What are household utilities?

electricity image by Jelena Voronova from Fotolia.com

When calculating your household budget, it is important to factor in the cost of your utilities. Utilities are usually services provided by outside companies that allow you to live in comfort --- utilities keep you warm, help you cook and bathe and keep you entertained and in touch with family and friends.


Electricity is necessary to run most home appliances, including, in some cases, hot water heaters and water pumps that allow faucets and toilets to work. Some households are heated by electricity as well. Electricity is usually provided on a local level by an electric company, and is generated by oil, coal, water and in some areas, wind. Most electric bills are a combination of the cost of actual kilowatts of electricity used and the cost of transmitting the electricity to your home.

Water and Sewer

Another common household utility is water. If your home is connected to a municipal water supply, you'll likely pay a monthly or quarterly bill for your water usage. Likewise, if your home is on the municipal sewer line, there is a charge for using that utility. However, if your home has a private well and sewer tank --- also known as a septic tank --- there are still costs associated with those utilities. Private septic tanks need to be pumped every few years, and wells should be tested for bacteria or other harmful substances on a regular basis. If your well goes dry, you may need to have a second well drilled in another location on your property.


In colder climates, heating is a costly utility that most households pay each month, if it is not already covered in the electric bill. Households are often heated by furnaces that burn oil, coal, natural gas or propane. Some households use a wood-burning stove or fireplace to create additional heat and reduce the usage of oil or gas. In most cases, households pay for oil, gas or coal by the gallon each time it is delivered, although many companies offer monthly payment plans or allow customers to pre-purchase fuel at a discounted rate.


Communications utilities encompass telephone, cable or satellite television service and Internet service. It is becoming more common for American households to forgo a landline telephone in favour of cell phone service, but in areas where cell phone service is unreliable, landline telephones are still a necessity. Many cable or satellite companies offer bundles that include phone, Internet and television service for one rate, often less than purchasing the services separately. An alternative is Voice Over Internet Phone, in which you make and receive calls over the Internet.