What are the Top 8 Energy Efficiency Myths?

Debunking the False Stories and Exploring the Real Answers

We talk a lot about energy efficiency at Vista because it’s one of the best ways to help you decrease your energy bills. But through our research, we’ve seen far too many unhelpful and downright false statements about energy efficiency. In fact, some are so wrong that they can even drive up your energy usage, despite whatever these myths claim you might save.

So, we wanted to share the 8 most common energy efficiency myths we’ve discovered, and we’ll follow it up with how you can actually save with a related tip.

#1 - Fans cool the home.

We see this one all over the place, and it’s supremely misleading. Here’s the truth: fans don’t cool homes – they cool people. They accomplish this by circulating air around the room, which cools down the skin of people in that room. But that’s it. The fan itself doesn’t generate cool air; it just pushes it around.

But fans be helpful with overall energy efficiency and lowering your energy usage. By cooling people’s skin through air circulation, you can set your thermostat at a slightly higher temperature. Combine this with turning off that fan when people aren’t in the room, and you have a good start to lowering your cooling bills.

#2 Leaving lights on uses less energy than turning them on and off several times.

The persistence of this myth lies in its assertion that flipping on the switch jolts your electrical system with a burst of high energy. While it’s true that turning on a light does send a higher current through the system than the light being on, that dose of increased current lasts for a brief moment. Even if you flip a switch on and off several times throughout the day, that short spurt is nothing compared to the sustained usage of keeping a list on consistently.

In short, turn off the lights in rooms you don’t use. It might not be lots of light compared to truly high-usage appliances in your home, but you’re still wasting energy keeping all the lights on across your home when the family is watching television in just one room.

#3 Turning off appliances and electronics is good enough.

While this myth was reality a few decades ago, unfortunately, it simply isn’t the case any longer. All the fancy technology in our homes relies upon “standby power” – it’s how those devices know to respond to our remote controls when we click the power button. As in, if you walked up to your television, DVD player, console gaming system, or something of the sort, you’ll probably see a solitary red light looking back at you. That’s the sign that device is using power.

To truly save energy regarding your electronics, they need to be completely disconnected from power, whether unplugged from the wall directly or by clicking off the power strip that hold the plugs of several devices.

#4 Maxing out the thermostat will heat or cool your home faster.

You think this would make sense, right? You want to cool or heat your home significantly (depending upon the season), so you set your thermostat to an extreme temperature will get your home to the temperature you want faster. Sadly, that’s simply not how thermostats and HVAC systems work – they heat and cool at the same speed, no matter the setting you choose. There is no way to magically increase the heating or cooling rate, so this myth can drastically increase your energy usage as it tries to reach that faraway setting.

The most effective way to heat or cool your home to a desired setting – especially when you’ve been out of the house for a while – is to install a smart thermostat and program it to start progressing toward a reasonable setting 30 minutes before you arrive home. That way, your home will be at a pleasant temperature when you walk in the door, and the HVAC unit can cycle off for a bit.

#5 Closing vents in unused rooms saves energy.

Here’s another myth that appears logical on the surface. This one claims to help your HVAC unit operate more effectively by keeping the air flowing only to rooms that receive regular use. However, the ductwork paths for your HVAC system were set up in your home for a reason.

You need air flowing through your home in through all the ducts, because when you restrict access and flow, you’re pushing more air than necessary through the vents that are open. This increases the air pressure in your home, causing your HVAC to work even harder – and that will always lead to higher energy bills.

Instead of cutting off air flow into rooms of your home, we recommend having an HVAC professional inspect your unit and your duct work to ensure that your entire system is working effectively and efficiently as possible. That’s how you lower your heating and cooling costs.

#6 Using a fireplace will lower your heating costs.

Yes, sure – sitting around the fireplace on a cold night might feel cozy and possibly romantic, but it is not energy efficient. Unless you’ve installed a super-efficient, new-school wood-burning stove (and even that’s debatable), using your fireplace will not help you use less energy heating your home. With all the particulate matter and harmful gases released into your home via that fired, it also might prove to be a safety hazard in certain situations.

We recommend having your furnace inspected before winter arrives so you can be sure everything is in good working order. And since we’d never want to deprive you of the occasional evening using your nice fireplace, you should have a professional chimney sweep clean out your chimney and conduct a proper fireplace inspection before the first time you use your fireplace each season.

#7 Space heaters will lower my heating costs.

No. Just no. Yes, using a space heater seems like a good idea – especially since the new models include all sorts of safety features – but the science behind them means you’re using energy quite inefficiently. Any space heater powerful to heat up more than one room is going to generate lots of energy usage. And even if you turn off your furnace entirely and drag a single space heater into whatever room you’re in, the energy usage involved is simply wasteful.

Like #6 above, if you’re concerned about your furnace not heating your home effectively, get it inspected before the cold weather arrives.

#8 Handwashing your dishes is better than a dishwasher.

There was a time when this myth might have been reality, but even environmental advocates can point to studies and research that show how wasteful washing by hand really can be. If you have a dishwasher with any sort of efficiency setting, it will waste less water – and energy to heat the water – than you will when handwashing your dishes, even if you’re super-careful about how much water you do run from your tap.

We truly believe that practicing effective energy efficiency is a key driver in lowering your overall energy usage. By avoiding these myths and finding better methods for using energy, this can subsequently help lower your energy bills.

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