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Glass castles: Cooling costs put condo dwellers at an energy disadvantage

VANCOUVER: As the record-breaking heat wave builds across B.C., new BC Hydro data finds British Columbian condo dwellers are at an energy disadvantage when it comes to using air conditioning – especially those who live in glass towers.

The worst of the heat is expected this weekend and into early next week with temperatures in many areas expected to reach the 30s and 40s. Numerous temperature records have already been broken, which could mean higher A/C costs for those who live in condos and apartments, as A/C use in these types of dwellings has risen by nearly 70 per cent over the past decade.

One of the reasons why A/C use in apartments and condos has grown more than any other dwelling type has been the addition of glass towers. Condos made of glass are poor insulators that allow cool air to easily escape and reflect hot air into the building, making it difficult to keep temperatures stable inside. This means glass condo towers can get very hot in the summer months, which has led their occupants to turn to A/C in an effort cool down.

Portable A/C units are the most popular among apartment and condo owners whose choices are often limited. However, portable A/C units are the least energy efficient models on the market. These units typically use ten times more energy than a central A/C system or heat pump and use twice as much energy as a window unit. And, many glass tower dwellers use multiple units in various rooms in their homes to keep cool enough in the summer months.

Not only are they more likely to use the portable units, but they typically run them longer than other dwelling types. On average, residents in apartments or condos have them on for an average of 7.3 hours per day during the summer months. This can cost up to $80 over the course of three months for just one unit.

As the heat wave intensifies and A/C use increases, BC Hydro is ready to meet the increased electricity demand thanks to its robust hydroelectric system that can ramp up quickly to supply clean power to customers. Unlike other jurisdictions in the U.S. that are facing potential energy shortages, it has more than enough to meet the increased demand.

The June record for peak hourly demand – the hour during the day where British Columbians use the most power – already broke earlier this week. With current forecasts indicating electricity use could be up to 20 per cent higher that it was before the heat wave began, the summer all-time electricity demand record will likely be broken in the coming days as well.

BC Hydro recommends that British Columbians living in condos – and other housing types – take the following measures to save energy and money on A/C at home:

  • Optimizing temperature: Cool homes to 25 degrees Celsius in the summer months when occupied, and the air conditioning should be turned off when unoccupied.
  • Be a star: Purchase an ENERGY STAR air conditioner as they use about 30 to 40 per cent less power than standard units.
  • Closing the drapes and blinds: Shading windows can block out up to 65 per cent of the heat.
  • Shutting doors and windows: If the temperature outside is warmer than inside, keep doors and windows closed to keep the cooler air in and the warm air out.
  • Using a fan: Running a fan nine hours a day over the summer costs just $7.
  • Tracking usage: Use MyHydro to track electricity usage and see how using air conditioning can impact costs.

As the temperatures and demand for power rise, BC Hydro plans to provide updates over the weekend and into next week with on how much load increased and how the system is performing.

BC Hydro Media Relations
p. 604 928 6468