Using energy more wisely in cold weather
In very cold weather, it’s best to reduce your electricity use during peak periods to avoid putting more pressure on the grid.
What exactly is a peak?
Annual or daily peaks occur when electricity demand is at its highest because so many customers are cranking up the heat or using energy-intensive appliances at the same time. That ties up the Hydro-Québec grid and puts it under the most pressure.
Annual peaks are the time of year when the Hydro-Québec grid is under the greatest pressure. They occur during periods of low temperatures and high winds. Cold snaps lasting several days also increase demand.
Daily peaks are the times of day when the Hydro-Québec grid is under the greatest pressure: weekday mornings, from 6 to 9 a.m., and evenings, from 4 to 8 p.m.
In Québec, peak periods occur during winter because so many of us heat our homes with electricity.
December to March
Daily peaks occur on weekdays: in the mornings, from 6 to 9 a.m., and in the evenings, from 4 to 8 p.m.
Small changes make a big difference
To be energy wise during cold weather, here are a few simple things you can do during winter peak hours from 6 to 9 a.m. and from 4 to 8 p.m.:
Video: Winter Peaks
When it’s very cold out, electricity use can increase substantially because of the need to heat our homes. Find out why it is important to reduce energy use during winter peak hours and how to make small changes.
In winter, manage your energy use better and lower your electricity bill
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Frequently asked questions
See for yourself: go to my Energy Performance Indicator to find your hourly, daily, monthly and annual electricity use data. You can also compare your electricity use (daily or monthly) for the past two years and see how it relates to the outdoor temperatures at the time. Since cold weather can affect your electricity use, we recommend checking this tool regulary.
Of course not. In the winter period—December to March—there are only about a hundred peak hours during which the Hydro-Québec grid is under extra strain.
Absolutely, because your heating system uses two sources of energy: electricity and a fuel like oil, propane, natural gas or wood pellets. When it is really cold, which is when the Hydro-Québec power grid is under the greatest pressure, the fuel is used as a source of heat instead of electricity.
Using your dual-energy heating system lowers the demand for electricity during peak periods, which are generally winter cold spells. This gives Hydro-Québec some leeway concerning the amount of electricity it has available to meet Québec customers’ greater demand during these periods and makes it easier to balance high demand with availability.
To do your bit, all you have to do is use your dual-energy system properly by taking a few simple steps when the light indicator is on:
- Monitor your electricity consumption closely.
- Postpone or reduce your use of hot water.
- Avoid using auxiliary heating systems that run on electricity, such as convection heaters, electric fireplaces and baseboard heaters. If you can’t shut them off, turn them all the way down.
- Don’t run the washing machine, dryer, dishwasher and other appliances unless you have to.
For a better understanding of the concepts of power (or capacity) and energy, think of a restaurant.
The restaurant has a limited number of seats, let’s say 50. If 200 customers all showed up at once, the restaurant couldn’t feed them all at once, even though it has enough food on hand.
Rather than renting additional tables to meet the high but momentary demand (peak), the restaurant could ask some people to dine earlier, and some, later. That way, the restaurant would be able to serve everyone, just not all at the same time.
In the Hydro-Québec grid, power (or capacity) is equivalent to the number of seats in the restaurant, and energy is the amount of food. Although we always have enough energy in reserve, we may not have enough capacity in peak periods. To meet the temporary demand, we have to buy power, and that’s very expensive.
Video : The Difference between Energy and Power
Power (W) is a generating station's ability to generate electricity at a given time and energy (Wh) is the amount of electricity used by a customer in one hour. Learn more about the difference between power (or capacity) and energy.