Moving to the countryside can be a big leap for people who have been used to a small home in the suburbs or a condo apartment in a big city.
One of those hurdles to get used to are often the utility systems that can come with country or rural living.
We have put together a little list of the utilities you might expect to find in a country home in Ontario. These are by no means extensively detailed explanations of how these systems work but rather a basic overview.
You can click on the links below to jump to your utility of interest.
There are a variety of heating types found in country properties, from old electric systems to propane and oil systems as well. If you are not too far out of town you may even be lucky enough to be connected to a natural gas line but of course, that depends on where the nearest gas line is located. Some older properties may even rely on wood stoves and fireplaces for a portion of the heating but those are relatively rare (and also quite self-explanatory) so we won’t be covering those today.
Propane has a pretty good reputation when it comes to heating homes. It is typically a cleaner alternative to oil and quite an efficient way to heat your home when compared to natural gas or electricity. Propane is stored as a liquid in a tank outside of the home (either in an above or underground tank). These furnaces work very similarly to any other forced air furnace. Propane typically needs to be delivered to your home by a licensed company which is the only real “inconvenience”. You can also use this propane for items such as gas stoves, fireplaces, and even hot water heaters. If you’d like to get into the nitty-gritty about propane you can read more here.
Typically you’ll either find a furnace or boiler system when it comes to oil heat. In short, there is a combustion chamber where the oil is ignited and then an exchanger that warmers the gases. 1. Furnaces use a fan or flower and vents to send the warm air throughout the home. With a 2. boiler you’ll likely see a pump pushes heat through pipes to radiators. Here’s smart touch energy again with more in-depth information on how oil heat works.
Typically found in older homes. Electric heaters or furnaces aren’t very cost-effective at least here in Ontario where our hydro costs are very expensive. You’ll need to be hooked up to the grid to have this type of heat (similar to natural gas). Typically no ductwork is found if the home was originally built with the intent of heating the home via electricity. So, in homes like this, you often find that they also don’t have A/C. It is, of course, possible to remove and install a natural gas or propane furnace but ductwork will need to be added which can be costly.
There are several types of geothermal heating and cooling systems available. We won’t be going into each and every one. Here is a great guide if you’d like more in-depth details. In brief, pipes are buried into the ground below the freezing line. Both an ethanol-based fluid in the pipes and the heat from the earth are extracted and transported through these pipes into the home. The heat is then distributed throughout the home either by ducts or radiant heat.
Most of you know what these are all about so we won’t go into great detail here. If you live in a relatively modern home in an urban area you could find a house that is heated via a natural gas furnace.
When it comes to heating, we sometimes see a combination of some of the above in rural and country homes. For example, you might have an electric and propane combination. We often see a lot of homes in the country with electric or wood-burning fireplaces as well which help to heat your home.
Depending on where your property is located and if there is adequate and safe groundwater, your country home will likely have a well. In short, a well is dug and a pump inserted that brings up the water from the ground and into your home. Having a useful well is great because you don’t have to pay for water. However, before you purchase a property it is essential that you have an inspector inspect the well and get well tests done to ensure it is safe for drinking and not contaminated. For more details click here.
When your property does not have adequate or safe drinking water you’ll likely have a cistern. Essentially there is a holding tank that either collects rainwater or you can purchase the water yourself and have it trucked into your property. If you have ever seen the trucks with tanks on the back that say something like “Ed’s Water Haulage”, “Ed” is trucking water to someone who has a cistern that needs filling.
There are country homes that, if not located too far outside of town, are or can be connected to the local water system. This makes things simple for those moving from the city to the countryside.
In the countryside, it is common to have what is called a septic sewer system. There are quite a few different types of septic sewer systems, but the most common one in Ontario is the septic holding tank combined with some type of absorption system such as a leaching bed, where liquids are filtered through and then absorbed back in the ground. The solids and sludge in the tank will require an outside service company to visit the property from time to time to suck out all the contents with what is basically a giant vacuum on the back of a big truck. There will be a cost for this service so it is something to budget for. As the property owner, the condition of this system will be your responsibility, so being careful with what you flush or dump down the drain will be something you will want to educate yourself on. You can read more here.
Again, if the property is located close to city limits you might be lucky enough to be connected to the local sewer system meaning you don’t have to worry about maintaining or keeping an eye on your septic system. However, you are then connected to the grid.
This system is pretty straight forward. Unless you are building a house that you have to fly in a bush plane to get to, you will most likely be connected to the electrical grid.
One potential opportunity though would be to supplement your electricity by creating your own! This will be site and location dependent. But if your plot is right, you may want to explore, solar and wind as possible systems to create some of your own power. If your property and systems are large enough you might even be able to obtain a contract with the Ontario government to sell electricity back to the grid. This would require a real cost to benefit analysis, as large scale systems are expensive and you are required to pay for the system yourself. Speaking to an expert will give you clarification on whether this is a viable option worth entertaining.
If you have any questions, reach out.