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Energy Efficiency Trends in Canada, 1990 to 2007

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Chapter 3. Residential sector

Overview – Residential energy use and GHG emissions

In Canada in 2007, 81 percent of all residential energy use was for space and water heating.

In 2007, Canadians spent $28.4 billion on householdenergy needs. Total household energy use was 16 percent of all energy used (Figure 3.1), and total household GHG emissions were 15 percent of all GHGs emitted in Canada (Figure 3.2). The energy used was 1,447.2 PJ and 74.3 Mt of GHGs were emitted by the residential sector.

Figure 3.1 Energy use by sector, 2007 (percent)

Figure 3.1 Energy use by sector, 2007 (percent).


Figure 3.2 GHG emissions by sector, 2007 (percent)

Figure 3.2 GHG emissions by sector, 2007 (percent).


Natural gas and electricity together accounted for 86 percent of all residential energy use in 2007. Wood, heating oil and propane were the other sources of energy being used. Within a household, these forms of energy were used for a variety of activities, as seen in Figure 3.3. Space and water heating accounted for 81 percent of Canada’s residential energy use, followed by appliances, lighting and air conditioning.

Figure 3.3 Distribution of residential energy use by end-use, 2007 (percent)

Figure 3.3 Distribution of residential energy use by end-use, 2007 (percent).


Trends – Residential energy use and GHG emissions

Population growth and fewer people per household led to a 31 percent rise in the number of households, which contributed to a 13 percent increase in residential energy use from 1990 to 2007.

Between 1990 and 2007, residential energy use increased 13 percent or 164.9 PJ, from 1,282.3 PJ to 1,447.2 PJ. The associated GHG emissions grew 11 percent, from 67.1 Mt to 74.3 Mt. During the period, the population grew 19 percent (5.3 million people) and the number of households increased 31 percent (3.1 million).

The 3.1 million households added in Canada since 1990 represented approximately the total number of households in Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1990 or the total number of households in British Columbia and Alberta in 2007.

The mix of energy used in the residential sector changed slightly over the period. Specifically, natural gas and electricity became even more dominant while heating oil use declined (Figure 3.4). These increases were largely the result of increased availability of natural gas and lower natural gas prices relative to oil.

Figure 3.4 Residential energy use by fuel type and number of households, 1990 and 2007

Figure 3.4 Residential energy use by fuel type and number of households, 1990 and 2007.

* “Other” includes coal and propane.

Canadians have bigger homes with fewer people living in them.

The choices Canadians made with respect to their living space also contributed to an increase in energy use. Average living space in 2007 was 10 percent greater than that in 1990. Specifically, average living space in 1990 was 116 square metres (), compared to 128 of living space in 2007 (Figure 3.5).

Canada has an aging population that tends to remain in their homes longer, in many cases long after their children have moved out. A falling birth rate and more young people living in single person households have contributed to a reduction in individuals per household from 2.8 in 1990 to 2.5 in 2007. This trend, coupled with population growth, has meant more dwellings built and therefore more energy consumed.

Since 1990, Canadians use more devices that consume energy, such as computers, televisions and microwaves. In addition, more Canadians choose to cool their homes during the summer months. These choices increased residential energy use. The impact of these changes and the choices made by Canadians are further discussed in the following section, where each end-use is examined.

Figure 3.5 Residential energy indicators, 1990 and 2007.

Trends - Residential space heating energy use

Despite a 21 percent decline in space heating energy intensity, total space heating energy use increased 14 percent between 1990 and 2007.

The amount of energy used by the residential sector to heat each square metre of living space decreased 21 percent between 1990 and 2007. Although influenced by weather variations, the 2007 heating degree-days were only marginally higher than 1990 which confirms the decrease in space heating intensity from 0.66 gigajoules per square metre (GJ/) to 0.52 GJ/ (Figure 3.6) was mainly driven by energy efficiency gains.

Figure 3.6 Space heating energy intensity and heating degree-day index, 1990-2007

Figure 3.6 Space heating energy intensity and heating degree-day index, 1990-2007.

