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Power demand spikes in extreme heat

Jill Colton, staff writer

July 22, 2011 — The dome of hot and sticky air reigning over much of central Canada has residents rushing for their air conditioners and fans. Terry Young, with the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) says this summer is actually better than others for power consumption in Ontario.

As the heat goes up, so do everyone's air conditioner dials.
As the heat goes up, so do everyone's air conditioner dials.

The need to cool off across central Canada has put a strain on the power supply.

Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have all seen new power consumption records this week as temperatures skyrocket to sweltering values. And in Ontario, rising temperatures prompted several heat alerts with humidex values into the forties for some places.

The oppressive humidity has more people running for their air conditioners, so what does this mean for the power grid?

Terry Young, Vice President, Corporate Relations IESO says this summer is better than others for power consumption.

“We're in a position where I think we're well prepared. We've got supply on hand to meet that increase in demand, but the demand is not as high as it was.”

Young says the company isn't having to ask people to cut back on their electricity usage for a number of reasons including the economic downturn and conservation programs.

The oppressive heat and humidity could peak Thursday.
The oppressive heat and humidity could peak Thursday.

But by and large, people's awareness towards energy consumption has changed dramatically.

“People are waiting until after 7 p.m. now,” explains Young. “Things like running dishwashers, doing laundry or even turning on the air conditioner -- people are waiting,” he adds.

Because air conditioners account for between 20-25 per cent of the energy demand, Young recommends cooling your home during off-peak hours.

“This way it relieves any strain on the system and certainly it will help you because at the end of the day you won't be paying as much.”

Bill Pryhoda from Trane Air Solutions says another way to reduce the strain is to simply pre-cool your house.

“If you know hot weather is coming, don't just turn your air conditioner on when it becomes hot, you want to start it up a little bit in advance. You can reduce the load on your air conditioner, specifically solar load, by keeping your drapes drawn or your blinds shut. Also, if you've got any registers in the basement close those off to allow the cooler air to get to the upper floors.”

With files from Andrea Stockton

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