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The Electricity Quandary

The Electric Power Suppliers of North America (and Europe) are in an interesting quandary these days, in that they are trying to get consumers (and businesses) to limit their power usage, because the power grids may not be able to deal with the growing load being put on them.

In Ontario there is a program to get a new “Smart” Thermostat that claims it will lower your power costs, because it can lower your usage during peak hours, but those kind of “Smart” thermostats have been around a very long time (in fact there are now two new “Even Smarter” thermostats from Nest and from Honeywell, which allegedly “think” for you, and you can use from your “smart” phone).

The big difference with the Hydro One peaksaver PLUS® thermostat is the following interesting feature:

On hot summer days when electricity demand is highest, peaksaver PLUS® signals your thermostat to slightly reduce your central air conditioner's energy demand so that it safely uses less electricity.

So Hydro One now has the option to turn off your A/C, if there is a heavy load on the grid? I think this is actually a very good thing (since most of the time they are going to want to do this, I am going to be at work), and it will save consumers some money too (unless there is a charge to do this?).

There are even tweets outlining how to behave with your Air Conditioning:

This wasn't that long ago either
This wasn’t that long ago either

The whole electric power equation is an interesting haze of many orthogonal goals, which are counter to each other:

  • Old power plants are thought to be very dirty and bad for the environment, so new energy sources are needed, but we seem to be jettisoning our old power sources faster than we are creating new ones.
  • A reliable power source is never cheap (the word reliable always means more expensive) because there is a need for backups, and overarching control to deal with fluctuations in power.
  • Green power is new(er) and is less reliable (for now). If you count Hydro Electric power as Green then this argument is mute, but for some reason, Hydroelectric is not “Green”.
  • New Power sources are still being improved on (photo voltaic cells being an excellent example (i.e. Solar Power)).

All of this may be some of the reasons that your Electric bills are starting to go up a great deal. Keep this in mind this summer as the temperatures rise and the possibility for BlackOuts due to system overload becomes a possibility. Is it really 11 years since the black out of 2003 ?

What is the demand in Ontario right now? Click here and see the pretty demand graph we created today.

Feel Free to Comment

  1. Like Bet Crooks says, a programmable thermostat works fine. But maybe another thing we ought to do is to extend our zone of comfort to a higher temperature. Do we really need to have our homes/offices at 22*C? If you could extend your zone of comfort to, say, 25*, I bet that would cut the amount of time your AC unit is on by half.

    I don’t mind the government making laws where our health and safety is concerned, like seatbelts, helmets for children, smoking, etc., but I don’t want them putting their stick fingers in my home like that.

  2. During the last big summer power outage, they asked businesses to substantially cut lighting use etc and raise the temperatures in their stores if they could (e.g. not perhaps at ice cream stores). I went shopping during those days and the difference while noticeable was not unpleasant. I wish they would consider encouraging all businesses to do that every summer.

    I do question why anyone is a/c their home if no one is in it. We’ve used a programmable thermostat for 19 years and they work well for this kind of thing.

    We run our a/c, if needed, from 7 p.m. till 7 a.m. and then it’s off for the day. So long as it is cooler and less humid to sleep, that’s all we need.

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