Ask about energy costs when house hunting

Buying a new home can be a stressful and overwhelming process with many decisions to make about location, size and budget. One budgetary item that many people fail to factor into the price of their home is the energy bills.

Household energy costs for heat and hot water can vary significantly depending on the size of your family, the usage, and on the type of fuel you're using.

In Ontario, for example, natural gas is the more cost-effective option over electricity and oil, as demonstrated by July rates posted online by Enbridge Gas Distribution, Toronto Hydro, and Statistics Canada. Here, from Enbridge, are a few ways to estimate your energy costs before you sign on the dotted line:

Ask the question: One easy way to determine average monthly bills is to ask the seller for past utility bills so that you can judge the operating costs of your new home.

Use a calculator: Many utility companies have an online calculator that allows potential customers to measure their potential energy usage before signing up. For example, the natural gas saving calculator provided online at gives customers an idea of annual energy costs using natural gas as compared to alternative energy sources such as heating oil, propane, electricity and wood.

Factor in household equipment: Are you planning to upgrade or replace the appliances in your new house? Energy-efficient equipment is an investment in the value of your home. The cost of these may be reduced through available energy rebates – search online for details.

Plan ahead: Once you've made your new home selection, visit your local utilities' websites and find out how to get set up quickly and correctly. Most companies require advance notice of the move and you'll likely have a few online forms to fill out. Planning ahead can help you prevent delays and avoid any surprises.

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