Energy Use in the Residential Sector

Photo of a house

Key highlights

Over the 1990 to 2017 period,
  • 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% .

picture of a house  Overview

Key drivers for residential energy consumption

Residential infographic
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Residential energy indicators

1990 2017
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.

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Distribution of residential energy use by end use, 2017

Residential energy use Percentage
Space heating 61.6
Water heating 19.3
Appliances 13.6
Lighting 3.6
Space cooling 1.9

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Distribution of residential energy use by energy source, 2017

Residential energy use Percentage
Natural gas 43.7
Electricity 40.1
Wood 11.4
Heating oil 3.7
Other 1.2

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.

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Residential energy intensity per household and floor space, 1990–2017

Energy intensity per household (GJ/household) Energy intensity per floor space (GJ/m2)
1990 144.0 1.18
1991 137.5 1.12
1992 137.5 1.11
1993 139.7 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 125.3 0.96
2003 124.2 0.95
2004 122.5 0.93
2005 118.9 0.90
2006 113.2 0.85
2007 120.4 0.90
2008 119.1 0.88
2009 114.1 0.84
2010 111.4 0.81
2011 116.3 0.84
2012 110.1 0.79
2013 113.1 0.81
2014 115.4 0.82
2015 110.3 0.78
2016 102.3 0.72
2017 104.0 0.72

picture of energy efficiency  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.

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Impact of activity, structure, service level, weather and energy efficiency on the change in residential energy use, 1990–2017

Petajoules
Total change in energy use 83.0
Activity effect 739.7
Structure effect -7.4
Service level effect 83.6
Weather effect 3.1
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.

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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
1990 1424.6 1424.6
1991 1485.8 1400.5
1992 1574.0 1424.5
1993 1632.2 1474.5
1994 1641.2 1508.6
1995 1680.7 1468.4
1996 1759.1 1546.2
1997 1730.6 1493.4
1998 1616.0 1393.9
1999 1686.4 1435.1
2000 1788.7 1491.2
2001 1748.6 1433.1
2002 1844.6 1504.8
2003 1899.8 1514.4
2004 1915.0 1516.1
2005 1934.2 1496.5
2006 1893.1 1443.3
2007 2008.0 1563.1
2008 2050.7 1567.7
2009 2088.2 1530.4
2010 2017.6 1489.8
2011 2082.2 1575.8
2012 2043.4 1508.4
2013 2149.0 1569.0
2014 2222.6 1614.6
2015 2185.2 1559.5
2016 2184.9 1464.2
2017 2243.5 1507.7

picture of space heating

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.

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 space heating by energy source, 2017

Fuel type Percentage
Natural gas 48.5
Electricity 26.8
Wood 17.8
Heating oil 5.1
Other* 1.7
* “Other” includes coal and propane.

Space heating energy intensity improved 44.4% from 1990 to 2017.
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Space heating energy intensity and heating degree-day index, 1990-2017

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 0.70 0.98
1998 0.62 0.84
1999 0.63 0.88
2000 0.65 0.96
2001 0.59 0.88
2002 0.62 0.93
2003 0.61 0.96
2004 0.60 0.95
2005 0.57 0.92
2006 0.52 0.85
2007 0.57 0.93
2008 0.56 0.95
2009 0.54 0.96
2010 0.50 0.87
2011 0.52 0.90
2012 0.48 0.84
2013 0.50 0.93
2014 0.52 0.98
2015 0.48 0.92
2016 0.44 0.89
2017 0.44 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 2017 (petajoules)

1990 2017
Electricity 76.3 75.6
Natural gas 129.0 200.9
Heating oil 20.0 7.6
Other* 3.7 1.7
Wood 1.9 5.8
*“Other” includes coal and propane.

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.

picture of appliances  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.

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Residential energy use and appliance stock index by appliance type, 1990 and 2017

1990 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

Major appliance usage – less power, higher efficiency
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%.
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Unit energy consumption of new major electric appliances, 1990 and 2017

1990 2017
Refrigerator 956 478
Freezer 714 295
Dishwasher 277 72
Electric range 772 554
Clothes washer 134 25
Electric clothes dryer 1103 922

Minor appliance usage – more units offset energy efficiency gains
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.

picture of space cooling  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

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Space cooling system stock and energy use, 1990-2017

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 1.8 2.2
2002 1.9 2.7
2003 2.0 2.1
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 2.9 3.2
2012 2.9 3.5
2013 3.0 2.5
2014 3.0 2.3
2015 3.1 2.9
2016 3.2 3.7
2017 3.2 2.8

Compared to 1990, the stock of room and central air conditioners in 2017 were 68% and 42% more efficient, respectively.

picture of lighting  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

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Total Canadian light bulbs by type and number of bulbs per household, 2017

Number of light bulbs Bulbs per household
Incandescent 243,518,320 16.8
CFL 98,453,747 6.8
Halogen 26,596,789 1.8
Fluorescent 39,451,515 2.7
LED 56,855,849 3.9
Total Stock 464,876,219 32.1