As temperatures spike around the Kootenays and Okanagan, FortisBC is reminding customers about smart energy-use and the possibility of a higher than expected bill next month. (Sheri Regnier photo)

Kootenay heat wave sparks record-breaking energy use

Energy-use is nearing FortisBC’s highest peak load on record of 746 MW from December 2008

Air conditioners have been running non-stop in the West Kootenay – and energy loads have climbed to a new peak – after two days of record-breaking days heat.

Story here: Heat wave

Story here: Heat wave coming

FortisBC is advising customers to keep their cool in this heat wave, but reminding users that bills might be higher than usual next month.

That’s because energy-use skyrocketed after the Warfield weather station banked the hottest spot in Canada on Monday at 38.8 C, then surpassed the July 17 record by almost three degrees when it hit 38.2 C the following day.

“We did hit a new summer peak load of 626 megawatts (MW) on Tuesday July 17,” FortisBC spokesperson Nicole Bogdanovic told the Trail Times.

“This beats the record of 615 MW set the previous day and is higher than our previous summer peak load of 601 MW from August 5, 2014,” she added.

“By comparison, last year’s summer peak was 593 MW, also in July.”

As power consumption spikes along with temperatures, the company states its confidence that several years of upgrades will ensure the system can deliver the electricity customers rely on.

The concern, FortisBC warns, is the heat wave could hit the pocketbook next month with an higher than expected bill.

“By taking simple steps to save energy, customers can reduce the load on their air conditioners or heat pumps,” Bogdanovic said. “Which can help these appliances last longer and help save on electricity costs.”

The first energy-saving tip to keep cool while conserving power is to be aware of usage, which is where monitoring consumption comes into play.

“This is a good reminder for customers to pay attention to their electricity use to avoid higher than expected bills next month,” she said. “We offer a free tool to help.”

Customers now have online access to their hourly, daily and weekly electricity use data as a result of advanced meters.

“This tool provides electricity customers the ability to see how their electricity use changes at different times,” said Bogdanovic. “And empowers them to find ways to save energy and see what rebates may be available to them.”

Other FortisBC suggestions include cooling only the rooms in use, keeping windows, curtains and blinds closed, and managing the household air conditioner or heat pump.

“Setting the air conditioner to come on a few degrees higher, such as 25 C, and even higher when you’re not at home, can help reduce use,” the company advises. “Now is also a good time to make sure air conditioners and heat pumps are well-maintained with a clean air filter.”

Other tips include using a fan to help circulate cooled air and setting ceiling fans to summer mode, (counter-clockwise as you look up at it) to move the air downward to create a wind chill effect.

A long-term idea is to plant a shade tree on the southwest or southeast side of your home.

A deciduous tree helps shade in the summer and loses its leaves in the fall which allows sunlight during the winter months.

To use the monitoring tool, rate users must first register for an online account on the FortisBC website.

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