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Building a garden suite in Toronto is an exciting venture, offering the promise of a cozy retreat or an additional income stream. This blog will look at the possibility of upgrading your water, hydro, and gas service to your property to service your garden suite once completed adequately.

Assessing the Situation

Knowing the current state of the utilities servicing your property is essential. After all, your garden suite will be tapping into the utilities from the existing house.  Identify your property’s existing utility capabilities before breaking ground on your garden suite project. Once determined, the next step should be to obtain load calculations based on the usage and demand of utilities for all dwellings on the property when construction has been completed. This is especially important if the property becomes a multi-family home. Because there is an increase in demand for every unit added, it is essential to get load calculations based on total units.

Water System Upgrades

One of the first areas to consider is the water system. Determine the size of the current water supply servicing the property. The main focus is on the water pressure being strong enough always to service the garden suite. Consider that the garden suite is located at the rear of the property, and the water supply comes in from the front. Increasing the size of the water line will ensure that the water pressure is always adequate for everyone living on the property. Moving forward involves working with the city, as the private side of the service falls under the homeowner’s responsibility, and the public side falls under the city’s jurisdiction. They will contract out the work that needs to be done; unfortunately, you will be on the hook for any costs the city incurs during the process. If your water supply comes in via lead, you may be able to apply for the city’s lead replacement program, which is free. When they come to replace your lead pipe, you can request to upgrade the size of the line at a much lower cost to you.

Electrical System Upgrades

Depending on your load calculation or the number of units on the property, you may need to upgrade your hydro service to 200 or even 400 amp. The upgrade could be an overhead or underground service, depending on the location of your property and the city’s infrastructure. You must work with the hydro provider to upgrade your service. Like your water service, there is a private and public side; you will foot the bill. Consider installing an additional hydro meter for the garden suite. This will help manage costs if you rent out the garden suite. 

Upon completion, adding the meter can transfer the responsibility of paying the hydro bill to the tenant for the duration of their lease. Ensure your garden suite is equipped with a reliable and efficient electrical system. Consider integrating energy-efficient lighting solutions to brighten your space while minimizing energy consumption. Additionally, embrace smart home technologies for added convenience and energy savings. Solar power options are also worth exploring, offering a sustainable source of electricity that aligns with modern green living.

Natural Gas Upgrades

Winter in Toronto can get extreme. A robust HVAC system will help your loved ones or tenants through those cold months. If you need to upgrade your gas service, be prepared to have a portion of your front yard excavated. Consider getting an additional gas meter for your garden suite. The natural gas provider will do the gas service upgrade. They will bring the service to your gas meter. The homeowner is then responsible for the gas service after the meter.

Balancing Costs and Savings

Conduct a cost assessment of proposed upgrades and explore available grants or incentives. While the initial investment might seem significant, consider the long-term savings through energy-efficient solutions. These upgrades pay for themselves over time with the increased property value.

Utility upgrades on your property differ from the costs that owners initially budget for when they decide to build a garden suite. However, you can reduce these costs by determining what you will use to power your appliances and equipment. For example, you can have everything electric, eliminating the need to upgrade your natural gas service.

Final Say 

Utility upgrades done on your property to service those living in your garden suite, when completed, play an essential role in the long run. By addressing the future need for the garden suite, you can decide which service to upgrade, if any. Requesting to upgrade your services on the property should be one of the first things you do upon breaking ground. Unfortunately, the process can take a while as there are many moving parts. Embrace these upgrades, connect with your community, and let your garden suite become a model in your neighbourhood. 

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