Energy efficiency gains were realized, to a large extent, by the replacement of less efficient systems with regulated medium and high efficiency systems. From 1990 to 2007, medium and high efficiency oil and gas systems increased their share of the oil and gas market from 8 percent to 81 percent.

While the amount of energy used to heat each square metre of living space in a Canadian home decreased, this was not enough to compensate for the fact that the number of households increased 31 percent. Additionally, the average Canadian home was larger in 2007 than it was in 1990. Consequently, the energy required to heat all the dwellings in Canada increased 14 percent from 794.4 PJ in 1990 to 908.1 PJ in 2007.

Trends – Residential water heating energy use

Less energy is required per household for hot water due to increased penetration of newer and more efficient natural gas water heaters.

Canadians shifted from using oil-fired water heaters to those that use natural gas and that are, on average, more energy efficient (Figure 3.7). In addition, current minimum energy performance standards mean that new water heaters use less energy than older models. As older stock is replaced by new stock, energy efficiency gains are realized. These changes resulted in a 19 percent decrease in the energy used per household for heating water (from 24.6 GJ per household in 1990 to 19.9 GJ per household in 2007).

Figure 3.7 Water heating energy use by fuel type, 1990 and 2007

Figure 3.7 Water heating energy use by fuel type, 1990 and 2007.

* “Other” includes coal and propane.

Although there was a decrease in per household energy used to heat water, the total number of households grew more quickly than energy efficiency improvements from new equipment. The result was an overall increase of 6 percent in residential water heating energy use, from 243.0 PJ to 257.9 PJ.

Trends - Residential appliance energy use

The increased number of minor appliances offset the benefits of the energy efficiency gains of major appliances.

The number of major appliances operated in Canada between 1990 and 2007 increased 44 percent (Figure 3.8). However, the total amount of energy that households used to power major appliances decreased 18 percent over the same period. In fact, the average unit energy use of all major household appliances decreased noticeably from 1990 to 2007.

Figure 3.8 Residential energy use and appliance stock index by appliance type, 1990 and 2007

Figure 3.8 Residential energy use and appliance stock index by appliance type, 1990 and 2007.

The largest percentage decrease was in the unit energy use of dishwashers (Figure 3.9), which in 2007 used 68 percent less energy than in 1990 (from 273 kilowatt hours [kWh] per year to 87 kWh per year).4 A new fridge in 1990 used an average of 956 kWh per year versus 483 kWh per year in 2007, a decrease of 49 percent. These improvements in efficiency were due mainly to the introduction of minimum efficiency standards in the 1990s.

Energy use for powering all household minor appliances more than doubled between 1990 and 2007. This increase of 36.5 PJ is equivalent to the energy required to provide lighting to all the homes in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia in 2007.

Figure 3.9 Unit energy consumption of major electric appliance stock, 1990 and 2005

Figure 3.9 Unit energy consumption of major electric appliance stock, 1990 and 2007.

In contrast to trends for major appliances, energy use for smaller appliances such as televisions, VCRs, DVDs, stereo systems and personal computers more than doubled (+124 percent). This increase more than outweighed the energy use reduction from major appliances. One example of the rapid growth in minor appliances is the increased penetration of personal computers. In 1990, computers were present in less than one out of six households, but by 2007 they were present in more than three out of four households in Canada.

Trends - Space cooling energy use

More Canadians lived in air-conditioned homes.

The amount of occupied floor space with air conditioners rose to 708 million square metres (million ) in 2007, from 267 million in 1990. The percentage of floor space cooled rose from 23 percent in 1990 to 43 percent in 2007. As a result, the energy required to cool Canadian homes rose 167 percent (Figure 3.10), from 10.5 PJ to 27.9 PJ over the same period.

Figure 3.10 Space cooling stock and energy use, 1990-2007

Figure 3.10 Space cooling stock and energy use, 1990-2007.

The increase in energy used for space cooling would have been more pronounced if not for efficiency improvements associated with room and central air conditioners. Compared to 1990, the stock of room and central air conditioners in 2007 were 36 and 22 percent more efficient, respectively.

