Canada is a great place to live, and it consistently ranks amongst the most livable countries in the world. It’s no wonder that the living costs in the country are no longer as cheap as they used to be some decades ago.
The cost of living in Canada varies between provinces. According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian household spends $63,723 a year on goods and services. Some provinces, such as Alberta, spend even more, averaging around $72,957 spent per household per year on goods and services.
The monthly cost of living in Ontario can also be surprisingly high. According to Numbeo, the average family of four spends around $4,861.59 on living expenses in Toronto, and that’s without rent. Also, Statistics Canada reports that $16,846 of the average Canadian household’s total expenditures goes toward paying primary residence costs, of which utilities are a part.
Utilities in Canada
Utilities in Canada, however, are something that you can save money on, perhaps in an easier manner than on other living costs. Other expenses, such as transportation and housing, might be harder to save on, but there’s a lot of room for saving money on electricity and natural gas.
Some people might think that utilities don’t cost all that much, but you would be surprised at the amount you spend on utilities and how it adds up. The Fraser Institute reports that on average, 2.6% of your total expenses come from energy use. That might not sound like a lot, but that 2.6% equates to around $2,484 spent on water, fuel and electricity costs that are related to your principal accommodation, according to a Statistics Canada chart.
To get an even better idea of how costly your utilities can be, consider that in 2014, the average Canadian used about 11,135 kWh of electricity a year, according to EnergyRates.ca.
Let’s round that monthly amount of electricity usage to be around 1,000 kWh per month and pick a city at random. According to Manitoba Hydro, the average electricity bill in Ottawa, Ontario per month for 1,000 kWh used would be around $137.90. That’s about $1,654.80 spent over the course of a year on electricity alone. That’s a lot of electricity — and a lot of money.
If you’re not convinced, just take a look at this example: If your residence, for some reason, uses 5,000 kWh per month, you could see an electricity bill that would average $763.98 if you lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This is perhaps an extreme example, but it shows how your energy bills can increase your cost of living, especially if you’re under an expensive energy rate plan or use energy-inefficient appliances.
Just because your electricity bill costs a lot doesn’t mean that your natural gas bill isn’t significant. Many provinces in Canada experience harsh winters, and as a result, Canadian households use a lot of natural gas to heat their homes. According to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), space heating accounts for 61% of the energy used in the average Canadian home. The amount of natural gas used for the average Canadian household is around 88.4 gigajoules (GJ) per year, although this amount can be as high as 100.3 GJ in Alberta, or as low as 60 GJ in Québec.
The price of natural gas obviously varies between provinces, but let’s use Alberta as an example. According to a graph by the National Energy Board, the amount of money spent on natural gas per month between 2008 and 2018 fluctuated between as high as approximately $180 and as low as around $50. That means you could be spending between $600 and $2,220 per year on natural gas.
Now that you know that the cost of your utilities can be significant, we can look at the amount of money spent on energy represented as a percentage of total expenditures (electricity and natural gas) per province. This can help you see how natural gas and electricity costs affect the cost of living in each province individually.
Alberta and Ontario
Provinces such as Alberta and Ontario have deregulated markets for both natural gas and electricity. As reported by the Fraser Institute, in 2013, energy spending represents 2.3% and 2.6% of total household spending, respectively, without gasoline costs. With gasoline, the percentages rise to 5% and 5.9%. Since these provinces have deregulated markets for both natural gas and electricity, you can maximize the amount you save on energy costs partly by doing your research and choosing from a wide array of energy companies in Canada in order to find the best possible plan for your household.
Cost comparison websites such as EnergyRates.ca can help with this. This unbiased online tool can help you compare electricity and natural gas rates from the major energy companies available according to your postal code (check the form above).
Saskatchewan, Manitoba and BC
Other provinces, such as Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia, only have deregulated markets for natural gas. As reported by the Fraser Institute, these provinces spend 2.8%, 2.3% and 2.1%, respectively, of total household spending on energy excluding gasoline — with gasoline, these percentages rise to 6.3%, 6.2% and 4.8%.
Though consumers in these provinces may not be able to shop around for low electricity rates, they can still certainly save money on utilities by comparing the natural gas rates offered to them by the natural gas providers in their areas. EnergyRates.ca can also be helpful in this situation for comparing natural gas rates in your location.
The provinces in Atlantic Canada, including Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, dedicated the largest amount of total household spending on energy — 4% without gasoline and 8.2% with. It’s important to note that each province (not only including Atlantic Canada) has different average incomes and expenditures, so you should take this into account when learning about the amount that households in each province spend on energy. Also, provinces in Canada can have entirely different energy markets one from another.
Home energy costs
As you can see by now, home energy costs (both natural gas and electricity) can significantly influence your cost of living in Canada, and they can be quite costly. Now that you realize this, you can consider ways that you can cut down on your energy costs.
One way, as mentioned previously, is shopping around for better energy rates. Other tips include changing to more energy-efficient appliances and lighting, or even getting the most out of governmental rebates. Depending on where you live in Canada, you could have more or fewer options to save energy, but there’s probably you can do to make your utilities more affordable.
As to commercial energy costs, small businesses and large energy consumers can compare both natural gas and electricity rates at EnergyRates.ca. The website provides businesses with a free custom quote based on their energy usage. You will be able to compare the major providers and their rates in your area, and find the most cost-effective energy plan for your business.
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