How Do I Talk to My Roommate about Our High Electricity Bill?

Welcome to Energy in Your Twenties! This series will help college students, recent college grads, and young professionals prepare for their first experiences with an electricity bill. Whether it’s figuring out how to choose an electricity provider, how to curb your roommate’s excessive electricity use, or how to make homemade dishes without cranking up your energy usage, this series will tackle the questions and obstacles people face during the first couple of years of paying their own electricity bill.

As a college student or a young professional, living with a roommate or two can really help cut back on costs such as rent, utilities, and even groceries. But there can be downsides to living with someone else.

  • What if you’re clean and your roommate is messy?
  • What if you like to stay in on Friday nights, but your roommate throws parties?
  • What if your roommate leaves the thermostat on 70°F all summer?

Whether or not you knew your roommate before getting a place together, talking about finances is a touchy and difficult subject – especially when it comes to the electricity bill. But in order to create a comfortable living environment for everyone, communication is vital. Using four common scenarios, we’ll help you confront your roommate about their electricity use, complete with tips on how to curb that excessive use.

Situation #1: Roommate Sets the Thermostat Too Low or High

How Do I Talk to My Roommate about our High Electricity Bill?
If that’s what your roommate sets your thermostat to during the summer, maybe consider getting a new roommate!

The optimal degree to set your thermostat at during the summer is 78° F. For each degree below that, your electricity bill can increase by 6 – 8%. So if your roommate likes the thermostat at 70°F, your electricity bill could be 48% higher than it needs to be!

During the winter season, the optimal degree to set your thermostat at is 68°F. Again, for each degree of extra heating you set above that, your electricity bill increases by 6 – 8%.

Advice:

In a calm and collected manner, raise your concerns to your roommate. Chances are, if you’re living with a roommate, saving money is a priority. Pull out a copy of your latest electricity bill, and if you have an itemized bill, show how much was spent on heating & cooling alone. Then do the calculations: if $70 went to cooling last month, raising your thermostat by 8° could help you save at least $33 on your next electricity bill!

If your roommate isn’t concerned with a high electricity bill, express how the excessive cold or heat makes you uncomfortable. Propose a compromise: set the thermostat up (or down) by 2° F for one week and see if your roommate is still comfortable in that temperature. If they didn’t notice much of a change, propose to set it up (or down) again by another 2° F. Continue this until you find a temperature that is comfortable for everyone (and easier on your electricity bill!).

Situation #2: Your Roommate Always Forgets to Turn Off Lights

How Do I Talk to My Roommate about our High Electricity Bill?
Consider changing to LED light bulbs so your electricity bill is not as high when your roommate does forget to turn off the lights.

While lighting doesn’t impact your monthly electricity bill like heating and cooling, the type of light bulbs you use and how long you leave your lights on for can drive up your bill. For example, using incandescent light bulbs in your home can cost $290 more a year than LED light bulbs.

That cost rises more if your roommate forgets to turn off the lights. Many light fixtures use multiple light bulbs, so if your roommate forgets to turn off four light switches, it’s likely 10 light bulbs are left on. Ten light bulbs use 6 cents an hour. If those bulbs are kept on for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, that’s $9 added to your electricity bill every month.

While that may not sound like much, it does add up over time. If this habit continues for the entire year, you could be paying an extra $100 a year!

Advice:

First and foremost, change all of your incandescent light bulbs to LEDs! Not only will you save money on your electricity bill, but you’ll also save money in the long run as LEDs last much longer than incandescent light bulbs (and CFL bulbs!) and thus don’t have to be replaced as often.

Once you change the bulbs, discuss with your roommate the financial repercussions of keeping lights on that we described above. If your roommate isn’t money conscious, discuss the non-financial benefits to LED lighting. LED light bulbs are much more environmentally friendly, contain no toxic elements, are safer as they’re less likely to burn or cause fires, and provide a better quality of light.

Situation #3: Your Roommate Forgets to Turn Off the Television

How Do I Talk to My Roommate about our High Electricity Bill?
Watching TV with your roommates can be a great way to bond, but the TV can also be a source of anxiety and stress when it comes to your electricity bill.

Like your lights, your TV won’t waste as much electricity as your heating and cooling system. But once again, if this habit continues over a long period of time, it could impact your electricity bill.

A 40” TV uses about 2 cents every four hours. So if your roommate forgets to turn off the TV 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, that’s an extra $6.40 a month on your electricity bill. Again, at first glance that may not seem like a lot, but if this continues for the entire year, that’s an extra $76 a year you’re paying just because your roommate forgot to turn off the TV!

Advice:

Ask your roommate why they leaves the TV on. Is it something she forgets to do or is it a personal preference to keep the television on. If it’s the latter, simply ask your roommate to make an effort to remember as a courtesy to your shared electricity bill. Another solution would be purchasing a smart outlet or surge protector with a timer that will automatically turn off the television during the hours when nobody is home.

Situation #4: Your Roommate Leaves the Air Conditioner or Heater Running When No One is Home

This is the second biggest cause of a high electricity bill. If your roommate is the last one to leave the house and doesn’t adjust the thermostat before leaving, your energy costs will rise. If both you and your roommate are away from the house for four or more hours a day, we recommend setting your thermostat 5 degrees higher in the summer and 5 degrees lower in the winter. This can help you save up to 30% on your electricity bill every month!

Advice:

Simply put, a programmable thermostat is the answer! Most thermostats have a programmable option that allow you to adjust the temperature a few degrees around the time you leave the house and have it set back to your desired temperature before you come home.

If your thermostat doesn’t have a programmable option, and purchasing a smart thermostat is not an ideal option, consider striking a compromise with your roommate. Instead of 5 degrees, try 3. That way the AC or heater isn’t running as much during the day, and it won’t take as long for the house to return to its normal temperatures.

Living with a roommate can be hard, especially if none of you share the same principles on electricity and energy savings. Hopefully these tips can help bridge that gap and cut back on your monthly electricity bill!

Save even more energy and money with a Texas electricity plan from First Choice Power! We have a variety of plans to fit your lifestyle and your budget.

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