How the heat wave is affecting the power grid — and your energy bill

WASHINGTON — The heat wave is increasing local demand for power in the D.C. area, but there’s plenty of juice available, experts say.

“We’re not expected to have any problems on the grid,” said PJM Interconnection spokesman Ray Dotter. PJM coordinates the flow of power in 14 states and the District. “While it’s hot in the East, it’s not as warm in the Midwest, so that’s lowered overall demand for power.”

In recent years PJM has put more transmission lines in place and improved the transmission system so available power can more easily flow to where it’s needed, he said. Many older coal-fired plants have been replaced by natural gas plants in the east closer to densely populated areas.

“So, we have generation available and it’s closer to where its being used,” Dotter said.

So, if you want to crank your air-conditioner — feel free. But, remember, keeping your home cool in extreme heat can cause power bills to soar.

Money saving tips from Dominion Virginia Power include:

  • Close shades to keep out sunlight
  • Replace HVAC filters to reduce system strain
  • Make sure attic fans are on and filters are clear
  • Raise thermostat to 76-78 degrees if household has no vulnerable members
  • Postpone until cooler times of day doing laundry and using dishwashers and ovens

“When you’re using those items you’re raising the level of temperature in your home, making your air conditioner work harder,” said Chuck Penn, media relations manager for Dominion Virginia Power.

If you’re using ceiling fans to augment air conditioning make sure they’re adjusted to blow air down versus the ‘up’ winter setting.

“It’s always a good thing to use less power, to use less energy,” Penn said. “Not only are you doing something that’s good for the environment, you’re also saving yourself some money.”

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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