Are you ready for a winter power blackout?

Cold and snowy is the forecast for BC this week, and that means two things from a power perspective: 1) If there’s a power outage, have a plan and an emergency kit ready so you’re not shivering in the cold; and 2) you can help conserve energy and stay warm, especially when the power demand peaks at suppertime.

BC Hydro recommends everyone be prepared for an outage, especially during cold weather. Outages happen more frequently when heavy snow accumulates causing tree branch breakage – more common here in BC because there is three times the number of trees per kilometre of power line compared to any other utility in North America. Some helpful tips:

  • Have an emergency kit on hand with flashlights, a battery operated radio, warm clothing and blankets, and a corded telephone.
  • To report an outage call 1-888-POWERON or *HYDRO on your mobile phone.

Once fully in place across the province, smart meters will report power outages instantly allowing BC Hydro to restore power faster

Last night, the hourly peak demand across BC – 9,526 megawatts – was recorded between 5 and 6 pm, representing an increase of more than 1,059 megawatts over the peak a week earlier.

BC Hydro has systems in place to meet this unusually high electricity demand, but with a few simple measures, everyone can contribute to lessening the pressure on the electrical grid while still staying warm and safe:

  • Timing is everything: Use energy-intensive household appliances – such as clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers and portable space heaters – outside of the peak hours of 4 to 8 p.m. If you must use them, try to only use one at a time.
  • Portable space heaters and safety: Portable space heaters can be effective to take the chill out of a small room or to heat a small area but are not efficient to heat large spaces or multiple rooms.Use your space heater safely:  place it on a hard surface like concrete or ceramic tile floor; keep the heater away from bedding, drapes, furniture, books, and newspapers; don’t leave the house with the space heater on or go to sleep with the space heater left on.
  • Keep the cold out and the heat in: Keep windows covered with closed binds and drapes for an extra layer of window insulation. Window coverings can be a quick and cost-effective way to cut heat loss and block cold drafts. Easy-to-install window film provides an additional pane to keep heat in.
  • Put your lights on timers: Put all outdoor lighting on a timer, or install a motion sensor for security lighting.
  • Install a programmable thermostat: Set the thermostat to automatically adjust temperatures at different times based on your family’s activities, ensuring electricity is not wasted when no one is home and the temperature is turned down when everyone is sleeping.
  • Draft-proof your home: One of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to reduce heat loss is to prevent heat from leaking out and cold air from coming in. Use caulking and weather stripping to seal gaps and cracks around doors, windows and outlets.
  • Switch it up; do things differently: Changing behavior saves energy, including: washing clothes in cold water; turning off the dishwasher’s heated-dry option; taking shorter showers and turning off lights and unplugging small appliances and electronics when they are not in use.
  • Choose inexpensive, energy smart lighting: Use energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or Light-Emitting Diode bulbs (LEDs) – they consume 75 per cent less electricity than incandescent bulbs.

Seem like small measures? Individually, they are, but multiply each one by 1.8 million BC Hydro customers, and the electricity savings add up quickly, especially when a cold snap hits. What’s more, the overall pressure on the grid, particularly in cold weather – and the amount on a monthly electricity bill – can also go down significantly.

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