Heat wave: Staying cool and safe while limiting electric use

Customers should stay safe and cool as the heat index climbs this week while taking “reasonable measures” to limit their electricity consumption, according to United Illuminating (UI) officials.

The region’s electric transmission grid operator, ISO-New England, is warning that the heat and humidity are expected to spur near-record demand for electricity this week, potentially outstripping the supply available from the region’s power plants and interstate transmission lines.

Should that occur, ISO-New England is able to take a series of measures to reduce demand for electricity, including direct public appeals.

UI is the electric provider for homes and businesses in Shelton.

Limit daytime use of lights, appliances

Common-sense measures to reduce electric consumption, according to UI, include turning off unnecessary lights during the daylight hours (which can also help control indoor temperatures), and delaying use of appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines and clothing dryers until after 8 p.m.

“With the thermometer lingering over 90 degrees in many of the areas we serve, our foremost concern is that our customers stay cool and safe,” said Michael A. West Jr., director of corporate communications at UIL Holdings Corp., parent company of UI. “We’re also asking that our customers limit the use of unnecessary lights and appliances, particularly during the hot afternoon and early evening hours.”

West said customers who do not have air conditioning may want to consider staying with a friend, or using one of the public cooling centers that have opened in the region. To find the nearest cooling center or other resources, call 2-1-1.

Stress on the electric system

UI takes a variety of measures to ensure its electric distribution system is resilient and able to withstand periods of high heat and humidity. These include routine system maintenance, increased monitoring of system status and voltage levels, and adjustments to shift schedules as necessary.

However, extreme hot weather significantly increases demand and puts stress on the electric system that can result in equipment failure and customer outages.

At a regional level, ISO-New England is also increasing monitoring and preparing for a protracted period of heat and humidity. It expected peak demand across the six New England states to reach 27,500 megawatts Tuesday, 27,700 megawatts on Wednesday, and 27,800 megawatts on Thursday. New England’s all-time record for electricity demand was 28,130 megawatts on Aug. 2, 2006.

No formal appeal yet

While the ISO is asking customers to voluntarily conserve electricity, it has not as of this writing issued a formal appeal. If additional conservation measures become necessary, the ISO can take steps such as calling on demand-response resources to curtail energy use, and seeking additional power from neighboring regions.

The ISO may additionally issue the following appeals to customers:

— A Power Watch, issued when the region’s electric supplies are expected to be tight, requests that all customers voluntarily curtail their use of electricity.

— The more urgent Power Warning comes when electricity supplies are extremely tight and there is an immediate need for customers to help reduce the demand for power by turning off unnecessary lights and appliances.

Tips: Close curtains, drink water, etc.

UI offers the following tips for staying cool and safe while conserving energy in the extreme heat:

— Stay hydrated: Drink a lot of water and avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.

— Wear loose-fitting, lightweight and light-colored clothing.

— If you must work outdoors, take frequent breaks.

— Avoid extreme temperature changes.

— Turn off lights that are not being used and dim those that are, if possible.

—Delay use of major appliances until after 8 p.m., when possible.

— Set pool pumps to cycle on at night, rather than during the day.

— Always make sure air-conditioner filters are clean and any debris has been removed.

— Shut off air conditioners when leaving home for an extended period.

— Set thermostats to a slightly warmer temperature, if health permits. A suggested range is 74 to 78 degrees, according to ISO-New England.

— Turn off ceiling fans when not in the room.

— Leave curtains closed during the daytime to slow the penetration of heat into the home.