CBS Austin: How to handle rolling blackouts if the state’s electric grid is pushed to the limit

July 12, 2022
By: Abacus Plumbing, Air Conditioning & Electrica
Posted In: Abacus in the News, Austin News

The original article and video feature appears on the CBS Austin website.

AUSTIN, Texas — A call to conserve electricity was issued on Monday amid fear that Texas could experience rolling blackouts. Projections showed the power grid could struggle to keep up with peak demand across the state. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) asked businesses and residents to conserve electricity between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Monday to avoid controlled outages. ERCOT called the request precautionary and officials said they did not think rolling blackouts would be necessary.

In Austin, the sun is melting heat records and pushing temperatures up to a sizzling 110 degrees. Even if home thermostats are set at the recommended 78-degrees the prolonged heat wave is pushing air conditioners to their limits.

“We’ve seen a lot more failures a lot faster, a lot more wear and tear, a lot more service call generation because of how hot is and for how long it is,” said Vic Fredlund, HVAC manager at Abacus of Austin.

Fredlund says whether the stress on the system or a rolling blackout knocks out your air conditioner, blinds and curtains need to stay closed. Even then, avoid rooms with many windows.

“Try to stay away from exterior rooms. Try to stay in a cooler part of the house,” said Fredlund.

There’s one sure way to keep from losing food in the fridge and freezer.

“You don’t want to keep opening and closing the refrigerator,” said Fredlund.

Austin Energy says if the doors are kept closed refrigerators can keep food cold enough for a day or two without power. Watch the temperature and keep food below 40 degrees. Also, turn off or unplug appliances while you wait for the power to come back on.

“Hopefully if we do have controlled outages they will be much shorter in duration than what we experienced during the winter storm in 2021,” said Jennifer Herber, spokesperson with Austin Energy.

Austin Energy says power generation is expected to improve on Tuesday. Monday’s voluntary conservation request was issued because of record-high electric demand due to the heat wave and low wind projections.

“I know it’s still going to be hot, but it sounds like there is going to be more wind tomorrow and one of the things that ERCOT pointed to was that there wasn’t a whole lot of wind production today,” said Herber.

Even if the grid isn’t strained as much on Tuesday, more calls to conserve power are expected until Texas gets a break from the record-setting heat.

Austin Energy has these conservation tips to help ease strain on the electric grid:

Set your thermostat at 78 degrees or higher. Each degree lower increases your energy use by 6 to 8 percent.

  • If you have central air and heat, do not close vents in unused rooms. This could increase pressure and cause duct leaks.
  • If you have a window unit, close off unused rooms.
  • Point fans in your direction. Fans blowing directly on you can make temperatures around you feel about 4 degrees cooler. In the summer, ceiling fan blades should move counterclockwise to push cool air downward.
  • Close shades and curtains on windows hit by direct sunlight to prevent heat from getting indoors.
  • Avoid turning on the oven during the hottest time of the day.
  • Unplug appliances, chargers and electronic devices when you are not using them. They use energy even when they are turned off.