Home > Efficiency > Energy Wise Tips > April 2014

April 2014 EnergyWiseSM Tip: Energy Myths

Electric utility companies hear quite a few well meaning, but often incorrect, energy-related “beliefs” which reveal a basic misunderstanding regarding energy use and savings. While some may seem logical, the majority yield little, if any, energy savings and often end up costing customers additional time, effort and money. Here is a quick list of the more common erroneous energy “untruisms”:

Turning the thermostat down/up beyond your intended final setting warms/cools your home faster. Heating and cooling (HVAC) systems operate with a maximum capacity. When the thermostat is cranked up or down, they operate at that capacity until the thermostat’s setpoint is reached. If the thermostat is turned beyond the reasonable or comfortable temperature, energy waste will likely occur. In fact, many heat pump systems will revert to their more-expensive auxiliary heat if the warmer setpoint temperature is not achieved in a given amount of time.

Turning down/up thermostat farther makes unit work harder. Again, HVAC systems operate with a limited capacity. The further the new setpoint is from the actual temperature, rather than working “harder,” the system simply will operate longer and use more energy.

Turning lights “off” when you leave the room and back “on” when returning takes more energy than just leaving them on. The small surge of power created when fluorescent lights are turned on is vastly smaller than the energy used by leaving them on when they are not needed. Leaving an incandescent light on actually uses more energy than turning it off and on as needed. However, If you are using compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), they should be left on if light will be needed again within five minutes. Turning CFLs on and off frequently can shorten the life of the bulb.

Closing off rooms saves lots of energy. If your home has a central HVAC system, most rooms that would be closed off will still have space conditioning running into them if the ductwork to that room is not sealed off. Even without central HVAC, walls and doorways outside the closed off room will now become colder or warmer, which will offset some of the energy savings you are trying to achieve.

Doubling insulation will cut heating or cooling costs in half. Though adding insulation to your home is often the most economical improvement you could make, there is a point beyond which you can spend more on materials than you will recover in lower energy bills. The tipping point varies depending on where you live.

New windows will quickly pay for themselves with energy savings. New windows can save energy, but they are quite expensive in comparison to the energy costs they save. Recouping the investment through lower bills could take up to 40 years. Less expensive options are caulking, window film or screen, and drapes, blinds and awnings.

Washing dishes by hand uses less energy than running a dishwasher. Compared to hand washing, an ENERGY STAR® dishwasher can save $430 in water and energy costs over its life. To maximize dishwasher savings, scrape plates instead of rinsing them and turn off the heat-dry feature. Ceiling fans keep rooms cooler when you are not there. Fans do not chill air. They merely circulate it producing greater comfort for occupants. That takes energy. If no one is there, what is the point? Turn your ceiling fans off when you leave a room.

Buying an efficient air conditioner or furnace will automatically reduce your utility bill. This is true to some extent, but you will not realize all the possible savings if the equipment is not sized or installed properly. Studies have shown that typical air conditioner and duct systems are improperly installed and waste up to one third energy used for space conditioning.

Duct tape is good for sealing ducts. Duct tape has very low durability when used to seal ducts. Tape may fall off due to poor surface preparation, because ducts are often installed in dirty and dusty locations. As it ages, the tape’s adhesive dries out and no longer seals, sometimes within a few months. Use mastic or aluminum foil tape instead.

A furnace filter is a furnace filter. Type and quality can vary significantly. The cheapest are usually inch-thick fiberglass pads with so much space between fibers that you can almost see through to the other side. These filters do virtually nothing to stop tiny particles, but they are effective at blocking larger particles that could harm the furnace. Over time, little particles will slip through and deposit on the air conditioning coil. Cleaning them off will usually require hiring an HVAC technician to perform the task. Instead, buy a better filter, such as the pleated types, look at it monthly, and plan to change it at least every season if you have a system that runs year-round.

A few air leaks and drafts do not cost much in energy dollars. Air infiltration can account for 30 percent or more of a home’s heating and cooling costs. Seal around windows, doors, skylights, electrical outlets, walls, floors and the roof. In fact, caulking around leaky windows is often the quickest, easiest, and least expensive way to achieve energy savings in your home Your local utility and Nebraska Public Power District want to help you make the most of the energy they provide you. That includes dispelling some of the misperceptions of how energy is used and can be saved. For more ideas on how you can make your home EnergyWiseSM, contact your local utility or visit www.nppd.com.