In January, Victoria was hit with some blistering heatwaves. When the weather heats up, customers reach for their fans and air-conditioners, sending power demand soaring. These conditions put the power system under pressure and can see customers facing blackouts or bill shock.
Extreme heat sometimes causes blackouts, like the outages that left tens of thousands of Victorians without power during the January heatwaves. Outages can happen because high demand puts pressure on infrastructure, causing faults like blown fuses or transformer failures. As well, distributors – the companies that own and manage the poles and wires – sometimes deliberately disconnect some customers for a short time to relieve pressure on the system and prevent bigger outages. This is known as ‘load shedding’.
Distributors have an obligation to keep customers informed when there’s an outage. Your distributor should be able to tell you what’s caused an outage and when power is expected to be back on. Distributors share this information on their websites and via a 24-hour faults telephone hotline, which is listed on your electricity bill. You can also get up-to-date information by following your distributor’s social media accounts or registering for SMS or email alerts.
When there’s a hot weather outage:
- call your company or check its website and social media for up-to-date information
- switch off and unplug sensitive electronic equipment like computers, but leave a light on so you will know when power is restored
- keep the fridge colder for longer by only opening fridge and freezer doors when absolutely necessary
- check on any neighbours or relatives with special needs, such as elderly people and people with disabilities.
Air-conditioners are big power users, so extreme heat can lead to unusually high bills – one of the most common issues that customers approach EWOV about.
In one recent high bill case, a customer who’d moved into a new home in regional Victoria complained that his electricity bill was too high, especially considering he had gas for cooking and hot water. The electricity company insisted that the bill was correct and the meter was working correctly. Our Investigation confirmed this: in fact, it was the customer’s use of his air-conditioner during a three-day heatwave that pushed his bill up.
To keep your power consumption under control and stay cool during heatwaves:
- keep windows, blinds and curtains closed to keep cool air in and hot air out
- only cool the room you are using
- try pre-cooling your home then switching to a fan
- set your air-conditioner’s thermostat to the highest comfortable temperature – each degree colder will increase your usage and costs.