During a winter freeze, especially a Kootenay cold snap, it’s understandable that as temperatures dip, energy use will rise.
During last week’s icy blast, however, it’s not a stretch to say that energy use skyrocketed in Kootenay homes serviced by FortisBC, especially natural gas consumption.
“This winter storm has really brought in some low temperatures and high amounts of snow and this means people are using more energy in their homes to stay comfortable,” says FortisBC spokesperson Lauren Lea.
“As the natural gas provider, we thought you would be interested to know what we’re seeing within our system.”
On Jan. 14, natural gas use increased by 50 per cent compared to the previous week, Tuesday, Jan. 7.
“When comparing Tuesday’s usage to an average January day, there was more than a 75 per cent increase in natural gas use,” Lea said.
Electricity consumption was also up in the FortisBC service area, though not quite to the extent of natural gas.
“For our electric customers in the southern interior electricity use on Jan. 14 was up 35 per cent as compared to the previous Tuesday,” said Lea.
“The last seven days were also four per cent higher than last year’s highest week, which was the first week of January 2019.”
To help avoid a seasonal spike on energy bills, the company is advising homeowners on some necessary steps to take to keep their house comfortable in times of extreme weather.
“With much of B.C. experiencing extremely cold winter weather, FortisBC would like to remind its customers that taking precautions to reduce heat loss can help them stay comfortable, use less energy and reduce winter heating bills,” the company states.
“Heat lost is also money lost. Draft-proofing and sealing leaks, usually around windows and doors, as well as turning down the heat in unused rooms, have the most potential to save on space heating.”
Another way to save on home heating bills — potentially up to 15 per cent — is by using programmable thermostats and setting them to reduce temperatures overnight or while the home is empty, as well as only heating rooms that are in use.
FortisBC also recently completed a pilot program for connected or smart thermostats and found that when used properly, they lowered natural gas use by about 3.5 per cent and electricity use by 4.5 per cent.
Customers can also monitor and better understand their energy use using tools available on their online FortisBC account. There is also billing options (flat payments) that avoid seasonal variations.
Heating accounts for the most energy use in a home. This use typically spikes during periods of cold weather as furnaces, baseboard heating and heat pumps cycle more frequently to maintain consistent and comfortable temperatures inside homes. With heating appliances running more often, more energy is used.
In fact, FortisBC typically sees demand for natural gas, the most commonly used energy for space heating, triple in the winter months compared to the summer months. For customers who use electricity for home heating, use can increase by approximately 80 per cent.