As the temperature soared, Tom Raba’s phone lit up.
“We were already quite busy before the heat wave, fortunately,” said Raba, who owns Red Deer’s RT Heating and Air Conditioning Ltd. “When it gets slightly warm people are already calling for ACs because they know their house gets hot.
“But from Friday to today, it’s just been insane. It’s like a slot machine of phone calls. I’ve probably received over 200 phone calls for AC quotes. It’s just endless.”
A heat wave warning remains in effect for all of Alberta.
Demand is going through the roof at a time when the supply chain for air conditioning units and replacement parts is still recovering from the pandemic that interrupted the supply of parts from China, affecting air conditioner production. As health restrictions are now easing, factories are now trying to find the workers to boost production.
Raba made sure he was ready and has the units in stock for his customers. Anyone who has ordered an air conditioner already will get it and at the price quoted and he still has units available for new customers.
“But the next issue is stock. Even if everybody says, yes, I don’t think I’m going to be able to get everyone a unit.”
Usually, as his stock of units goes down he can order more to rebuild inventory. But by August there may not be many units to be had.
Some wholesalers have still not received units that they ordered six months ago because supply lines are so tight.
“I think by the time July is over and we get all our jobs done I don’t think there are going to be a lot of AC units left for August for most companies. We stocked up quite a few, even at the beginning of June and even May anticipating shortages and we still didn’t order enough.
“Even the amount we ordered, and it was ton of them, we went through all of them and it wasn’t even that hot yet.”
Air conditioning companies such as his will likely be playing a waiting game for manufacturers to catch up with demand by the second half of summer.
Some online sellers are taking advantage of demand. There are social media reports of units that would normally cost $300 being listed at $2,000 by private sellers.
There have also been reports from B.C. that hotel room bookings are on the rise as people flee their homes for a little air conditioned relief.
City of Red Deer saw its power demand shoot up as much as 30 per cent over normal for this time, largely driven by air conditioning units going full out.
Utilities manager Jim Jorgensen said demand neared 130 megawatts (MW) on Monday and was at 125 MW around noon on Tuesday. That is not far off the record of 140 MW set during another scorcher on July 2, 2013.
Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), which manages the province’s power grid, said demand reached 11,512 MW, beating the previous summer peak demand of 11,169 MW.
Alberta was on track to beat that record again on Tuesday, prompting AESO to ask Albertans to do their part by reducing demand during the peak 4 to 7 p.m. period.
Just before 5 p.m. Tuesday, AESO declared an energy emergency level 1 alert due to the heat wave driving higher demand and a decline in available generation.
To help conserve power during those hours, people are being asked to close blinds and curtains, pre-cool homes rather than crank the air conditioning as soon as people get home from work and to avoid using major appliances or charging electric devices or vehicles.