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BC Hydro study reveals British Columbians are more dependent on AC than ever

During the heatwave, BC Hydro found residents were using 8,568 megawatts of power, the equivalent of 600,000 air conditioners
Air conditioning stock
During the summer’s record-breaking heatwave BC Hydro reports residents were using 8,568 megawatts of power, the equivalent of 600,000 air conditioners.

After a summer of unprecedented heat and record-breaking demand for electricity, a new study shows most British Columbians consider air conditioning a necessity -- not a luxury.

While the demand for air conditioning in B.C. has increased from 25 per cent to nearly 40 per cent in the last decade, a study commissioned by BC Hydro found that more than 20 per cent of British Columbians purchased or upgraded their air conditioning units and systems this summer, bringing the total number with air conditioning even higher.

With traditionally cooler summers compared to other parts of the country, especially in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island, B.C. has always fallen far below the national average when it comes to air conditioning use,” a BC Hydro media release explains. “However, with the extreme temperatures recorded this summer, new information shows the gap has closed – and quickly.”

For example, air conditioning use appears to have grown almost as much in one summer as it did in the previous 10 years combined the release continues. 

Impact of extreme heatwave 

Record-breaking temperatures and an increased number of air conditioning users drove summer peak hourly demand to all-time highs. During the extreme heatwave in June, records were broken on three consecutive days. 

The highest ever summer peak hourly demand was recorded on June 28 when demand reached 8,568 megawatts, the equivalent of turning on 600,000 portable air conditioners. The new high shattered the record set before the heatwave began by more than 600 megawatts.

BC Hydro also found even though a record number purchased air conditioning this year – the number would have been higher if there had been more stock available. As a result, it is expected that many of these potential buyers will try to get a unit in the off-season.

For those considering purchasing air conditioning or upgrading their unit or system before next summer, BC Hydro recommends purchasing a heat pump.

A heat pump absorbs heat inside your home and releases it outdoors and BC Hydro states some households could save more in the long run by using them for their future air conditioning needs. Plus, in partnership with CleanBC, BC Hydro offers rebates up to $2,000 for installing a heat pump.

BC Hydro also recommends purchasing an ENERGY STAR air conditioner as they use about 30 to 40 per cent less power than standard units.