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2007 Survey of Household Energy Use (SHEU-2007) – Summary Report

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II. Survey findings

Air conditioning and other cooling methods

According to Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Use Data Handbook Tables,13 from 1990 to 2007, the energy consumed in the residential sector for space cooling almost tripled (increasing by 266 percent). Furthermore, there was a noticeable increase in the penetration rate of air conditioning systems in Canadian households. Because of this, SHEU-2007 collected information on the characteristics and use of residential air conditioning systems.

Air conditioning systems – Regional analysis

More than half (52 percent) of Canadian households were equipped with some type of air conditioning system in 2007. Options available to consumers for air conditioning their dwellings include window/room air conditioners (including portable), central air conditioners and heat pumps. Within Canada, there were significant regional differences in the penetration rates of air conditioning systems (see Chart 37).

Chart 37. Penetration rate of air-conditioning systems, by region, 2007.

As expected, the regions with the most cooling degree-days14 – in order from most to least, Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba/Saskatchewan – also had the highest penetration rates for air conditioning systems. This resulted in three rough groupings of high, medium and low penetration rates for air conditioning systems.

Four out of every five households in Ontario were equipped with an air conditioning system in 2007. These households accounted for nearly 60 percent of all dwellings with a residential air conditioning system in Canada. Manitoba/Saskatchewan (70 percent) is the only other region in Canada that approaches the household penetration of Ontario. Other regions had much lower penetration rates. Quebec’s penetration rate (47 percent) is roughly halfway between the high groupings of Ontario and Manitoba/Saskatchewan and the closely grouped low penetration rates of Alberta (20 percent), British Columbia (19 percent) and Atlantic Canada (17 percent).

Types of air conditioning systems

A central air conditioning system was the most prevalent type of air conditioning system in Canadian households. Over 32 percent of households were equipped with a central system in 2007.

Usually, central air conditioners are used to cool an entire dwelling, while window/room air conditioners are used to cool a small space. SHEU-2007 found that this generality was valid, because central air conditioners were more popular than window/room air conditioners in single detached houses and double/row houses (see Chart 38).

Chart 38. Penetration rate of central and window/room air-conditioning systems, by dwelling type, 2007.

Central air conditioning systems and window/room units were used in almost equal proportions in high-rise apartments. In low-rise apartments and mobile homes, window/room air conditioners were more popular than central air conditioning.

Additionally, the year a dwelling was built influences which type of air conditioning system is likely to be equipped in a dwelling. The penetration rate for central air conditioning systems has generally increased in dwellings constructed in each succesive period, peaking at 52 percent for dwellings constructed during 2000–2007 (see Chart 39).

Chart 39. Penetration rate of central and window/room air-conditioning systems, by year of construction, 2007.

In contrast, the pentration rate for window/room air conditioners decreased, from 26 percent for dwellings constructed before 1946 to an all-time low of 8 percent in
2000–2007.

Window/room air conditioner

Window or room air conditioners were commonly used in households, with 20 percent of households equipped with this type of system. There are various types of room air conditioners. The most popular type of room air conditioners in 2007 was window-mounted (louvered) units, with 73 percent of households that used a room air conditioner reporting it as their most used air conditioner (see Chart 40). Through-the-wall units were the next most popular primary room air conditioner (15 percent), followed by free-standing portable units (9 percent). Mini-split air conditioners and wall-mounted heat pump air conditioners were the remaining types of most-used room air conditioners.

Chart 40. Type of room air conditioner most used by dwelling, 2007.

Other cooling methods

The use of fans and closing of window blinds are other methods of cooling a dwelling in the summer. Nearly two thirds of Canadian households reported using fans to assist in the cooling of their dwelling in 2007 – there are only slight regional variations in this use (see Chart 41). There appears to be an inverse relationship between the use of fans and the penetration rate of air conditioning systems. Ontario and Manitoba/Saskatchewan, which have the highest penetration rates for air conditioning systems, also have the lowest penetration rates for fans. Atlantic Canada, British Columbia and Alberta, on the other hand, have the lowest penetration rates for air conditioning systems, while having the highest penetration rates for fans. Finally, Quebec is between the two highest and three lowest air conditioning penetration rates and is in the same position for the penetration rate of fans.

Chart 41. Penetration rate of house fans and the use of blinds/drapes during the hottest part of the day, by region, 2007.

The use of blinds or drapes during the day can prevent a dwelling from absorbing passive solar heat. Regionally, there appears to be a significant variation. Regional climatic variations are a possible explanation, with households in regions that receive more sunshine during the summer being more likely to close their blinds. Using Environment Canada’s hours of sunshine for June, July and August,15 it is found that the provincial ranking for average hours of sunshine almost matches the provincial order of households that close their blinds. The ranking of provinces, from most sunshine hours to least, is as follows: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

13 Natural Resources Canada, Energy Use Data Handbook Tables, 1990 and 2001 to 2007, oee.nrcan.gc.ca/corporate/statistics/neud/dpa/tableshandbook2/res_00_1_e_4.cfm?attr=0.
14 Natural Resources Canada, Comprehensive Energy Use Database, 1978 to 2007, oee.nrcan.gc.ca/corporate/statistics/neud/dpa/comprehensive_tables/index.cfm?fuseaction=Selector.showTree.
15 Canadian Climate Normals or Averages, 1971–2000 www.climate.weatheroffice.ec.gc.ca/climate_normals/index_e.html.

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