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Report: Are British Columbians becoming addicted to air conditioning?

VANCOUVER: British Columbians seeking refuge from summer heat are increasingly turning to air conditioning – according to a new report by BC Hydro.

The report "Cold comfort: The rising use (and cost) of air conditioning in B.C." (PDF, 432 KB)  reveals that A/C use in the province has more than tripled since 2001 to 34 percent. The trend is likely to continue with 25 per cent of British Columbians considering an air conditioner purchase this summer.

"Record heat and long stretches of dry weather are becoming the new norm in the province, and BC Hydro's meteorologists are predicting another hot summer this year," said Chris O'Riley, BC Hydro's President and Chief Operating Officer. "While we typically see higher electricity demand in the cold, dark winter months, summer demand for power is rising largely due to higher A/C usage."

More homes in the Southern Interior use air conditioning than any other region in B.C. This is not surprising given places such as Osoyoos, Lytton and Penticton are often among Canada's summer hotspots; however, the use of air conditioners across the province is growing. In the relatively moderate climate of south coastal B.C., a trend towards high-rise apartments – often glass-walled with little air flow – is helping to drive A/C adoption. In the past three years, the use of portable or room air conditioners in the Lower Mainland has grown by 23 per cent.

Cold comfort comes at a cost. Running a central air conditioner for nine hours a day over the summer costs around $300, compared to just $6 for a fan for the same amount of time. The report finds 93 per cent of those surveyed are adding to their bills by setting A/C units lower than the recommended 25 degrees Celsius. For example:

  • 20 per cent of respondents in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island set their thermostat between 17 and 19 degrees Celsius.
  • 32 per cent of residents in the North set their thermostat between 17 and 19 degrees Celsius.

It is estimated that every degree lower an air conditioner is set can increase cooling costs by 3 per cent. Adding to their costs, more than 40 per cent of British Columbians surveyed said they always or sometimes leave their air conditioners running when they are not at home.

The survey results show that residents in the Southern Interior tend to be the best at guarding their homes from heat – and setting their air conditioning units at the recommended temperature.

With or without air conditioning, there is more British Columbians can do to beat the heat and save money:

  • Only half surveyed said they close the windows or doors when the temperature outside is hotter than the temperature inside.
  • About 25 per cent of those surveyed do not shade windows. Shading windows can block out up to 65 per cent of the heat.
  • 37 per cent of respondents leave fans on when they are not at home. Fans do not cool the air, but they do have a cooling effect on the skin.

BC Hydro Media Relations
p. 604 928 6468