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Hydro customer charged more than $600 despite turning off heat, showering at the gym

Hydro customers bill unchanged despite attempts to conserve
WATCH ABOVE: Ruth D’Souza went to great lengths to conserve energy but her bill was still shockingly high. Toronto Hydro says the amount is consistent with past tenants of her two-bedroom apartment and says there are ways to ensure ratepayers are saving as much as possible. Peter Kim Reports.

Ruth D’Souza went to great lengths to reduce her hydro bill but was shocked when it rang in at more than six hundred dollars for two months.

For months D’Souza has been meticulous about her energy consumption. “We have blankets and shawls everywhere [to stay warm],” she said. “We don’t leave things plugged in for the most part.”

She even showered at the gym to conserve hot water, which is heated by electricity in her two-bedroom apartment. Despite her best efforts, the bill rang in at $647 dollars for two months.

“It’s just frustrating because we’re not seeing the fruits of all our hard work, so I don’t know what to do,” she explained.

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At one point D’Souza thought she may be footing the bill for her entire building, which includes a business below. But Toronto Hydro says that’s likely not the case, as her bill is consistent with past tenants of her Danforth apartment.

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The culprit could be her baseboard heaters, which are known for high energy consumption.

Even when tenants believe they’re turning them off, they still occasionally suck energy from the grid explained Tori Gass, spokesperson for Toronto Hydro.

“You may think that it’s turned off by the switch on the baseboard but it isn’t,” she said. “The best way to do that is by turning it off at the thermostat.”

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Water tanks heated by electricity also consume a lot of energy because they maintain the temperature throughout the day regardless of usage.

Not taking a shower at home wouldn’t have the energy-saving benefits one would expect, because the water requires energy to remain hot.

“There are some things you can do like insulate your hot water tank,” said Gass. “You can also check to see what temperature it’s at. Maybe you don’t need it as hot.”

But D’Souza may be paying more than her fair share because of a flat rate she’s being charged.

Toronto Hydro used to charge a set amount for hot water usage but has since asked landlords to switch over and connect their tanks to their electricity metres.

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“Once that switch is made, someone has to inform Toronto Hydro,” explained Gass.

“If not, tenants may be paying twice for their hot water usage.”

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There are proactive steps renters can take before signing their name on the dotted line.

“If you’re going to be paying for hydro and electricity you can ask for a couple of sample bills beforehand,” said Geordie Dent, Executive Director of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations.

“That way you’ll know if they will be cost prohibitive.”

Renters can monitor their electricity usage in real time by registering on the My TorontoHydro online portal.

Ratepayers can also request a home visit from hydro staff to get a more detailed breakdown of where they’re consuming.

D’Souza will be getting a visit in the beginning of May and hopes to find answers to her high energy bills.