each place. Clayton explains that this is considered a transfer of services rather than the move-in setup designed for new customers.

Depending on the company, you may be able to set up bill payments the day you create your customer account, or you may need to wait for the first bill to arrive in the mail, which will provide you with your account number and instructions for paying the bill by phone, online or possibly by mail.

Almost all utility companies offer paperless bill pay options, which allows you to pay online or via phone without receiving monthly bills in the mail. Depending on the company, you may also be able to set up automatic payments, ensuring that your bill is paid in full and on time each month.

[Read: How to Prepare for a Long-Distance Move]

While monthly bills for services like internet and trash removal are the same from month to month, with possible annual changes, your water, electricity and gas bills are based on how much you use each month.

If you’re new to the area, it’s a good idea to ask your utility service providers what the average bill amount is during different times in the year to manage your expectations. If you’re seeing charges that don’t match the typical bill for the area, you may need to check for plumbing leaks, inefficient systems or other issues in the home causing the higher charge.

“If (homeowners) see that there’s a big increase in energy use with their air conditioning, certainly getting it looked at is a good idea,” says Mike Phillips, CEO of Sense, a company that makes home energy monitors.

If you are having trouble paying your bills, the FTC recommends reaching out to the utility company right away. During temperature extremes, cities or states may place a moratorium on utility shutoffs to ensure residents facing financial difficulties are not forced to live without power, heat, cool air or water. In the COVID-19 pandemic, many parts of the U.S. have been maintaining a shutoff moratorium so residents are able to remain at home comfortably even if they are unable to pay their bills due to job loss or heightened medical costs.


10 Ways to Save Energy and Lower Your Utility Bills

Cut back – for the environment and your wallet.

Aerial drone view of suburb neighborhood in East Austin community houses and homes - Mueller Suburb Solar Panel Rooftops and Modern Austin Living

(Getty Images)

Making your home more energy-efficient isn’t just about making a positive impact on the environment – it will make a positive impact on your wallet, too, by reducing your utility bills. Some changes are simple, like replacing old lightbulbs or unplugging machines that aren’t in use, while other projects can transform your home, like bringing your air conditioning up to date or installing solar panels. Big or small, the changes you make can help lower your monthly utility bills and lessen your environmental impact. Read on for 10 ways to save energy and money at home.

Updated on Mary 7, 2020: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

Consult a professional.

Consult a professional.

Construction concept , Foreman officer inspector defect about engineer&architect work home building before complete project

(Getty Images)

To determine where your home is wasting the most energy, consider a professional energy audit. This may involve blower door tests to check for drafts, thermographic screenings and other inspections that assess the house, its features and your habits, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. A home energy audit takes between one and five hours and costs $408 on average, according to HomeAdvisor, although depending on where you live and the size of your home, the price could reach $1,500 or more. The Department of Energy reports that efficiency upgrades identified in a home energy audit can save homeowners between 5% and 30% on their energy bill. You can find professionals who can perform a home energy audit on networks like Angie's List and HomeAdvisor, which will allow you to get an estimate and check reviews.

See what's using the most energy.

See what's using the most energy.

Close up of woman using cell phone touch screen

(Getty Images)

Some electronics in your home are "energy vampires" – devices that continuously sap power even when they’re turned off. There are a few ways to figure out which devices should be unplugged to cut down your electric bill. One option is Sense, a home energy monitor that plugs into your electric panel and provides details about your home’s electricity use through a mobile app. The app will then show you how plugging in or unplugging different devices changes the total amount of wattage in use. You can also use a plug-in kilowatt meter to measure how much energy individual appliances use, such as your refrigerator or computer. Mike Phillips, co-founder and CEO of Sense, says one way to find the devices most likely to be using a larger amount of energy is by their temperature: “If something is using power, it’s going to be warm,” he says.

Use smaller machines for work and entertainment.

Use smaller machines for work and entertainment.

Unrecognisable male watching sports on live streaming online service, view from above

(Getty Images)

Especially when you find yourself at home more, the devices you use for work and play can have a big impact on your energy usage. A desktop computer, for example, will draw more energy than a laptop, even when the laptop is plugged in. “A laptop computer tends to be more efficient – the components are more efficient – but also, you can unplug it,” says Lauren Urbanek, senior energy policy advocate for the climate and clean energy program for NRDC, or Natural Resources Defense Council. Additionally, many video game consoles, like PlayStation and Xbox, offer TV and movie streaming apps but they’re far less efficient than smaller devices designed for streaming. Urbanek estimates they use “somewhere in the range of 20 times more energy (used) than if you use a Roku or Apple TV device.” To save energy, aim to use your video game console for video games, and get a dedicated streaming device for watching TV.

Update old appliances.

Update old appliances.

