Utilities & Services
Once you’ve arranged your housing, it’s time to get utilities, from garbage collection to internet connection.
Connecting your house or apartment to municipal services like water and garbage collection is easy. Vancouver provides water distribution and garbage collection, as well as yard trimming and recycling collection. Bills for water, sewage and solid waste collection should come three times a year in March, July and November. If you live in a single-family home or duplex, you get a flat-rate bill for garbage and yard trimmings carts, recycling, fire line, and cross connection fees, which comes once a year and are due the second business day in July.
In the City of Vancouver, water rates are lower from October to May, when water is more abundant. It goes up by about 25 per cent for the rest of the year. Seasonal rates are meant to help the city reach its water conservation goal of reducing use by 33 per cent by 2030.
Fees for solid waste and recycle collection are quite small. You can find garbage and recycling schedules by typing in your street address here. Find out more about waste disposal and recycling here.
Aside from water and waste, you’ll need to set up your gas and electricity utilities. Both gas and electricity are used in British Columbia. Gas is the common way of heating and air conditioning a house. Some people to have electric heating systems, but these are significantly more expensive to keep up. Electricity (called “hydro” in British Columbia because it is powered by water) is used for lights, outlets and other power.
In general an electricity bill in Vancouver tends to be from $30 to $120 per month, depending on the season and whether or not you use electricity to heat and cool your home.
In British Columbia, BC Hydro is the main source of electricity. It operates 31 hydroelectric facilities and three natural gas-fueled thermal power plants. Electricity is transported through transmission lines to 1.8 million customers!
The rates for electricity vary depending on the time of use. For a complete list of energy distribution companies serving British Columbia, click here. Rates are a reflection the generation, transmission, distribution and customer service costs of providing electricity to customers.
When you move to Vancouver, you’ll need to set up your electricity account. If your place of residence already has a connection, just know your service address and create a create a MyHydro profile. If you require a connection, you’ll need to make a request with BC Hydro. Here’s information from BC Hydro about how to proceed.
In British Columbia, natural gas is also a popular energy source. The British Columbia Utilities Commission regulates the rates that utilities are permitted to charge customers. FortisBC is the most commonly used company that distributes natural gas to British Columbia and the City of Vancouver, distributing to about 920,000 customers.
Costs usually peak during the coldest months of the year. Depending on the size of the housing unit you need to heat, how much natural gas you use, and the time of year, you could pay from $30 to $300 per month (for a very large house) for natural gas.
To stop, start or move service with FortisBC, go here. You can also open your new gas account with FortisBC by calling 1-888-224-2710. You can start, stop, and pay for natural gas services online here.
Electricity and heating must always be on in winter, even in an empty house, to prevent freezing water pipes! Think about setting the heating at 15 degrees celsius when you leave for the weekend.
Once you have electricity and heating, all you need to be fully set is a telephone landline, Internet, and cable TV, commonly referred to as a bundle. The more services you purchase from one company (they also do mobile phones), the more discounts you will get. Shaw, Novus and Telus are the three big companies. It’s usually approximately from $100 to $120 for a basic bundle.
According to our sources, Novus is likely the best option of the three. Novus offers the best internet minimum and maximum upload and download speeds. Novus also comes out on top when it comes to bundle options available. For internet alone, Novus internet starts at $37.50, Shaw at $50 and Telus at $45. On the other hand, Shaw and Telus have greater availability than Novus.
Smaller, sometimes cheaper internet providers exist (like Juce, Lightspeed, Urbanfibre) and some Vancouverites choose these because they find better deals or more reliable service than larger companies.
Local calls are free with your landline (numbers with the local area codes 778, 236), whether you call a landline or a mobile phone, but intercity calls (incoming and outgoing) can be very expensive. A lot of Vancouverites and expats buy calling cards in convenience stores and use them at home. Or they use calling services offering discounts on long-distance. In this day and age, people are able to make free long-distance calls (and video chats!) through web platforms like Skype, Google Voice and even Facebook, among others. If you have a Shaw or (in most cases) Telus landline service you can dial 10-10-710 before your correspondent’s number, and a discounted price of the communication will appear directly on your phone bill. If you plan on doing a lot of talking with your friends and family back home, most phone service providers have long-distance plans.
Basic cable TV includes mostly English language channels. The public broadcast channels include CTV and CBC, CityTV, Omni , Global and more. There are all kinds of packages available, and you can even build your own package.
Mobile phone providers are numerous. There are Fido, Rogers, Telus, Virgin Mobile , Bell, Citifone, Telus, Primus and other smaller, local companies. You can get a basic package for $30 per month. However, remember the following: unless you choose an unlimited voice and texting plan, you pay for both incoming and outgoing calls and text messages. Voicemail and caller ID cost extra, and 3G Internet charges are applied based on your data usage on your smartphone. You can get an unlimited voice and texting plan covering all of Canada, plus a decent data package for a total of around $65 per month. Smartphones go for from $0 to $200 if you sign up for a two-year plan.
Read all lines of your contract carefully and don’t forget to include the taxes in your calculations!
You may also need a housekeeper or house staff. Job placement agencies like Randstad can help you. You can also count on the ads on Kijiji, use your network (if you have one) or go to specialized websites, like Maid Natural Cleaning, which offers eco-friendly cleaning services.
For more information on garbage and recyclables collection schedule, you can contact your municipality (call 3-1-1) or visit The City of Vancouver website. Almost every community in Vancouver has a recycling program, so you are encouraged to sort your garbage. Some cities also organize the collection of organic waste for compost.
Your local municipality is a good resource in case you suffer an unfortunate invasion of bedbugs. City officials can help you force your landlord to take rapid action (which is crucial) and give you contact information for exterminators (this information applies to other pests too).