Monday's power outage not linked to high use of refrigerated air

Monica Cortez-KDBC
Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - 7:38pm

A third day of straight record heat and Tuesday makes it the hottest we’ve been in El Paso in three years, with a high of 109.

It's unbearable out there for just about everyone, but imagine not having air conditioning.

More than 3,000 east El Paso residents and more than 300 Anthony residents lost power Monday night, and that left many people wondering what was to blame.

With highs topping the century mark, most everyone has decided to turn on their refrigerated air.

But that had nothing to do with yesterday's outage.

It was truly a coincidence that thousands of residents were left without power during this heat wave.

El Pasoans upgrading from swamp coolers to refrigerated air.

“A lot more people are converting to refrigerated air,” said Michael Zalesak HVAC technician for HART Services. “In 2010 there was a law that passed stating no more new houses without refrigerated air and now the old houses that have swamp cooling, they are getting frustrated with the humidity and they are ready to go refrigerated."

But refrigerated air takes a toll on the electric grid.

And with so many people making the change the fear of overloading the grid and knocking out power becomes more real.

"The mind begins to deteriorate at 130 degrees, you are miserably uncomfortable, like right now,” said Zalesak. “Add a little bit of humidity and it would really be uncomfortable right now."

But with so many people turning to this cooling system, El Paso Electric officials said don't blame refrigerated air.

“We had a cable failure on the east side, and we had some birds on the line on the west side, so no the El Paso Electric builds our system so we can the AC’s, whatever we have in our homes," said Supervisor for EP Electric Anthony Ramos.

In fact, Ramos said he encourages people to make the change.

“Refrigerated air is a convenience to your home and we encourage it here at El Paso electric,” said Ramos. “The only thing we do ask is that you let us know that you are converting so we can come and upgrade your system. If we don't know you have it. We won't know that you or your neighbor is needing more power."

El Paso Electric also said if you have any questions regarding the capacity in your area you may contact them at: 800-592-1634 or (915) 877-3400.

Temperatures are expected to hit 109 again tomorrow.

That's just five degrees shy of the hottest temperature, which means El Pasoans will continue to try and beat the heat by staying cool indoors.

Officials at El Paso electric said less than half of El Pasoans have refrigerated air.

And for those who do have this cooling system, HART Services advices you to keep your thermostat at 77 degrees if you want to see savings on your next electric bill, although the comfortable temperature most people prefer is typically set around 75 degrees.

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