This article was published by the Canada Energy Regulator on May 5, 2020.
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 per cent in a given year.
Figure 2 shows additional detail for household appliance energy use.(1) From 1990 to 2017, energy use for “other devices”, which are plug-in electronics and other small appliances, increased by over 200 per cent. 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 per cent 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.
- Includes all residential end-uses except space heating, air conditioning, and water heating.