Victorians brace for the next heat wave; high-20s, low-30s expected

Fans of all shapes and sizes are flying off shelves, along with portable air-conditioning units, and companies installing air-conditioning are backed up for months as Victorians brace for another blast of heat this weekend.

On Tuesday, Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for Greater Victoria and east Vancouver Island up to Campbell River, warning of higher than normal temperatures this week.

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Daytime temperatures are expected to be in the low 30s inland and the high 20s near the water, with temperatures at night in the mid- to high teens. The hottest days will be from Thursday to Sunday.

“While it won’t be as hot as the historic, record-breaking temperatures we saw last month, they are still above normal and people should take precautions,” said Jennifer Hay, a meteorologist with Environment Canada. “We are also facing drought ­conditions.”

Hay advised people to drink plenty of water and watch for the effects of heat illness, especially among young children, pregnant women, older adults and people with chronic ­illnesses.

At Ross Bay Home ­Hardware, fans have been flying off the shelves as fast as owner Peter Fargey has been restocking them.

“Don’t even ask about portable air conditioners — we quickly sold out of our usual stock of 10 and we have about 30 on order,” said Fargey. “We are hopeful that the units will arrive in August. It’s not just us — it’s the entire Home Hardware network coast to coast, and even our competitors.”

Fargey was lucky to find a batch of 20 box fans recently, but he expects them to sell out in the next few days as word gets out that he still has some of the hard-to-find items.

Other popular items include coolers and kiddie pools. “The pools are inexpensive and great if you have children or dogs. You can fill them up and the kids will play in them and the dogs get a chance to cool off.”

Homeowners who are looking for a more permanent solution have been calling heating and cooling companies for quotes for air conditioners and heat pumps.

“During the hottest days of the last heat wave, the front office, staffed by three employees, literally felt like a 911 dispatch centre,” said Marshall Mason, owner of RedBlue Heating and Air Conditioning. “Some would say: ‘If I can’t get air-conditioning I can’t stay here anymore.’ Others would tell us the temperature in their elderly family member’s homes was in the 30s. It felt like it was life or death in some instances.”

He said the company ­experienced a 75 per cent increase in business. He has about 300 customers in the queue for a representative to go to their homes to give an ­estimate. At this point, people can expect a call in October.

“Up until the last heat wave, the mentality was: ‘It will only be hot for a handful of days every year — I can sweat it out for a week,’ ” said Mason. “Now the same people are looking at the calendar and realizing that there are two months of hot weather to come.”

Part of the blame, he said, is popular architecture, with some homes with 14-foot ceilings and floor-to-ceiling glass walls.

“You have just increased your cooling load by 400 per cent.”

Mason notes that the air-conditioning units sold in Canada are generally less powerful than the ones seen in hot locales.

“The units here are meant to take the edge off the heat. Oftentimes, their performance is limited by the existing ducting. If you really want cool, you need to get commercial-style equipment.”

Adding an air-conditioning unit to a traditional forced-air furnace in a ­2,000-square-foot single-family house with ­existing ductwork would cost approximately $10,000.

B.C. Hydro offers rebates of up to $2,000 for homeowners who switch from a fossil-fuel furnace to a high-efficiency heat pump, which has the ability to both heat and cool a house.

For those who either cannot afford the high price tag or live in a strata complex that does not allow the installation of ductless air conditioning units, Mason suggests a portable unit that can cool just one room — typically the bedroom — so people can at least sleep better.

Fans are more ­affordable and more readily available. ­Box-shaped fans are popular because they can sit in an open window to draw in the cool night air. ­People have been known to affix a ­furnace filter to them to create a low-cost air filtration system to mitigate smoke from wildfires.

“Heating a home has always been seen as a necessity, with cooling considered a luxury item. That conversation has changed,” said Mason.

parrais@timescolonist.com

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