How to Set Up Utilities in a New Home

By Pierre Lehu

Before you arrive at your new home, make sure that your utilities are turned on. In addition to knowing which utilities you want, you need to set aside a budget so that in case you’re offered a long list of options to choose from, you know what you can afford.

  • Electricity. Not long ago, each region was served by only one electric company but these days, thanks to deregulation, you may have several to choose from. Check with the landlord, real estate agent, building super or neighbors to discover your choices and get recommendations.

    Since your new residence probably had existing electric service, getting it turned on under your name may take only a phone call to the utility company. (And if you were paying for electricity in your old place, don’t forget to turn that service off!) If you have to call several companies to check out the available rates, some other questions you might want to ask about will have to do with billing:

    • Budget billing gives you even monthly payments over the year, assuming there are seasons when your bills would be higher.

    • Auto billing allows the company to deduct your monthly payment directly from your account or else bill it to a credit card, if that option is available.

  • Going off the grid. If you have the bucks, you might want to consider installing either wind or solar generating equipment that will allow you to make your own electricity. The initial outlay will be high but in the long run you could save money and even earn some by selling electricity back to the company.

  • Gas. Using natural gas to cook, heat your home and hot water and dry your clothes is usually cheaper than using electricity. If your new place comes with an oil burner, then you may need both gas and oil. As with electricity, deregulation of the gas industry may mean that you have a choice of companies from which to choose and the payment options will be similar to those for electricity. A simple call will probably be all you need to get service unless you intend to make a major change, such as getting rid of an oil burner in order to switch to natural gas.

    New fuel-efficient burners may cost a lot up front (probably over $10,000) but can save you money in the long term and the initial cost may be offset by a tax subsidy. The company will know what subsidies may be available.

  • Phone/cable. Many people are choosing to use a cell phone instead of a land line and watching TV on their computer, forgoing land lines and cable TV — but even then, you’ll have to subscribe to either a phone or cable company in order to obtain a broadband connection.

    The cheapest option may be a package deal that combines phone service, broadband and TV. You’ll have to decide whether the local phone or cable company is offering the best in terms of price and features.

    How many services you get will depend on your budget. If you want to receive all the premium movie channels, your bill could skyrocket. And if you want to store programs so that you can watch them later, that will also add to the cost.

    Dish antennas usually cost less than cable, though in some areas where cable hasn’t been strung, they’re the only game in town. Be aware that reception can get interrupted with these services.

  • Home security. If where you live is equipped with an alarm, and if you’d feel even safer if either the police or a security company is alerted if your alarm goes off, that will incur another call to get service as well as another monthly outlay.