As the temperatures in Australia soar up, the concerns regarding its detrimental effects steadily grow. The Australian Medical Association has already labelled heat as a silent killer. Severe heat stress can cause dehydration, loss of electrolytes, and damage to the heart and kidneys.
An extreme heat wave that occurred in South-eastern Australia in 2009 made Melbourne suffer in 43 degrees Celsius for 3 consecutive days — resulting in a drastic increase in heat stress-related deaths. In fact, more Australians perish due to heat compared to the yearly road toll! Experts predict heat waves to become hotter due to climate change.
With this in mind, many people are now finding ways to stay cool.
How do people in Australia adapt to higher temperatures?
The government and its agencies are already practising several adaptive measures such as creating heat wave plans and implementing pilot programs. In 2014, the Bureau of Meteorology launched the Heat Wave Warning Service.
When it comes to residential and commercial areas, people now prefer staying indoors. Australians are likely to become more dependent on air conditioning during these times. According to statistics in 2011, 3 out of 4 Australian households have an installed air conditioner or evaporative cooler. This is almost twice the number of air conditioner ownership listed during the 1990s. People usually cool their bedrooms 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
Besides air conditioning, fans are also being set up in bedrooms and living rooms. People make sure that there is a constant supply of cold water and drinks in the refrigerator.
Electric bills skyrocket during the hot season
Electricity consumption soars during extreme weather. And it’s no surprise that the adaptive measures of Australians to the rising heat has a huge impact on electricity prices. The price of electricity was seen rising nationwide by 70% from June 2007 to December 2012. When the temperature in Brisbane reached mid-30 degrees Celsius in January 2017, the Australian Energy Market Operator reported an increase in the spot price of electricity, costing more than $12,000 per megawatt hour. Even though the amount paid by electric companies is not shouldered directly by consumers, these spikes can be used to rationalise yearly price hikes.
The price increase is not just due to demand. It’s also because of its effects on the production cost of electricity from the generator to the transmission grid.
The effect of the hot season on the power grid
Overhead power transmission cables
Materials expand when they get hot — including the materials used to make the electricity grids that supply power. For instance, the overhead power transmission cables are usually clad in aluminium. These are susceptible to expansion at high temperatures. When aluminium expands, the overhead lines will sag. This increases electrical resistance, resulting in lower efficiency.
The transformers that regulate the voltage across the power grid are also affected by high temperature. Heat is released as a by-product when they perform their function. In order to keep them operating on a safe level, the power rating or the peak temperature at which they can operate safely is set.
As the temperature rises, the power rating decreases, leading to a drop in their efficiency. The efficiency of transformers decreases by about 1% per one-degree Celsius increase in temperature. This will have a significant impact on the power grids as a whole. They lose around 1% of their total efficiency as the temperature rises by 3 degrees Celsius.
The hot weather can lead to power outages
Because of the hot weather, power outages can be expected. Transmission lines normally transport power from a minimal number of injection points to various destinations.
Since the number of electric appliances used for cooling increased, the power needed to sustain them will also increase. The transmission lines will now need to carry a lot of power. This will cause them to heat up, droop, come into contact with the foliage on the ground, leading to a short circuit.
After this, the line will no longer be able to carry power. Since this line is no longer available, the other lines need to pick up the slack, creating a domino effect throughout the power grid.
How can we control electricity consumption during the hot season?
Seeing the effect of the hot season on electricity consumption, it is highly imperative that we find other ways to keep ourselves cool, especially during peak times.
- One way to do so is to turn public facilities such as libraries into a cooling centre. Incentives and options for transportation should be given to motivate people to get out of their homes during the hot season and go to cooler public places.
- As a long-term solution, neighbourhoods can be designed in such a way that the residents will have better access to public cooling places like swimming pools or green spaces with sufficient shade.
- There should be a better approach to building and renovating homes. Natural insulation and cross-ventilation can be utilised so that mechanical cooling is minimised.
- It is highly recommended to switch off for a few hours or turn down your air conditioners during peak times. If using it can’t be avoided, you need to make sure that your air conditioner is energy-efficient. Split type conditioners are considered to be the most energy-efficient air conditioners available on the market today.
Get efficient air conditioning from Coles Refrigeration
When it comes to purchasing energy efficient air conditioning units, Coles is your most reliable supplier. We have over 70 years of experience in the industry, both in the commercial and domestic setting. Our team is up-to-date with the latest technology used in air conditioning. The skills of our team allow us to design, install, and offer top-notch after-sales services to our valued clients.
Contact us today for enquiries or to get a free quotation for your home.