Debunking Energy Myths, Part II

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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Mythbuster Woman, joining you for a second installment of Debunking Energy Myths. I’ve taken a few moments out of my busy schedule of leaping tall buildings (in a single bound, of course) to answer those of you who challenged me with more myths.

We heard from many of you following my past post regarding energy-related myths. I’ve taken a crack at answering a few of your questions.

Myth #1: Is it true turning your computer on and off decreases its lifespan?

Answer to the Myth: True…with a catch.

While turning your computer on and off does decrease the lifespan of your computer (as well as many other appliances), the reality is that the effect is minimal. Fact is, you’ll probably need to replace or upgrade your computer well before any of the adverse affects would be noticed.

As we’ve said many times before, it’s always a good idea to turn off non-essential appliances, when possible. The energy savings you’ll achieve by hitting the off button far outweighs any wear-and-tear you’d experience.

What’s more, leaving your PC on can actually have a negative effect. When powered on, a PC produces heat, which builds up fairly quickly and both the heat and the cooling mechanism effort increase the wear and tear on your computer. Unless you’re like my dad who still has his Compaq Presario from 1994 (and I’m not judging!), your short-term energy bill is more significant than your long-term computer life.

Myth #2: I’ve heard you should leave your air conditioning on and windows closed when there is a short-term drop in outside air temperature, as it takes more energy to cool your house down again when the weather warms. Is this true?

Answer to the Myth: Not true! says George Spargo, one of the many Energy Efficiency Engineers/Superhero Friends here at Xcel Energy. According to George, short-term dips during the summer months do not have a dramatic affect on your energy bill. So when the temperature drops outside, it is best to turn your AC off and use the free cooling from Mother Nature.

Thanks, George! Now, if I could just find a tip that would turn my Chevy Gremlin into an energy efficient Invisible Plane?

Myth #3: This one comes to us from Fred C., who wrote “One of my favorite (myths) is, ‘Fill your ice cube trays with hot water, it will freeze faster.’”

Answer to the Myth: You’re right, Fred! In some circumstances, warm water actually does freeze faster than cold water. How do we know this? Well, Erasto Mpemba first documented the phenomenon in 1969. Today, it’s known as the Mpemba Effect.

Unfortunately, this little factoid doesn’t exactly save energy because 1) it doesn’t always work and 2) the amount of energy used to heat the water makes up for energy saved in cooling it faster.

I hope you’ve all enjoy my encore performance as Mythbuster Woman. Keep your comments coming, and I will dedicate myself to debunking energy hoaxes, thwarting scams and educating energy users everywhere. (Cue patriotic music)

Article by Mary LaLone, appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.