Reykjavík Residents Asked to Limit Hot Water Usage During Upcoming Cold Spell

A woman walking two young children through the snow

Iceland’s Meteorological Office has issued yellow or orange weather warnings for every region of the country starting at varying times today. Due to strong northern winds, Icelanders can expect an unusually cold spell to last well into the weekend, and Veitur Utilities ask people to limit their hot water usage for the next few days to help them keep up the supply.

According to the Met Office’s forecaster’s remarks, it “looks like northerly gales or strong gales today with snow in the northern half of Iceland and possibly blizzard in North- and East-Iceland. Becoming colder. Still northerly strong gales tomorrow (Thursday) and winds not calming down considerably until Friday afternoon.” A yellow weather warning will be in effect in every region of the country today except for southeast Iceland, where the Met Office has issued an orange warning. “North and northwest 20-28 m/s(45-63 mph) by eastern Vatnajökull and in Öræfi. Gusts expected to exceed 45 m/s (101mph) with a possible sandstorm and flying pebbles.” People all over Iceland, but especially in the southeast are advised to secure loose objects in their immediate surroundings and reconsider travel plans.

Temperatures are expected to drop as far as -18°C(-0.4°F) in the country’s central highland, while temperatures in and around Reykjavík will likely be closer to 6-7°C below zero (19-21°F). While Iceland has been experiencing low temperatures lately, the recent frost hasn’t been accompanied by strong winds. This time, the low temperatures are accompanied by northerly gales, and the added wind chill will make the next few days the coldest Reykjavík has seen since 2013, Meteorologist Einar Sveinbjörnsson explains. According to Einar, during still and frosty days, surface temperatures are low, but you don’t have to go high up to find warmer air. During cold and windy days, that’s not the case and the frosty winds can bite. He recommends keeping a warm hat and a pair of woollen mittens handy and taking extra care when bundling up kindergarten-aged children.

Veitur Utilities PLC has activated their contingency plan for hot water usage in the capital area. Among other things, that includes encouraging people to limit hot water usage as much as possible to ensure enough hot water supply to heat every house in the area.

Forecasting models that use weather forecasts to assess hot water usage foresee that hot water supply in the capital area will reach its tolerance threshold on Friday and into the weekend. About 90% of hot water is used to heat houses, which makes it very important that people know how best to use it. People are encouraged to:

  • keep their windows shut
  • don’t keep doors open for longer than necessary
  • don’t fill up hot tubs
  • set radiators so that they’re hot on top but cold towards the floor
  • make sure radiators aren’t covered by long curtains or furniture
  • lower pressure on snow-melting systems.

In addition to asking the public to limit their hot water usage, Veitur is also raising the water temperature to users from low-temperature geothermal areas in Reykjavík and Mosfellsbær. They’ve finetuned their system so that it is fit to keep up the supply and are working on repairing new pumps bought this autumn with the intent to increase supply.