Close Up Of Man Setting Economy Cycle On Dishwasher

(Getty Images)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but newer appliances operate more efficiently than older ones. The most efficient appliances have an Energy Star rating from the DOE and Environmental Protection Agency, which tells you they're designed to use less energy and can help save on utility costs. For washing machines and dishwashers, "eco" settings or efficiency cycles take a lot more time but use less water and electricity. The added time may seem inconvenient, but it could have a visible effect on your bill – especially if you run the dishwasher and washing machine daily or more often. “If you’re in a rush to get your dishes done, fine, use the shorter cycle. But if you don’t care when the dishes get done in the morning, use the eco mode,” Phillips says.

Change out old lights.

Change out old lights.

Woman replacing light bulb at home. Power save LED lamp changing

(Getty Images)

Pay close attention to the lightbulbs in your home – and if you’re still using any incandescent bulbs. “Any light that gets used, if it’s incandescent it should be replaced,” Phillips says. Instead, opt for LED bulbs, which you can find at the grocery store, pharmacy or online. An LED bulb using 8 watts will produce the same brightness as a 60-watt incandescent bulb and lasts roughly 40 times longer, according to lighting technology company USAI Lighting. Another plus for LEDs: “They come in all different shades, temperatures (and) colors so you really don’t get the harsh light that people have been worried about in the past,” Urbanek says.

Replace your showerhead.

Replace your showerhead.

Showerhead

(Getty Images)

It might seem almost too simple, but swapping out an old showerhead will reduce the rate of water flow, dropping your water usage without the need for shorter showers. Urbanek recommends looking for showerheads that have a WaterSense rating, which is similar to an Energy Star rating but specific to water usage and flow. While older showerheads use a lot of water and create further water waste with mist, showerheads designed for efficiency cut down on the waste while still making the shower experience enjoyable. “The technology in terms of shower heads has really improved – you’re not just going to get a trickle of water,” Urbanek says.

Pay attention to your thermostat.

Pay attention to your thermostat.

Smart Home: Digital thermostat heating and cooling automation system

(Getty Images)

If you leave the house every day, setting a program on your thermostat helps cut down on unnecessary heating and cooling. However, if everyone’s at home, it’s not so easy to save energy and avoid getting too cold or hot. “Set it to whatever you’re OK with from a comfort perspective, but a higher setting on your thermostat (in summer) definitely saves energy,” Phillips says. Consider lowering your HVAC use at night while everyone’s asleep, and opt for open windows during the spring and fall months when it’s not too hot or cold. “On nice days, opening the windows and turning on the ceiling fan can have a big impact on your comfort,” Urbanek says.

Insulate and reduce air leakage.

Insulate and reduce air leakage.

Attic with insulation

(iStockPhoto)

A major source of inefficiency in your home is air leakage, when the warm air in winter and cool air in summer escapes outside, making your heating and cooling system work harder. A home energy audit can identify sources of air leakage and areas that would benefit from insulation, but amateurs may be able to spot them as well. Urbanek recommends checking around your windows and doors for visible gaps where air can get in and out. If your attic is unfinished, consider insulating the space to keep it from reaching extreme temperatures in winter and summer. This will help keep your HVAC system from working as hard to heat and cool the living space directly below the attic.

Have your HVAC serviced.

Have your HVAC serviced.

Multi-ethnic team of blue collar air conditioner repairmen at work.  They prepare to begin work by gathering appropriate tools from their tool box.

(Getty Images)

To make sure your heating and AC don't give out during a critical time, have both systems serviced by a professional annually. Regular maintenance improves the efficiency of your HVAC system, ensuring minor issues don’t lead to higher utility bills. If you’re unable to have a professional visit your home, you can change out the air filter, which can fill with dust, pollen and pet fur and make the system work harder. New air filters can be found in home improvement stores or ordered online. “Just make sure you’re getting the right size and type of filter for your system,” Urbanek says.

Put solar panels on the roof.

Put solar panels on the roof.

Solar panels on house

(Getty Images)

Rooftop solar panels are more common these days, especially in sunny parts of the U.S., and they can be an excellent way to cut down your total utility bill. While solar panels are becoming less expensive as they gain popularity, installation comes with a high price tag. HomeAdvisor reports that the average solar panel system costs $25,593, but it varies greatly depending on where you live. Research your options thoroughly to determine if solar panels would be right for your home. There may be a rebate or tax break offered for installing solar panels in your area, for example. But first, Urbanek recommends insulating your attic, sealing holes where you have air leakage, identifying "energy vampires" and opting for up-to-date, efficient appliances. “(Doing these tasks first) means that you would need a smaller solar system to operate your home,” Urbanek says.

Here are 10 ways to save energy and lower your utility bills at home:

Here are 10 ways to save energy and lower your utility bills at home:

Living room of luxury eco house, parquet floor and wooden roof trusses, panoramic window on autumn meadow, modern white and gray interior design

(Getty Images)

  • Consult a professional.
  • See what’s using the most energy.
  • Use smaller machines for work and entertainment.
  • Update old appliances.
  • Change out old lights.
  • Replace your showerhead.
  • Pay attention to your thermostat.
  • Insulate and reduce air leakage.
  • Have your HVAC serviced.
  • Put solar panels on your roof.

Read More

Tags: real estate, housing, moving, renting, energy, electricity, internet, water


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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