Deep freeze leads to increased costs for Okanagan residents

Deep freeze in the Okanagan expected to hit people in the pocketbook as energy consumption spikes

As the deep freeze continues its grip on the Okanagan, plumbing and heating companies have been scrambling to keep up with increased calls for service.

“We’ve been getting another 30 per cent more calls due to it,” said Brendan Harkins with Living Water Mechanical Services.

The majority of the calls have involved frozen or cracked pipes.

READ MORE: Bitterly cold air in the Okanagan to last all week: Environment Canada

“You could realistically flood your house because it’s going to pop your pipe and your water main doesn’t stop,” Harkins told Global News, “so if you’re not home and your pipe goes, your water is going to be running all day right into your basement.”

Harkins said older homes are more susceptible because pipes are sometimes situated in exterior walls and more prone to freezing — something that’s not allowed in newer construction.

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However, he said there are measures homeowners can take to prevent their pipes from freezing.

“You want to insulate your pipes or just get it on all internal walls because it’s warm there. Your outside walls are, of course, going to be more cold,” said Harkins.

“But if you can’t prevent that, you can get heat trace, which is basically just tape with an electrical surge that keeps your pipes warm.”

Kelowna Weather Forecast: January 14
Kelowna Weather Forecast: January 14

Repair costs for frozen pipes can range from $300 up to $2,000, depending on the magnitude of the job.

Cold weather can not only result in hard-to-forecast expenses, such as frozen water pipes, but also in higher heating bills due to energy consumption spikes.

“Heating, of course, counts for the most use of energy in a home,” said Nicole Brown, corporate communications advisor with FortisBC.

“And people who heat with electricity, even if it’s a real efficient system, their bills can go up as much as 80 per cent in the winter time.”

READ MORE: Fast-freezing clothes make for fun frozen photo ops during Alberta cold snap

FortisBC said demand for electricity in its coverage area was up by 35 per cent on Tuesday compared to Tuesday of last week, before the cold snap hit.

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The power giant said there are measures people can take to conserve heat.

“Draftproofing is No. 1,” Brown said. “Any heat loss in your home is money lost. As soon as you feel a draft, you’re basically spending money that you shouldn’t have to.”

In addition to sealing any leaks around windows and doors, Fortis encourages people to use programmable thermostats to reduce consumption overnight and while the home is empty — measures Fortis said can reduce heating bills by up to 15 per cent.

Click here for more tips to save energy.