Air conditioners are a crucial way of beating the summer heat, particularly in the Southern Interior. However, a new BC Hydro report shows that many British Columbians aren’t using their AC efficiently, and it’s costing them money: as much as $200 more per household in summer energy bills.
The report — “Not so well-conditioned: How inefficient A/C use is leaving British Columbians out of pocket in the cold” — finds that more residences than ever are using air conditioning, with residential use tripling since 2001. More than one-third of all B.C. residences — 34 per cent — now have air conditioning, and this upward trend will likely continue.
Residents of the Southern Interior—a location in which will be the Canadian hotspot on any given day in summer—will not be surprised to learn that they are the ones using air conditioning the most. However, it is steadily increasing across the province, particularly now that more people than ever are living in condos, which tend to get hotter than houses.
Many workplaces are air conditioned, but more people are now working from home due to COVID-19 and want to stay comfortable, especially in the summer heat. About 20 per cent of British Columbians without air conditioning said they were considering purchasing an A/C unit this summer, and nearly 15 per cent of those with air conditioning were considering buying an additional unit or upgrading their current unit.
Two-thirds of those surveyed said that the variety of air conditioners available today have made them more accessible. Gone are the days of chunky, fixed wall units; portable air conditioners come in a range of sizes and prices, and nearly 30 per cent of British Columbians with a portable air conditioner have more than one in their home.
However, these portable units, while convenient, are the most inefficient type of air conditioner available. People also have unrealistic ideas about how low they need to go, temperature-wise: 90 per cent of those surveyed admitted to setting their air conditioning lower than the 25° C (78° F) recommended by BC Hydro.
There are ways to keep cool at home while saving money (and energy) on air conditioning, and BC Hydro has some advice:
· Optimize temperature: Cool homes to 25° C in the summer months when occupied. When no one is home, turn the air conditioning off.
· Cool down with a fan: Running a fan nine hours a day costs just $7 over three months. A window A/C unit running nine hours a day over three months costs approximately $40.50, and one portable A/C unit will set you back approximately $99.50 in energy costs per unit.
· Close the drapes and blinds: Shading windows can block out up to 65 per cent of the heat.
· Shut 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.
· Limit the use of large appliances: Use a microwave, crockpot, or toaster oven to avoid the extra heat produced by larger appliances when preparing meals, and hang clothes to dry instead of using a dryer on hot days.
For a longer-term project, consider participating in BC Hydro’s Home Renovation Rebate program to improve insulation, which will also helps keep homes cooler in the summer. Visit www.bchydro.com/homerenorebates for more information.