Energy Use in the Residential Sector

Photo of a house

Key highlights

Over the 1990 to 2015 period,
  • Energy efficiency in homes improved 46%, saving Canadians $13.3 billion in energy costs in 2015 – averaging $78/household per month in savings.
  • Although residential energy use increased 8.4% from 1990 to 2015, it would have increased 54% without energy efficiency improvements.
  • Energy efficiency helped avoid 27.8 Mt of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015.
  • Thanks to energy efficiency, energy use per household decreased, despite increased living space and appliance use.

picture of a house  Overview - a growing sector

Residential infographic
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Residential energy indicators

1990 2015
People per household 2.8 2.5
Living space 122 m2 143 m2
Households 9.9 million 14.1 million
Appliances per household 15 23
Occupied floor space cooled 22% 57%

Canadians spent $31.2 billion on household energy needs in 2015. Most of the energy used (4/5) was for space heating and water heating. Predominant fuels were natural gas, electricity and home heating oil. Other fuels included wood and propane.

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Distribution of residential energy use by end use, 2015

Residential energy use Percentage
Space heating 62.4
Water heating 18.7
Appliances 13.0
Lighting 3.8
Space cooling 2.1

All facets of energy use in the home have experienced an increase in energy efficiency over time, resulting in a dramatic decline in energy use per household and per unit of floor space.

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Residential energy intensity per household and floor space, 1990–2015

Energy intensity per household (GJ/household) Energy intensity per floor space (GJ/m2)
1990 144.0 1.18
1991 137.5 1.12
1992 137.4 1.11
1993 139.6 1.12
1994 140.8 1.12
1995 134.7 1.06
1996 139.7 1.10
1997 133.6 1.05
1998 123.1 0.96
1999 125.1 0.97
2000 128.0 0.99
2001 121.1 0.94
2002 125.2 0.96
2003 124.3 0.95
2004 122.4 0.93
2005 118.8 0.90
2006 113.1 0.84
2007 120.3 0.89
2008 118.9 0.88
2009 113.9 0.84
2010 111.2 0.80
2011 116.2 0.84
2012 110.0 0.79
2013 113.4 0.80
2014 115.0 0.81
2015 109.2 0.76

picture of energy efficiency  Isolating the effect of energy efficiency

Without energy efficiency gains, energy use would have increased 54% instead of 8.4%.

Adjusting for weather and growth in the sector, as well as a small change in make-up of the housing sector (more attached homes and apartments), we can isolate and measure the energy efficiency effect.

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Impact of activity, structure, service level, weather and energy efficiency on the change in residential energy use, 1990–2015

Petajoules
Total change in energy use 119.4
Activity effect 687.7
Structure effect -5.7
Service level effect 88.6
Weather effect 4.9
Energy efficiency effect -656.1

The energy efficiency savings of 656 PJ offset the vast majority of the impact of higher activity levels, more appliances and slightly colder weather.

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Residential energy use, with and without energy efficiency improvements, from 1990 to 2015

Energy use without energy efficiency improvements Energy use with energy efficiency improvements
1990 1424.5 1424.5
1991 1485.8 1400.5
1992 1574.1 1424.4
1993 1632.2 1474.4
1994 1641.5 1508.5
1995 1681.2 1468.3
1996 1759.7 1546.1
1997 1731.3 1493.4
1998 1616.6 1393.9
1999 1687.2 1435.2
2000 1789.9 1491.1
2001 1749.3 1432.9
2002 1845.1 1504.2
2003 1900.9 1514.5
2004 1916.6 1515.0
2005 1931.7 1495.2
2006 1892.2 1442.4
2007 2005.2 1561.5
2008 2048.6 1565.8
2009 2088.2 1528.9
2010 2015.1 1487.0
2011 2079.6 1574.0
2012 2039.2 1508.2
2013 2157.0 1572.0
2014 2232.2 1608.7
2015 2200.1 1544.0

picture of space heating  Space heating

About half of the fuel used for residential heating is natural gas. This fact, combined with the move to more high-efficiency furnaces (now at 29% of the equipment stock versus 3% in 1990) contributed to a large increase in efficiency in the sector. In addition, the sector has also undergone significant improvements in insulating and sealing the building envelope and managing energy use through:
  • Installing weather-stripped doors and double glass windows
  • Improving airtightness requirements
  • Keeping insulated basements, walls, ceilings and attics
  • Using programmable thermostats



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Residential fuel share

Fuel type Percentage
Natural gas 50
Electricity 25
Heating oil 7
Wood and other 18
Space heating energy intensity improved 40.0% from 1990 to 2015.
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Space heating energy intensity and heating degree-day index, 1990-2015

Space heating energy intensity Heating degree-day index
1990 0.79 0.92
1991 0.75 0.93
1992 0.75 0.99
1993 0.77 1.01
1994 0.76 0.98
1995 0.72 0.98
1996 0.76 1.04
1997 0.71 0.98
1998 0.62 0.84
1999 0.63 0.88
2000 0.66 0.96
2001 0.59 0.88
2002 0.63 0.93
2003 0.62 0.96
2004 0.60 0.95
2005 0.56 0.92
2006 0.52 0.85
2007 0.56 0.93
2008 0.55 0.95
2009 0.53 0.96
2010 0.49 0.87
2011 0.51 0.90
2012 0.47 0.84
2013 0.49 0.93
2014 0.50 0.98
2015 0.46 0.92

picture of water heating  Water heating - the second largest use of energy in the home

