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Keeping cool, saving energy during heat wave

Closing window blinds

Rising temperatures can mean your bill is rising too: our tips to keep your cool

Posted by Tanya Fish

There's no denying that June was an unusually hot, dry month for B.C.

With sweltering, record breaking temperatures across the province — even hitting 40 degrees in some spots — you may be getting desperate to find ways to keep cool. Even those of us that try our best to keep our electricity use down by turning off and unplugging are finding it hard to keep from breaking down and purchasing an air conditioner, buying a few extra fans, or even standing in front of the open fridge for a few seconds longer as a brief escape from the unrelenting heat.

This need to keep cool (and sleep at night) has led to an increase in electricity use across the province.

'Peak hourly load' refers to the highest hourly demand observed throughout the day and it was 15 per cent higher on Saturday, June 27 compared to the previous weekend.That's equivalent to 861 megawatts of electricity, which is more than the generating capacity of the Peace Canyon Dam and equivalent to what's needed to power about 150,000 homes.

That same Saturday there were also 34 temperature records broken in southern B.C. The hot spots were Osoyoos and Trail, which topped the thermostat at 40.4 and 40.6 degrees Celsius respectively.

Simple tips to beat the heat

With the heat and record-breaking temperatures across the province showing no signs of letting up this week, we've got some simple tips to help you stay more cool and comfortable, hopefully without a corresponding spike in your electricity bill.

  • Keep windows and blinds closed during the day when the temperature outside is warmer than inside. Open them up later in the evening and early in the morning when outside temperatures are still relatively cool to help release the warm air from your home and bring cooler air in. If you have an indoor-outdoor thermometer, it's easy to tell when to close things up, but otherwise, just check the outdoor temperature and if it's starting to feel warmer than inside — close those blinds.
  • A ceiling fan is a great option for cooling and is more energy-efficient than a portable fan or air conditioner; just ensure it's spinning in a counter-clockwise direction, which helps create a cooling air affect (switch the direction later this fall to help move warm air around and keep you warmer when it's cold).
  • Barbequing is key to cooking during a heat wave.Cooking outdoors helps you avoid the extra heat given off by your stove and oven. Plus, what better way to enjoy the sunny, summer weather than a barbeque with friends? Or skip the cooking all together and opt for salads and cold foods.
  • Taking a cool shower before bed is an effective (and energy efficient) way to cool down your body temperature and help you sleep. Another way to help keep you cool during the night is to dampen a sheet with cold water and use it as a cover in bed.
  • Feeling crafty? How about constructing your very own energy-efficient air conditioner, like this one.
  • If you're going to purchase an air conditioner, opt for one with the ENERGY STAR® label so you know it's the most efficient option that you can choose. Place heat-producing equipment, such as computers or TVs away from the AC so it's not running overtime. Keeping doors and windows closed is also important to prevent the cool air from escaping out of your home.
  • If you do run an air conditioner, ensure it's working efficiently by using it to cool the amount of space that it's rated for so it's not overworking. If you're only using it to cool a bedroom, keeping doors shut will help it maintain the right temperature.

See our summer cooling infographic for more tips

Tanya Fish is a member of BC Hydro's digital content team.