Location, square footage and floor plan play a huge role in apartment rental costs, but another large component of your monthly expenses is utilities. Water, garbage collection, heating and cooling, and energy costs should all be factored in to your apartment search. By checking for certain appliance ratings and asking the right questions, you can make sure you get an energy-efficient apartment and save some money, too.
Determine which expenses are included in the rent
Some rental properties include water, trash disposal, and heating and cooling in the cost of monthly rent, but others make you pay separately. Electricity and natural gas are often the responsibility of renters, as are other optional costs like internet and cable service. Depending on what's included in the terms of the lease, a higher monthly rent that includes extra costs may be easier on your wallet than a cheaper rent plus all utilities.
Ask for the energy bill history
There's no better way to know what your energy use will cost than seeing what the last tenants paid. Some cities have online databases that give real estate agents and landlords access to bills, so ask yours if they can help you with the report. Or, call the local energy company and ask them for estimates.
Check for ENERGY STAR appliances
Refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, and even ceiling fans are rated by ENERGY STAR®. Check for certified appliances when you're apartment-hunting, as they'll save you energy and money. Ask the landlord if low-flow fixtures are installed; they reduce water consumption by at least 20 percent, compared to conventional fixtures.
Locate the water heater and space heating system
The location of your heating system could drastically affect how much you pay in utilities. If the unit is in a poorly insulated closet, you could end up paying to heat the outdoors instead of the indoors. And, see what kind of thermostat the apartment uses. A Wi-Fi programmable thermostat provides the most comfort and convenience, and saves on energy and costs.
Ask about the policy on repairs
Some landlords will repair a broken air conditioner but not complete an annual tune-up. If the perfect apartment lacks weather stripping, which is important for efficient heating and cooling, will your landlord take care of it or will the cost come out of your pocket? Speak with the landlord to be clear on what energy-saving repairs and improvements will be covered.
Choose the most energy-efficient floor
If you're checking out a complex with apartments available on multiple floors, pick the one that will provide the best insulation. In a three-floor building, an apartment on the second floor is your best bet. Prices typically increase the higher you go—for the view—and third-floor apartments often have vaulted ceilings that add unnecessary space to heat and cool.
After picking a place, make sure you're conscious about your energy use to save more. Invest in LED lightbulbs and unplug electronics and certain appliances when they're not in use.