Energy Use in the Residential Sector
- Energy efficiency in homes improved 51%, saving Canadians $14.6 billion in energy costs in 2017 – averaging $84/household per month in savings.
- Residential energy use increased 5.8% because of a greater number of households (+4.4 million) and appliances/electronics, increased living space and use of air conditioning. Residential energy use would have increased 57.5% without energy efficiency improvements.
- Energy efficiency helped avoid 30.2 Mt of GHG emissions in 2017.
- Thanks to energy efficiency, energy use per household decreased 28% .
Key drivers for residential energy consumption
Residential energy indicators
|People per household||2.8||2.5|
|Living space||122 m2||145 m2|
|Households||9.9 million||14.5 million|
|Appliances per household||15||22|
|Occupied floor space cooled||22%||48%|
Canadians spent $30.0 billion on household energy needs in 2017. Most of the energy (81%) was used for space and water heating. Predominant fuels were natural gas, electricity and home heating oil. Other fuels included wood and propane.
Distribution of residential energy use by end use, 2017
|Residential energy use||Percentage|
Distribution of residential energy use by energy source, 2017
|Residential energy use||Percentage|
Energy efficiency improvement has been achieved across the various energy end uses and energy sources, resulting in a dramatic decline in energy use per household and per unit of floor space.
Residential energy intensity per household and floor space, 1990–2017
|Energy intensity per household (GJ/household)||Energy intensity per floor space (GJ/m2)|
Measuring the effect of energy efficiency
Without energy efficiency gains, energy use would have increased 57.5% instead of 5.8%.
Energy efficiency improvement can be measured through the estimation of the impacts of the growth of the residential sector, changes in the composite of houses by type (structure effect), the rising number of appliances and electronics, the weather, and other factors.
Impact of activity, structure, service level, weather and energy efficiency on the change in residential energy use, 1990–2017
|Total change in energy use||83.0|
|Service level effect||83.6|
|Energy efficiency effect||-735.8|
- Activity effect – A 46% increase in the number of Canadian households combined with a 20% increase in the average floor space resulted in an increase of 740.0 PJ in energy use and 30.4 Mt in GHG emissions.
- Structure effect – The structural change for the residential sector reflects mainly changes in the composite of different house types. For the 1990–2017 period, the share of single detached houses in Canada had decreased by 2%, while the share for single attached houses went up accordingly. This structural change resulted in a decrease of 7.4 PJ in energy use and 0.3 Mt in GHG emissions.
- Service level effect – An increase in appliances, including electronics (e.g. home computers, video consoles and home entertainment systems) led to an 84-PJ increase in energy use and 3.4-Mt increase in GHG emissions.
- Weather effect – In 2017, the winter was colder than in 1990, and the summer was about as hot as in 1990. The net result was an increase of 3.1 PJ in energy use and about 0.1 Mt in GHG emissions.
- Energy efficiency effect – The 51% improvement in energy efficiency saved 736 PJ of energy, $14.6 billion in energy costs and 30.2 Mt of GHG emissions.
The energy efficiency savings of 736 PJ offset nearly 90% of the impact of higher levels of activity and service.
Residential energy use, with and without energy efficiency improvements, from 1990 to 2017
|Energy use without energy efficiency improvements||Energy use with energy efficiency improvements|
Space heating – the largest end use of energy in the home
Space heating accounted for 62% of the total residential energy use and close to half (48%) of the total energy use for space heating was natural gas. The greater penetration of high-efficiency natural gas furnaces (now at 32% of all heating systems versus 3% in 1990) contributed significantly to the sector’s large energy efficiency improvement.
- Installing weather-stripped doors and double glass windows
- Improving airtightness requirements
- Keeping insulated basements, walls, ceilings and attics
- Using programmable thermostats
Residential space heating by energy source, 2017
Space heating energy intensity and heating degree-day index, 1990-2017
|Space heating energy intensity||Heating degree-day index|
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
Water heating energy use by fuel type, 1990 and 2017 (petajoules)
Energy use for residential water heating increased from 230.8 PJ in 1990 to 291.5 PJ in 2017, as the impact of rising household numbers more than offset the improvement in energy intensity.
Appliances - more appliances but higher efficiency
The introduction of minimum energy performance standards under the Energy Efficiency Act has contributed significantly to the dramatic energy efficiency improvement of major appliances and electronics used in the home.
Although there was an improvement in the energy efficiency of all appliances, in absolute terms the energy savings from major appliances was more than offset by increased energy use from minor appliances, such as electronics.
Residential energy use and appliance stock index by appliance type, 1990 and 2017
|Major appliance energy use||148.5||114.1|
|Minor appliance energy use||28.3||91.5|
|Major appliance stock index||1.0||1.6|
|Minor appliance stock index||1.0||2.4|
A dishwasher purchased in 2017 was almost three times more efficient than one produced in 1990. A refrigerator purchased in 2017 required less than half of the energy needed for one produced in 1990. While the number of major appliances used in households increased 61%, the energy they consumed decreased 23%.
Unit energy consumption of new major electric appliances, 1990 and 2017
|Electric clothes dryer||1103||922|
The energy used for smaller appliances, such as televisions, computers and mobile phones more than tripled in the past 28 years.
The number of home Internet access and electronic gadgets (smartphones, video game consoles and tablets) per household exploded between 1990 and 2017. The average number of gadgets per person increased substantially, from less than one in 1990 to two in 2012 and three in 2017. The total number of video game consoles grew from less than 4,000 in 1990 to over 8 million in 2017.
The over 60-PJ increase in minor appliances energy use was partially offset by the 34-PJ decrease in major appliances energy use.
Space cooling – climate change and increased cooling needs
Between 1990 and 2017, the energy used to cool Canadian homes increased from 10 PJ to 28 PJ. This increase would have been more profound without more efficient room and central air conditioners.
Along with the increase in number and size of households, more Canadians have air conditioners at home, raising energy use for cooling significantly. Meanwhile, cooling energy use became more volatile because of drastic changes in weather conditions. 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
Space cooling system stock and energy use, 1990-2017
|System stock||Energy use|
Compared to 1990, the stock of room and central air conditioners in 2017 were 68% and 42% more efficient, respectively.
Lighting – efficient light bulbs offset increased use
The increased use of energy-saving light bulbs, such as LEDs (light-emitting diodes), led to a decrease in lighting energy use per household.
Despite a strong surge in total households between 1990 and 2017, lighting energy use per household dipped by 26% from 5.0 GJ to 3.7 GJ per household, because of 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
Total Canadian light bulbs by type and number of bulbs per household, 2017
|Number of light bulbs||Bulbs per household|