When setting up home in the US you’ll need to know who provides your basic services such as gas, electricity and water as well as other general services such as rubbish, postage and telephones. Here is our guide in a nutshell on US services and utilities for expats moving to America.
Most utility companies are state owned and run by public companies; for a full list of companies in your area visit the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates.
If you are buying or renting a house then utility providers and information on services will usually be provided but perhaps a good way of introducing yourself to your new neighbours would be to find out about services such as refuse collection and recycling.
Unlike in the UK, if you want to change the names on your bills in the US then you may have to pay a refundable deposit of anywhere between $50 and $300.
Electricity in the US
You will need to be aware that the US electricity supply generally only runs at around 120 volts as opposed to the European 240v so if you have any European electrical devices then you’ll need an adaptor with an in-built converter to stop the device from overheating. It may be better to leave any electrical devices at home and purchase US ones that are already adapted to the US system as most items are cheaper than in the UK anyway.
Gas and Oil
If you live in the city or the suburbs then you will probably have your gas piped into your home. However more rural areas often have to make do with bottled gas or oil.
Gas prices in 2011 according to CNN Money were around $368 (£226) per month with California charging the most for its gas supply and Mississippi the least. Yet BBC News reported at the same time that the average gas bill for the UK was around £62 per month which is a huge difference. Do remember however that the US winters are very harsh which probably accounts for the high usage.
Tap water in the US is perfectly safe to drink. In some properties the water bill is included in the property tax whilst in other properties there may be a water meter. There have been past concerns about the US water supply as consumption rises and so some states, especially those in the south, may place water restrictions.
Most states have fortnightly or weekly collections and whilst some will also collect your recycling, others will encourage you to recycle by paying a set amount for every item.
Those US mailboxes at the end of your drive can be emptied as well as filled so you don’t have to search for the nearest postbox. US official mailboxes are blue.
There is no national telephone service so the choice is yours. Shop around and compare to find the best deals on call charges. Line charges, as in the UK, are obligatory and cost between $10 and $15. Don’t forget that Skype also offers a free service to speak to those back home in the UK.