Common Energy Myths — Debunked

Setting the record straight about power sources

3/17/2015 9:30:00 AM
As a property of physics, energy in and of itself is not easy to understand. Rumors swirl about energy usage within the home, its cost and what it means to “save” it. It’s much easier for homeowners and consumers to take the claims at face value instead of doing the necessary research. To help set the record straight, take a look at five oft-cited myths about electricity and other energy sources.
Myth: New homes are more energy-efficient than older ones.
Fact: A common misconception is that technology has evolved in such ways that all newly-erected structures are naturally more energy efficient than older ones. However, production evolution is actually the reason the myth is not true.
“Homes built over the past decade or so gobble about as much energy as homes built decades ago. That’s because newer homes are bigger, more architecturally complex, and full of energy-hogging electronics,” explained Bruce Harley, the author of “Cut Your Energy Bills Now.”
According to Kiplinger Personal Finance, even a new-home owner can benefit from a thorough energy audit to potentially improve energy efficiency and cut utility bills by more than 20 percent.
Myth: Reducing energy costs a lot up front.
Fact: True, erecting a wind turbine or installing a brand-new boiler comes with a high initial cost. A myth within the myth is that solar, for example, is a great way to achieve energy savings, when in fact installing the most efficient panels is very expensive, even with discounts and tax breaks.
Notwithstanding, there are countless ways to lower your energy consumption without the outrageous upfront fees.
“Sealing air leaks, using motion sensors on indoor and outdoor lighting, pre-setting the building's thermostat, replacing air filters, installing low flow fixtures onto shower heads and faucets and adding insulation to the attic or wall spaces…These are just a few examples of the low-hanging fruit that can minimize energy expenses without costing a pretty penny,” said Energy Squared Consulting Engineers.
On the other hand, you don’t have to use up your budget replacing all your windows and doors to save energy. Kiplinger said that you likely have better uses for your money to achieve the same goal.
“Many older homes don’t have huge amounts of window area, and newer houses tend to have more energy-efficient windows that meet existing standards for Energy Star labeling,” Kiplinger read.
Myth: Appliances use no energy when turned off.
Fact: In reality, the opposite is true. Electrical products from DVD players to air conditioners aren’t completely turned off unless they are unplugged or the connecting power strip is turned off. In the meantime, these types of “energy vampires” are sucking up power 24 hours a day. Be conscious of the appliances in your home, as this type of “stand-by power” can add up quickly.
Myth: Leaving a light on uses less energy than turning it off and on several times.
Fact: In the case of your normal incandescent bulbs, the above statement is false. Yes, the process of turning on a light bulb draws a higher level of current, but the fraction of a second worth of additional consumption is meager compared to the normal current required to continuously power the lamp. The same is true for heating and cooling units, and even cars (with gasoline usage rather than electricity).
Compact fluorescent lights, on the other hand, lose operating life the more often you switch them off and on. Sure, CFLs are proven to be four times more efficient and last up to 10 times as long, but they are not the most suitable answer for all lighting situations.
“CFLs are not the best choice for all situations because fluorescent bulbs are difficult to dim, operate poorly in cold temperatures and contain Mercury. Nonetheless, fluorescent lighting is ideal for boiler rooms and stairwells that must be kept illuminated at all times,” Energy Squared said.
Myth: The higher the thermostat is set, the quicker the temperature will rise.
Fact: An HVAC system actually takes the same amount of time to reach a certain temperature no matter to what the thermostat is set. The furnace or boiler works at the same speed regardless if you set the meter to 70 degrees or crank it up to 90 degrees. In both cases, it will take the same amount of time to hit the 70-degree mark. Turning it up higher to heat up faster actually defeats the purpose, as the mechanical equipment will work for a longer period of time to reach a higher temperature, thereby consuming more energy and increasing heating costs. Naturally, the same is true for air conditioning.
So are you someone who has bought into the buzz? Now that you are educated on a few of the old wives’ tales about energy and their correlating realities, you can share the knowledge and help set the record straight about energy usage.

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