Roughly seven percent of all Canadian households have high energy burdens, meaning they spend more than 10 percent of their annual income on energy costs. These energy burdens weigh especially heavily on visible minority households, including Black, Asian and First Nations households are twice as likely to experience energy poverty than Caucasian homes.
Low-quality housing stock, including poorly maintained or malfunctioning HVAC systems and poor weatherization, represents a huge drain on energy efficiency. Addressing these deficiencies could improve energy efficiency for low-income homeowners by up to 25 percent and reduce their energy burden by 35 percent. Although low-income households make up 9.3% percent of the population, many households find it impossible to update their home’s energy efficiency due to cost.
The lack of access to energy efficiency improvements is because of insufficient upfront funding available for those improvements. Heating and cooling systems realize the greatest amount of energy efficiency savings, making up an average of 42 percent of a home’s energy consumption. Water heaters come in second, taking up an average of 12 percent. However, both require a significant upfront investment, one that is often out of reach for low-income homeowners, because of their inability to finance upgrades and lack of credit.
This is a wide-spread problem, with approximately 1.84 million households in Canada defined as low income. It has additional implications outside the staggering amount of wasted energy – a lack of energy efficiency can impact indoor air quality, safety and comfort, and families may cut costs by reducing spending on food, medicine and other necessities because of their energy burden.
Low-income household members suffer from mental and physical health problems because of a lack of energy efficiency resulting in a greater-than-average energy burden. These can include thermal discomfort as their HVAC systems either operate inefficiently, malfunction or those with high energy burdens reduce their energy use to cut costs. Studies have linked improper heating and cooling to increased cases of asthma, respiratory problems, heart disease and rheumatism.
What more can utilities do to help improve customers’ energy efficiency? A partnership with HomeServe provides a suite of affordable emergency home repair and maintenance plans to help your customers proactively address safety and performance issues with their HVAC systems, water heaters and interior and exterior electric and gas.
For more information on how we can help your customers make their homes more energy efficient, contact us.