Despite what you may think or even have heard, energy efficiency doesn’t have to be difficult. By focusing on small changes, most people can reduce their energy use in a big way. Start on your own energy-efficiency journey with this list of energy myths.
Myth 1: Setting your thermostat above or below your desired temperature will heat or cool your home faster.
Truth: Setting your thermostat in hopes your home will heat or cool faster will cost you more money and make your system work harder. The kicker: It will still take the same amount of time to get your thermostat to where you want it. To avoid paying more, don’t set your thermostat beyond your desired temperature.
Myth 2: Closing vents and registers in unused rooms saves energy.
Truth: Closing air vents does not save energy. It actually does more harm than good. HVAC systems are designed to heat homes based on their size. Closing vents and registers forces your heating system to work harder to cool or heat the space it is designed for, increasing energy consumption.
Myth 3: Keeping a fan on cools a room.
Truth: Fans don’t cool rooms. They circulate the air in a room, making the room feel cooler. However, if no one is in the room to be cooled down by the fan, you are wasting energy. Bottom line: Keep fans turned off when you are not in the room with them.
Myth 4: It doesn’t matter where your thermostat is installed in your home.
Truth: Location, location, location. If your thermostat is on an outside wall, near a drafty window or in direct sunlight, it can be tricked into thinking it needs to run more or less often.
Myth 5: Cooling a hot house costs more than leaving the air conditioner set at a cool temperature throughout the day.
Truth: Running your air conditioner all day to keep your house comfortable uses far more energy than it does to cool down your house after the air conditioner has been off all day, during the hottest of days. The same is true for heating a cold house during winter months.
Myth 6: If nothing seems to be wrong with your HVAC system, there is no need for a professional to inspect it.
Truth: It is important to keep your heating, ventilation and air-conditioning unit performing at its peak. What might seem like a minor issue now could become a major—and expensive—one later if not repaired. Consider buying an annual maintenance plan to keep your system in good condition year-round.
Myth 7: Energy-efficient lightbulbs do not make a significant difference on your electric bill.
Truth: LED lights use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last 25 times longer. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “By replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models that have earned the Energy Star, you can save $75 each year.”
Myth 8: Leaving a light on uses less energy than turning it off and on several times.
Truth: It doesn’t take any more electricity for a lightbulb to turn itself back on. If it is on, it is using electricity. If it is off, it is not using electricity. If you are leaving a room for more than a couple of minutes, turn off the light and you will save energy and money.
Myth 9: Bigger is better.
Truth: When it comes to choosing the size of your HVAC system, bigger is not always better. According to Trane, the size of your HVAC unit depends on the size of your space. A too-small air-conditioning system will have to work harder to cool your home and wear down sooner. A too-large system will keep turning off and on until it breaks down.
Myth 10: Electronic devices do not use energy when plugged in but turned off.
Truth: Most devices continue to use power after they have been turned off. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates standby power accounts for 5% to 10% of household electricity consumption. The simplest way to make sure you are not wasting money and energy on devices not in use is to unplug them after you are done using them or plug them into a power strip that can be switched off.
Myth 11: Leaving your computer, laptop or other electronic devices on sleep mode saves more energy than powering them on and off.
Truth: Leaving any device running will always use more energy than turning it off when you are finished using it and restarting it when you return. Turning off electronics when not in use is the best way to save electricity.
Myth 12: Hand-washing dishes rather than running them through the dishwasher can save you energy.
Truth: Dishwashers are designed to be more efficient than hand-washing dishes. According to Energy Star, certified dishwashers use less than 4 gallons per cycle. Washing dishes in the sink uses 4 gallons of water every 2 minutes.
Myth 13: Windows are the source of the greatest amount of heat loss in a home.
Truth: Windows typically account for 10% to 15% of heat loss. According to Energy Central, the major sources of heat loss are walls (35%), roof (20%), windows (15%), ventilation (15%), floor (10%) and doors (5%). The good news for do-it-yourselfers is that gaps around windows and doors can often be taken care of with a few supplies from the hardware store. Caulking and weatherstripping products are quick fixes.
Myth 14: Washing clothes in hot water gets them cleaner.
Truth: According to Cold Water Saves, new detergent technology has introduced enzymes that work better in cold water. Some stains—such as grass, makeup and blood—should only be washed in cold water because hot water could make the stains permanent. If that wasn’t reason enough, about 75% of the energy required to do a load of laundry goes into heating the water. Using cold water saves energy and, as a result, saves you money.
Myth 15: Reducing my energy use is too expensive.
Truth: Many people believe reducing energy use requires expensive upfront costs, such as buying new, more efficient appliances or upgrading an older home. While that will result in savings, people who make small changes to how they use energy can see a reduction in their overall energy consumption.
Saving energy is about more than just saving money. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saving energy is one of the most cost-effective ways to save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs and meet growing energy demands, making energy-efficiency something we should all agree on.