Trends - Lighting energy use

The market share of energy-efficient lighting alternatives increased significantly between 1990 and 2007.

Despite a drop in lighting energy use per household, the energy required to light all the households in Canada increased 18 percent, from 51.7 PJ to 60.8 PJ (Figure 3.11). This was entirely due to the 31 percent increase in the number of households, as the energy required to light each household in Canada decreased 10 percent, from 5.2 GJ to 4.7 GJ. Lighting energy use reached a peak of 64.1 PJ in 2004, before declining to 60.8 PJ in 2007.

Figure 3.11 Lighting energy use per household and total lighting energy use, 1990-2007

Figure 3.11 Lighting energy use per household and total lighting energy use, 1990-2007.

Some of the decrease in lighting energy use can be associated with the increased use of compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), also known as compact fluorescent light bulbs (Figure 3.12), which use less energy to produce a certain level of light. The use of CFLs was marginal in the residential lighting market in 2000, but they represented over 17 percent of light bulbs used in 2007.

Figure 3.12 Number of light bulbs per household by bulb type, 1990 and 2007

Figure 3.11 Number of light bulbs per household by bulb type, 1990 and 2007.

Residential energy intensity and efficiency

Energy intensity

The average household reduced its energy use by 14 percent.

In the residential sector, energy intensity is usually expressed as energy consumed per household. It can also be expressed as energy consumed per square metre of house area. Energy intensity decreased 14 percent, from 129.6 GJ per household in 1990 to 111.5 GJ in 2007 (Figure 3.13). This occurred despite the average household operating more appliances, becoming larger, and increasing its use of space cooling. Energy intensity per square metre decreased 21 percent from 1.06 GJ to 0.84 GJ.

Figure 3.13 Residential energy intensity per household and floor space, 1990-2007

Figure 3.13 Residential energy intensity per household and floor space, 1990-2007.

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency improvements resulted in energy savings of $7.4 billion in the residential sector in 2007.

Energy efficiency improvements in the residential sector have resulted in significant savings between 1990 and 2007. These improvements include changes to the residential thermal envelope (insulation, windows, etc.) and changes to the efficiency of energy-consuming items in the home, such as furnaces, appliances and lighting.

Energy efficiency in the residential sector improved 29 percent from 1990 to 2007, allowing Canadians to save 378.2 PJ of energy (Figure 3.14) and $7.4 billion in energy costs in 2007.

Figure 3.14 Residential energy use, with and without energy efficiency improvements, 1990-2007

Figure 3.14 Residential energy use, with and without energy efficiency improvements, 1990-2007.

Figure 3.15 illustrates the influence that various factors had on the change in residential energy use between 1990 and 2007. These effects are the

  • activity effect – As measured by combining a mix of households and floor space, energy use increased 36 percent (456.4 PJ). Growth inactivity was driven by a 44 percent increase in floor area and by a rise of 31 percent in the number of households.

  • structure effect – The increase in the relative share of households by dwelling type resulted in the sector using an additional 0.6 PJ of energy.

  • service level effect – The increased penetration rate of appliances and the increased floor space cooled by space cooling units were responsible for 71.1 PJ of the increase in energy.

  • weather effect – In 2007, winter temperatures were similar to those of 1990 but the summer was warmer. The net result was an overall increase in energy demand for temperature control of 15.0 PJ.

  • energy efficiency effect – Improvements to the thermal envelope of houses and to the efficiency of residential appliances and space and water heating equipment led to an overall energy efficiency gain in the residential sector. This saved 378.2 PJ of energy.
These energy efficiency savings translate into an average savings of $572 per Canadian household in 2007.

Figure 3.15 Impact of activity, structure, service level, weather and energy efficiency on the change in residential energy use, 1990-2007

Figure 3.15 Impact of activity, structure, service level, weather and energy efficiency on the change in residential energy use, 1990-2007.

4 Excludes hot water requirements.

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