Market Snapshot: Personal electronic devices are changing the way Canadians consume energy at home

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Release date: 2020-05-06

As Canadians spend more time in their homes to slow the spread of COVID-19, they may notice that they are using energy differently. Households use energy for many reasons including cooking, refrigerating and freezing food, powering devices, washing clothes and dishes, heating water, and maintaining a comfortable temperature. Electronic devices such as televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets are an increasingly large part of Canadians everyday lives. This is especially true as Canadians are spending as much time at home as possible, including for working-at-home and online learning. Over the last two decades, these devices have become a larger source of household energy use as well.

Figure 1 shows historical trends in energy consumption for various uses in Canadian homes before the pandemic. Energy for space and water heating makes up the majority of household energy use, accounting for 80-85% in a given year.

Figure 1. Relative energy use by various end-uses
in Canada’s residential sector (1990 – 2017)

Source and Description

Source: Natural Resources Canada Comprehensive End-Use Database

Description: This stacked area chart shows the relative energy use by various end-uses in Canada’s residential sector between 1990 and 2017. This includes space heating, water heating, appliances, lighting, and space cooling.

Figure 2 shows additional detail for household appliance energy use.Footnote 1 From 1990 to 2017, energy use for “other devices”, which are plug-in electronics and other small appliances, increased by over 200%. Over the same time, improving efficiency has led to declines in energy use by other devices such as refrigerators, freezers, and lighting. While these trends have caused “other devices” to be the third largest source of residential energy use, they still make up a relatively small share of total household demand at just 6% in 2017.

While data is not yet available, the extra time Canadians are spending at home will likely lead to increased energy use from household electronics. However, many factors – including weather trends that impact heating and cooling, and appliance efficiency – will influence total residential demand for 2020.

Figure 2. Relative energy use by various appliances in Canada’s residential sector between 1990 and 2017

Source and Description

Source: Natural Resources Canada Comprehensive End-Use Database

Description: This line chart shows the relative energy use by various appliances in Canada’s residential sector between 1990 and 2017. This includes lighting, refrigerators and freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers, ranges and other devices.

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