Power company prepared for heat wave

July 06, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE
  • Allegheny Energy

Allegheny Power's distribution system is designed to serve its customers on hot summer days, but a string of extremely hot days might cause equipment problems, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

Hot days followed by nights that still require air conditioning can lead to transformers getting extremely hot, Allegheny Power spokesman Todd Meyers said. If the equipment doesn't have a chance to cool down, some might malfunction, he said.

Two or three days into a heat wave, air conditioning has to work harder than usual to cool off a home because heat can build up in attics, Meyers said.

Company officials are keeping a close eye on transformers during the heat wave, Meyers said. If a substation is affected, an outage could affect several neighborhoods. Meyers said crews would respond quickly to any outages.

Temperatures in the Hagerstown area were expected to stay in the 90s through Friday, possibly reaching 100 degrees Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service's website. The high temperature Tuesday was 100.4 degrees, according to local weather observer Greg Keefer's website at


Planned maintenance that might have shut power off temporarily has been put on hold during the heat wave, Meyers said.

Allegheny Power serves 300,087 customers in Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland, Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania, and Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties in West Virginia, according to data provided by Meyers.

Allegheny Power expected to reach a peak of 8,601 megawatts Tuesday afternoon, Meyers said. The power company has 10,575 megawatts available through power it generates or power it can bring in from other generators, he said.

Exceeding 8,000 megawatts is considered a high-demand day, Meyers said.

Allegheny Power's all-time peak was 8,734 megawatts on Aug. 2, 2006 -- in the middle of a heat wave, Meyers said.

Hagerstown Light Department had a recent peak demand of approximately 65 megawatts, compared to the department's all-time peak of approximately 75 megawatts, according to an e-mail from Michael Spiker, director of utilities.

The city department has no operational issues in regard to the recent warm weather, Spiker said.

Allegheny is part of PJM Interconnection, a group of utilities that serves parts or all of 13 states and Washington, D.C., Meyers said. PJM forecasted a peak of 139,000 megawatts Tuesday.

Tips to keep your home cool

To help the power system and keep your home cool, Allegheny Power spokesman Todd Meyers offered the following tips:

o Delay power usage such as running the dishwasher until later in the evening. Peak power usage occurs around 4 to 5 p.m.

o Set the thermostat on the air-conditioning system to as high a temperature as comfort permits. Allegheny Power recommends 78 degrees unless the household contains young children, older adults or people sensitive to heat.

o For rooms not in use, turn off air-conditioning window units and shut the door.

o Close drapes. Closed drapes over a window on the sunny side of a house can keep the temperature almost 20 degrees cooler on that window than if the drapes were open.

o Make sure air-conditioning registers, or vents, are not blocked by furniture or drapery, which can trap cool air.

o Keep weeds and shrubs away from outdoor central air units to prevent them from overheating.

o Clean air-conditioner filters.

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