September 11, 2015
Debunking Energy Myths
Are you doing all you can to save energy? If you’ve installed energy-efficient appliances, replacement windows and weather stripping, you might say yes. However, there are dozens of energy myths out there that contribute to the dozens of little ways we continue to waste valuable energy. Here are some of them…which ones tripped you up? It’s better to keep your computer on all the time. If you’re going to be away from your computer for at least two hours, it’s better to turn it off. At other times, use the “sleep” or “energy saver” mode. This will save energy from running to the monitor, and you won’t have to restart your computer as often. A surge-protection power strip makes it easy to turn off everything with one click; your computer, monitor and other devices such as modems and external speakers. Even if you aren’t using them, they continue to draw power. Screen savers are helping to keep this myth popular. They don't actually save energy and can stop your computer from going into “energy saver” mode if they come on. If you’re in the market for a new computer, make sure you invest in an ENERGY STAR-qualified computer, which uses 70% less electricity than models without power management features. Appliances that have been turned off don’t use energy. Many popular electronics such as DVD players, stereos, TVs and phone chargers can't be turned off unless you unplug them or shut them down with a power strip. Gas appliances can have electronic transformers, microchips, LEDs and soft-touch buttons that use electricity. Called "phantom power" or “vampire power”, this low-level energy drain costs you money and you get absolutely no benefit from it. If you touch an appliance or charger and it is warm, it’s using energy. Up to 5% of all energy use in the United States is the result of phantom power. Unless an appliance must be plugged in to be effective (such as a clock, refrigerator or stove), consider pulling the plug. It takes only a second to plug in a toaster, stereo, lamp or treadmill before using it. Old refrigerators are great for extra storage in a garage. When old refrigerators are placed in a garage or basement to hold soda, beer or overflow items, they can cost $100 or more yearly in energy use. Old refrigerators are less energy efficient than newer models, and some of them can use up to twice the energy! Remember that a refrigerator isn't designed to operate without air conditioning. Summer heat and winter cold can create even more energy drain if the older fridge is unable to maintain proper food storage temperatures. It costs less to leave lights on than always turn them on and off. Leaving a standard light bulb on for long periods when not needed actually uses more energy than turning it off and on when you leave a room. However, when using a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), it should be left on if it will be needed again within 5 minutes. Turning CFLs on and off frequently can shorten the bulb life. You can cut winter energy costs by leaving the thermostat at a constant temperature, rather than wasting energy reheating your house every morning. Adjusting your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees lower than usual before you go to bed and warming the house in the morning uses less energy and saves more money than keeping the temperature steady overnight. If you turn your thermostat way up or way down, your house will heat or cool to the temperature you actually want more quickly. It takes the same amount of time for the temperature to reach 70 degrees whether the thermostat is set at 70 degrees or at 90 degrees. Set the temperature to what you actually want; setting the thermostat level way up or way down only increases the likelihood of wasting energy and increasing costs when you forget to adjust it again later. Hand-washing dishes uses less energy than an electric dishwasher. For once, a modern machine is more efficient than the old-fashioned method. Hand washing generally uses more hot water per load than using a dishwasher. Just make sure you fill the dishwasher completely before running the load and open the door after the rinse cycle to allow the dishes to air dry. Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) provide less light and make an annoying noise. CFL technology has really improved! You no longer see flickering or hear humming. You also won’t see a slow start-up as you did with fluorescent lights in the past. For best performance, buy high-quality ENERGY STAR CFL bulbs from a reputable vendor. You can’t save energy with ceiling fans – they just move the air around. Bump up the temperature on your air conditioner by a few degrees and move the air in the room with ceiling fans. You’ll be surprised how well it works! But fans cool people, not rooms, so be sure to turn them off when the room is empty to save energy. These are just a few of the common myths that prevent us from using as little energy as possible…but now you can use this helpful information to get on the path to saving money in energy costs right away!