Debunking Energy Myths
Interested in saving energy to lower your bills or reduce your environmental footprint, but confused about the new technology and information available to help you do so? The following separates fact from fiction for some energy-saving myths and misconceptions.
Myth #1: It takes less energy to have my thermostat maintain a comfortable temperature while I’m away than it does to have it heat up or cool down my house when I get home.
If you’re going to be gone for more than a few hours, then it is more cost-effective to turn on the heat or the air conditioning once you get back than it is to maintain a comfortable temperature while you’re out. Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, recommends adjusting your thermostat up in the summer and down in the winter by 8° Fahrenheit while you’re asleep or away from the house.
Myth #2: I can save money simply by installing a programmable thermostat.
On their own, programmable thermostats do not make your heating or cooling system more efficient. Their money-saving value lies in their ability to, once properly programmed, automatically regulate the temperature inside your house to coincide with when you’re there and when you’re not. If you need help programming your thermostat, directions are usually available from the manufacturer’s website.
Myth #3: When I turn off electronics (like my TV, game console, or computer) they stop drawing power from the outlet.
Even when turned off, most modern electronics consume a small amount of electricity if they’re still plugged in. Chargers for mobile devices also consume electricity if plugged in, even when they are not actively charging the device. This wasted energy, called a “phantom load,” is estimated to account for as much as 10 percent of a home’s total energy use, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The solution is to unplug your electronics when you’ve finished using them. Using a power strip can help you conveniently unplug multiple devices at once, and newer, “smart” power strips can automatically cut off phantom loads on their own.
Myth #4: Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) take forever to reach full brilliance, have inadequate light quality or unpleasant color, and make no difference on my utility bill.
As with many products, CFLs vary in quality. Color and brightness differ across manufacturers, and some bulbs simply work better than others.
Looking for the Energy Star symbol is a good way to ensure that you’re purchasing a high-quality product. Also, be sure to install CFLs in fixtures that remain on for long periods, or that you use often, to get the maximum energy savings out of your bulbs. In addition, specialty CFLs are available for applications such as spotlighting or bathroom vanity fixtures.
Myth #5: Mercury from CFLs poses a serious risk to the environment.
On the contrary, CFLs actually prevent the release of mercury into the environment by reducing the electricity needed from power plants. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, about 45 percent of electricity in the U.S. is generated from coal. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that coal combustion for power plants releases roughly 400 times the mercury into the environment than the cumulative mercury contribution from land-filled CFLs, assuming that no CFLs are recycled. However, it is still important to dispose of burned-out bulbs and clean up broken bulbs properly.
You can find more information on how to do both of these things at www.lamprecycle.org.
Myth #6: It is not worth my time or money to properly seal the small air leaks around my windows and doors, or to make sure my home is adequately insulated.
According to Energy Star, air leaks around cracks and gaps throughout your home can be the equivalent of leaving a window open all year long. Typical homeowners can save up to 10 percent on their total annual energy bill by sealing and insulating their home.
Want more information?
Lexington Electric System and TVA offer information and incentives to help you reduce your electric bill. For more information please visit our websites:
www.lexingtonelectric.com or www.energyright.com