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Debunking Energy Myths

Like most people, I like a good urban myth. For many years, I believed if I went to bed with my hair wet I would catch a cold (thanks Mom!).

But we also see many myths when it comes to energy efficiency. Unfortunately, most folks have neither the time nor the, ahem, energy to investigate which efficiency “myths” are real and which ones are just a bunch of hot air.

So to help, we’ve investigated a few popular energy efficiency myths. Hopefully you’ll find the answers informative, while also saving a little energy of your own.

Myth #1: If you program your thermostat to reduce the temperature while you’re asleep, your heater has to work very hard to get the temperature back up in the morning. Therefore, it’s better to keep the thermostat set higher all the time.

Answer to the Myth: False. The amount of energy it takes to heat your home back up in the morning is just about the same as the amount you save while your house cools down in the evening. During those six to eight hours in between, when your house is 10 degrees lower, you’ll be saving a good deal of energy. And unless you are a night owl, you won’t know the difference.

Myth #2: While we know electronics and appliances use energy whenever they are plugged in (even if powered down or not in use), using a power strip to turn appliances off when not in use doesn’t help save energy because power strips also use a great deal of power.

Answer to the Myth: While it is true some types of power strips do use a small amount of electricity even when switched off, it doesn’t mean you should avoid using them whenever possible to cut down on energy waste. In fact, the energy wasted from off-but-plugged-in appliances is much greater than the waste from the power strip.

Myth #3: Replacing my windows with a more energy efficient model is the best investment I can make to lower my energy bill.

Answer to the Myth: Not necessarily. People often assume that if their windows are drafty, they must be in need of replacement. A draft felt near a window is often the result of air falling after contacting a cold surface (the window glass). The phenomenon is called a convective loop and can fool you into thinking your windows are leaky.

According to Lightly Treading, Inc., window replacement is rarely the first thing that a home energy auditor would recommend after assessing a home and its energy use. Usually, there are several cost-effective measures to take before making a major investment in replacing windows.

There are good reasons to replace windows, such as aesthetics or security and, when you’re ready, replace them with the most energy efficient ones you can afford.

Myth #4: It takes a lot of energy to turn on a light bulb. Therefore, you should keep lights on you use most often.

Answer to the Myth. False. This myth comes from the idea that when you turn on an electric device, a surge of power is needed. The MythBusters, episode 69, calculated the power surge from turning on a CFL, LED or an incandescent light would only consume as much power as leaving it on for a fraction of a second. Additionally, turning a light on and off repeatedly doesn’t significantly reduce the bulb’s total life span. Therefore, on this one, your parents were right, it is far more economical to turn a light off when you leave a room.

I hope you found this list of energy myths helpful. In a future issue, we’ll conquer Roswell, NYC sewer gators and the dangers of swallowing a watermelon seed.

Article by Mary Lalone, appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.

Have any Question or Comment?

5 comments on “Debunking Energy Myths

Thanks for clearing some of these myths up, particularly about turning lights on and off. I know now to turn them off whenever possible.

These are great Mythbusting facts! I have always thought that if there is a draft coming from my window it is because there is a leak! Does this mean that closing the curtains or the blinds is the best way to stop a “draft”?

Craig C.

“Additionally, turning a light on and off repeatedly doesn’t significantly reduce the bulb’s total life span.”

A lot of good stuff in these myths, however, I would like to see or read more conclusive evidence of that assumption under myth #4 as far as a blanket statement seemingly covering all bulbs. This may be true of most incandescent bulbs, LED bulbs, as well as the newest energy efficient bulb, the Electron Stimulated Luminescent or ESL bulb (here), but not for one of the most popular energy efficient bulb types purchased today.

As far as I know personally, in both using many different brands of the product over quite a few years, as well as the majority of information gleamed from many various & fairly reliable internet resources, compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs DO NOT like to be turned On/Off too frequently, and they do suffer, many times very significantly, in a reduction of the CFL bulb’s life when subjected to frequent & shortened On/Off cycles.

Even the US Department of Energy has suggested not to flip the switch too often or too quickly on Fluorescent/CFL bulbs

Replacing my windows with a more energy efficient model is the best investment I can make to lower my energy bill.

I can see why people may initially think this is a good idea, although as you mention there are really far better ways to become more energy efficient. Would love to hear your thoughts on the efficiency of solar power (applies more to the UK at the moment due to government payments)?


Joe Jackson

Great article, some amazing tips there I was unaware of especially myth 3 with the windows

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