British Columbia

Air conditioner use has tripled since 2001, new BC Hydro survey suggests

Most British Columbians are paying an average of $200 more than necessary on their summer electricity bills because of inefficient air conditioner use, a new BC Hydro report suggests.

Report recommends setting thermostat at 25 C and avoiding portable units

According to BC Hydro, window air conditioner units are much more energy efficient than portable ones. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Most British Columbians are paying an average of $200 more than necessary on their summer electricity bills because of inefficient air conditioner use, a new BC Hydro report suggests.

The report, based on an online survey of 800 people, estimates that air conditioner use has tripled since 2001 to reach 34 per cent of homes in B.C. — and about a third of those have more than one air conditioner.

But according to BC Hydro, most people are using more energy than necessary by setting their thermostats too low or using energy inefficient portable units.

The public utility recommends setting the A/C to 25 C, but 90 per cent of those surveyed said they set theirs below that temperature.

Meanwhile, 42 per cent of respondents said they use portable air conditioning units. According to BC Hydro, it costs about $99.90 in electricity to run a portable unit for nine hours a day over three months, compared to $40.50 for a window unit.

Southern Interior residents are more energy savvy

Not surprisingly, air conditioner use is most common in the toasty climate of the southern Interior, with 72 per cent of those surveyed having one at home. 

But people who live in the region appear to be the most energy savvy — they were least likely to say they use portable A/C and most likely to say they set their thermostats at or close to the recommended 25 C.

The report predicts that this summer's energy use will be particularly high because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most British Columbians surveyed said they've had to cancel summer plans and intend to spend more time at home. At the same time, close to 40 per cent of those between the ages of 25 and 50 are currently working from home five days a week.

About 20 per cent of those surveyed who don't have an A/C unit right now are considering buying one.

To cut electricity costs this summer, BC Hydro recommends using a fan instead of air conditioning whenever possible, closing curtains and drapes to block out heat from the sun, and shutting doors and windows when the A/C is running.

The survey was conducted by market researcher Majid Khoury between July 3 and 7. The reported margin of error for the survey is +/-3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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