SEATTLE (Zillow) — Utilities are a hidden cost: You know you’ll need to plan for them, but when you’re looking for an apartment, they’re not at the top of your mind. So before you sign that lease, make sure you can pay all your rental expenses, not just rent. It won’t be much fun to sit in a cold apartment hunting for a neighbor’s unsecured Internet connection because you forgot to budget for utilities.
Here are some rough rules of thumb for estimating how much you should expect to pay for various utilities:
During winter months, or if you don’t use air conditioning, expect to pay $30 to $50 a month for electricity. A lot of your bill will simply depend on how much you’re home, how much you watch television (tube TVs are big electricity drains), how efficient your refrigerator is and how careful you are about turning off lights.
On average, expect to pay about $250 to $300 per year for air conditioning. That said, air conditioning isn’t an evenly distributed expense: Most people use it only about three to five months a year. And in some places such as Minnesota or Maine, you may only use it a few times a summer, which makes it a much smaller expense.
If you live in a place with average weather, you’ll be running your A/C May to September and spending about $50 to $80 a month extra on your electric bill. If you live in a really hot place, though, such as Phoenix or Dallas, you’re going to be paying a lot more per month, for more months — $80 to $90 a month (plus regular electricity costs) for eight months a year. Keep that in mind. (Your silver lining is that you don’t have to worry much about heating costs.)