As temperatures rise during the summer all across the U.S., the demand for electricity to run air conditioning and cooling equipment also increases. Many East Coast cities are facing heavy power demand with potential wide-spread outages. The Northwest isn’t experiencing the same situation.
Demand for electricity is not as high because fewer homes in our area have air conditioning. Also, power supplies in the Northwest are doing well because of a combination of late spring snows and cooler, wetter weather during June.
“City Light is in a good position going into this first heat wave of the season,” states Superintendent Jorge Carrasco. “While we had a low snowpack earlier this year, the late snow in April has helped us out.”
Another factor is the much cooler and wetter temperatures in June. Unlike last year, Seattle hasn’t seen temperatures above 75 degrees until just recently.
“The biggest issue for our system when we get a stretch of hot weather is in our underground vault system,” adds Phil West, Customer Care and Energy Delivery Officer. “What happens is the underground power lines that are designed to withstand water that sometimes fills the vaults, can become dry and brittle when it heats up, and the insulation will crack. The increased flow of electricity puts more stress on the cable connections, increasing the potential for failure. If the insulation on an underground cable cracks, any water in the vault will cause a short.”
City Light had a handful of small, isolated outages in the underground system on Wednesday, July 7. Power has been restored to all those customers.
City Light offers customers some tips for conserving electricity, staying cool, and what to do if an outage does occur:
One of the best ways to keep your house cool is not to let the outside heat inside. Keeping the windows closed during the day and covered by blinds or drapes can significantly reduce the amount of heat gained through a window. Better yet, install an exterior shade. Also, good insulation not only keeps your house warm in the winter, it helps keep you cool in the summer. Other money-saving tips include:
1. Give appliances a break. Limit the use of ranges and stoves, dishwashers, dryers, washing machines and other heat-producing equipment especially during mid-day.
2. Prepare cool meals, such as salads and sandwiches. If you must cook a hot meal, wait until later in the evening when it’s cooler.
3. Use a ceiling fan, A typical fan consumes 98 percent less electricity than most central air conditioners use.
4. Adjust ceiling fans to turn counter-clockwise, which will push down warm air trapped near the ceiling.
5. If you have central air conditioning: Cool only the rooms you use. But don’t close all vents. Closing too many actually reduces operating efficiency.
6. Turn off the air conditioner when you leave the house for several hours.
7. An air conditioner thermostat is not a throttle, so don’t switch your air conditioner to a colder setting when you turn it on. It won’t cool the room any faster but it will waste energy when you forget to turn it up again. Keep it set at 80 degrees.
8. Install a timer on your room air conditioner, or use a programmable thermostat on your central air conditioner.
9. Keep your air conditioner shaded to improve its efficiency.
10. Set your furnace thermostat as high as possible. The minimum recommended energy-efficient summer temperature is 78 degrees.
High temperatures can add strain on our electrical equipment. Should the power go out, first check your main switch for a blown fuse or an open breaker. If that is not the problem, call City Light’s Outage Hotline at (206) 684-7400 for a recording of all known outages. If your area is not mentioned, please let us know by calling (206) 684-3000.
City Light urges its customers to be prepared for outages.
1. Customers relying on electric life-support machines should let City Light know about their needs. Please call (206) 684-3000 and let us know. They also should have emergency backup power and know how to operate it. The backup system should have an alarm to alert the user if the power goes out.
2. Have an emergency kit ready. The kit should include a working flashlight, glow-in-the-dark light sticks, a wind-up clock, a portable radio and a manual can opener.
3. Cordless phones will not work without electricity. Have a corded phone or a cell phone available.
4. In most cases, food should be safe if refrigerators and freezers are kept shut when the power is out. If the power is out for longer than 12 hours, perishables should be discarded. When it doubt, throw it out.
For more ways to conserve energy, please go to City Light’s Website http://www.seattle.gov/light/conserve/tips/.