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Mythbusters: Home Energy Edition

Don’t be fooled by these 10 widely held misconceptions about energy efficiency.

Here at Home Energy Rx, our objective is to be upfront and honest with our customers so they can make the best choices to reduce their energy consumption. You can put your trust in us to give you the skinny on how to slim down your energy bills.    

Myth #1 – Using less energy is the same as being energy efficient.

Energy conservation means using less energy, whereas energy efficiency means using energy more productively. Both concepts play an important role in reducing energy consumption, but it’s imperative to differentiate between the two.

Myth #2 – Leaving fans on in the summer is a good way to keep rooms cool.

This one surprises most people – but it’s illogical. Fans move air, but they don’t actually cool it. So, while they “feel” cool when you are underneath them, leaving them spinning when no one is home is nothing more than a waste of time, money and energy.

Myth #3 – Leaving a light on uses less energy than turning it off and on several times.

It’s true that a higher level of current is used to turn on a light, but this small surge of energy is only needed for a fraction of a second. If a light is kept on, it uses a lower level of power but for a much longer period of time. Leaving a light on for longer than just a few seconds uses more energy than turning off and on as needed. Switch off in confidence.

Myth #4 – Duct tape is a good choice to seal ducts and prevent air leaks.

Contrary to what the name would imply, this is not true. Duct tape is actually a poor choice to use on dusty and dirty surfaces – both of which are found in abundance around duct systems.  Duct tape will also dry rot over time, causing your ducts to disconnect. Mastic tape is a much better option. Its sticking and sealing power is far superior and is without question the best choice for duct sealing.

Myth #5 – Allowing computers to remain in hibernate or sleep mode overnight saves energy.

Putting your computer to sleep or in hibernation, rather than shutting it off, actually uses more energy in the long run. The computer continues to use quite a bit of energy by remaining the sleep or hibernation state so that it is able to wake right up and get back to work as soon as you touch your keypad or mouse. Its best to go ahead and shut it all the way down. Let your computer get some rest if you aren’t planning on using it for several hours. Yes, it may take an extra minute or two to power up your computer again in the next morning, but you can use that time to ponder what to do with all the money you’re saving. Which brings us to our next myth….

Myth #6 – If the appliance or electronic device is switched off, it’s not using energy.

Nope. It doesn’t work like that. There is an energetic phenomenon called “phantom power” or “vampire power” which steals the energy from devices that are plugged in, even though they are switched off. You can fight this eerie loss of energy by unplugging devices whenever they are not in use. To make it even easier, its recommended that you plug multiple devices into a power strip and simply switch off the strip to power down several electronics at once and with much less hassle.

Myth #7 – Hand-washing dishes instead of running them through the dishwasher will save energy.

This is a common misconception. However, hand-washing a load of dishes demands a lot of hot water, and therefore a lot of energy. Most dishwashers today have high efficiency settings which allow them to run a load of dishes using much less water and energy than would be necessary to wash them all by hand – just make sure you run full loads to maximize efficiency.

Myth #8 – Closing vents in unused rooms will save money.

At first glance this myth seems to make sense, but closer inspection reveals the truth. Closing vents changes how your HVAC system processes air flow. Basically, it’s looking for balance. When you close a vent, it throws off the balance and causes your system to work harder. This can increase the pressure of your system and cause it wear out more quickly. It’s better to simply keep the temperature at comfortable level during the day and then adjust slightly at night as needed.

Myth #9 – Using electric space heaters is an efficient way to heat the occupied rooms where it is needed.

You’d actually be better off running your regular heating system to warm the entire house, including the areas you aren’t using, than only warming one or two rooms with space heaters. These machines warm well but use large amounts of energy to do so. If you really want to reduce energy consumption in the winter months, turn down the thermostat a bit and throw on a sweater.

Myth #10 – Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs cost more than regular light bulbs.

While the upfront cost of LEDs may be more, using these bulbs is one of the best ways to reduce your energy bills. You would need to buy 8 compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs to last as long as one LED. You save quite a bit of money over the life of just one LED bulb. If you consider how many light fixtures the typical home has, you can imagine the potential for mega savings. So ultimately, LEDs end up costing a homeowner less in the long run than those which seem “cheaper” upon purchase.

 

These are just a few of the many energy efficiency myths you may come across in your experience as a homeowner. We want to educate you so that when you hear them again, you won’t be tricked into believing them. To truly improve the energy efficiency of your home, its paramount to research and find credible sources to learn from.

 

Mae Wilder 

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