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State keeps up with demand for electricity

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Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 12:00 pm

By Rose L. Thayer

Killeen Daily Herald

Hot weather is causing some of the highest demand the Texas electrical system has ever seen, but residents do not need to worry about rolling blackouts or conservation, said an Electric Reliability Council of Texas spokesperson.

"At this time, we don't anticipate problems meeting the demand. ... If a high electricity demand or loss of additional large generation units causes our reserve power to be below the target threshold, the operators will begin emergency procedures to maintain system reliability," Dottie Roark said.

Wednesday's demand was forecast at 65,359 megawatts, which would break the system's previous July record of 65,195, set on Monday. That's about 77 percent of the state's overall electrical capacity.

Usage also is getting close to breaking the all-time peak demand record of 65,776 megawatts set on Aug. 23, 2010, Roark said.

Rotating outages, or rolling blackouts, are not implemented until the final step of emergency procedures and have only been used three times in the last 21 years: December 1989, April 2006 and Feb. 2, 2011.

While the state's grid so far is holding up in the heat, Killeen residents' air conditioning units are not faring so well.

Killeen-area air conditioning technicians said there are two parts that seem to be common problems: capacitors and fan motors.

"We are carrying around extra in vans," said Jason Staley, service manager at Ellis Heating and Air Conditioning.

He said because units are constantly having to run to keep up with the heat, parts are just wearing out.

"They are running constantly and doing the best they can. It's good for us, but I do feel sorry for the customers," Staley said.

He said he receives about 30 to 50 calls a day for air conditioning repairs, which can cost around $100 for a quick fix, or close to $1,000 if a unit needs replacing.

Chris Crawford, a technician at Quality Heating and Air Conditioning, said sometimes an annual checkup can prevent repair problems.

"Call in March, not July," Crawford said. "Get checked before you need it every day of the week. That way if you do need a part, you're not sweltering in your home while waiting for it."

Marge Frederick, office manager of Hallmark Service Company, said most people call to say their air conditioner is not cooling. The average home unit getting the temperature inside about 20 degrees cooler than it is outside is pretty good, she said.

"But that means it's 80 degrees in your house, and you don't want that," Frederick said.

Staley said there are a few things people can do to keep their units running at their optimum.

Because units are running more now, he urged changing filters more frequently.

Staley also suggested watering outside units to keep the coils clean.

"It helps your electric bill and keeps your house cooler," Staley said. "It also increases the life expectancy of the unit."

Residents won't see relief from the high temperatures based on current forecasts. The National Weather Service predicts Killeen will reach the century mark at least six days in the coming week.

Contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

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