A shift from oil-fired water heaters to more efficient natural gas heaters and more stringent energy standards for all water heaters helped to lower water heating energy use per household. Canadians have also altered energy consumption in water heating by switching to efficient practices such as:

  • Switching to tankless water heaters
  • Installing low-flow fixtures on showerheads and faucets
  • Using dishwashers and clothes washers in full loads
  • Using cold water
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Water heating energy use by fuel type, 1990 and 2015 (petajoules)

1990 2015
Electricity 76.3 83.3
Natural gas 128.9 195.2
Heating oil 20.0 6.9
Other* 3.7 2.1
Wood 1.9 1.3
*"Other" includes coal and propane.

A greater number of households surpassed energy efficiency improvements, resulting in an increase in residential water heating of 230.8 PJ in 1990 to 288.8 PJ in 2015.

picture of appliances  Appliances - more appliances, more efficiency

Although there was an improvement in the energy efficiency of appliances, the amount of energy saved from major appliances was more than offset by the increased energy use from minor appliances, such as electronics.

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Residential energy use and appliance stock index by appliance type, 1990 and 2015

1990 2015
Major appliance energy use 148.5 112.9
Minor appliance energy use 28.3 88.4
Major appliance stock index 1.0 1.6
Minor appliance stock index 1.0 2.5

Major appliance usage - less power, higher efficiency
A dishwasher purchased in 2015 was three times more efficient than one produced in 1990; a refrigerator purchased in 2015 required half the energy needed for one produced in 1990.

While the number of major appliances used in households increased 57.0%, the energy they consumed decreased 35.6%.

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Energy consumption of new major household appliances, 1990 and 2015

1990 2015
Refrigerator 956 432
Freezer 714 331
Dishwasher 277 73
Electric range 772 535
Clothes washer 134 35
Electric clothes dryer 1103 922

Minor appliance usage - surpassing energy efficiency innovation
In contrast to major appliance energy use trends, the energy used for smaller appliances, such as televisions, computers and mobile phones more than doubled in two decades.

Fortunately, the 60-PJ increase in minor appliances use was partially offset by 36-PJ decrease in major appliances.

The number of home internet access and gadgets (smartphones, video game consoles and tablets) per household exploded between 1990 and 2015. The average number of gadgets per person grew from 2 in 2012 to 3 in 2015. Another example of a soaring gadget was the video game console, growing from less than 4,000 in 1990 to 8.2 million in 2015.

The number of minor appliances used has surpassed energy efficiency innovation. Accordingly, the total appliance energy use in 2015 was 201 PJ as compared to 177 PJ in 1990.

picture of space cooling  Space cooling - climate change and increased cooling needs

The increase in energy used for space cooling would have been more profound without energy-efficient room and central air conditioners.

Along with the increase in number and size of households, more Canadians also have air conditioners at home. However, the following actions by Canadians helped offset some of the energy consumption:

  • Using ENERGY STAR certified room or central air conditioners
  • Using programmable thermostats
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Space cooling system stock and energy use, 1990-2015

System stock Energy use
1990 1.0 1.0
1991 1.1 1.4
1992 1.1 0.5
1993 1.1 1.0
1994 1.2 1.0
1995 1.2 1.3
1996 1.3 1.0
1997 1.5 1.1
1998 1.5 1.7
1999 1.6 2.0
2000 1.7 1.3
2001 1.7 2.2
2002 1.8 2.7
2003 1.9 2.0
2004 2.1 1.6
2005 2.3 3.2
2006 2.5 2.5
2007 2.6 2.6
2008 2.7 2.0
2009 2.7 1.7
2010 2.8 3.2
2011 3.0 3.2
2012 3.2 3.7
2013 3.3 2.7
2014 3.5 2.5
2015 3.7 3.2

Between 1990 and 2015, the energy required to cool Canadian homes increased from 10 PJ to 32 PJ. However, more efficient appliances helped offset this increase. Compared to 1990, the stock of room and central air conditioners in 2015 were 65% and 38% more efficient.

picture of lighting  Lighting - efficient light bulbs offset increased use

The increased use of energy-saving light bulbs, such as LEDs, led to a decrease in lighting energy use per household.

Despite a strong surge in total households between 1990 and 2015, lighting energy use per household dipped by 18.0% from 5.0 GJ to 4.1 GJ per household, due to the following practices:

  • Using LED light bulbs
  • Using outdoor lights with motion detectors
  • Using timers for holiday lights
  • Turning off unnecessary lights
  • Task lighting instead of ceiling lights
  • Choosing light bulbs with a wattage matching the purpose of the room/area
  • Using multiple switches and light dimmers
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Total Canadian light bulbs by type and number of bulbs per household, 2015

Number of light bulbs Bulbs per household
Incandescent 109,343,077 7.7
CFL 49,203,531 3.5
Halogen 43,935,862 3.1
Fluorescent 19,542,436 1.4
LED 44,163,042 3.1
Others 6,205,474 0.4
Total Stock 272,393,422 19.2