Energy efficiency: it’s a goal that many people aim for. But with so much conflicting advice floating around, it’s hard to know if you’re hitting the mark or wasting your time. And sometimes, the wrong advice can actually end up costing you more money.
Choose Energy will help you separate fact from fiction, so you can lighten your carbon footprint instead of your wallet.
Myth #1: Energy efficiency costs more
Some people haven’t embraced energy efficiency because they think the practice will be expensive. “Many appliances and electronics have the Energy Star label, which means they are about 25% more energy efficient than a comparable alternative,” says Melissa Rappaport Schifman, editor and Sustainability Thought Leader at Rise. “These models do not cost more—the prices are more reflective of the quality, brand, size, etcetera.” She admits that more efficient lights, such as LEDs, cost more to purchase, but says that over the lifetime of the bulb, the cost is much cheaper than a comparable compact fluorescent or incandescent bulb.
This goes for LED fixtures too. According to John Hales, owner of Mr. Electric of Augusta, a Neighborly company, “The total cost of LED lighting over time can be significantly lower than conventional systems.” LED fixtures may also cost more to purchase, but Hales says they have a longer lifespan and use significantly less energy than alternative fixtures. “Annual lighting costs can be reduced by up to 80 percent [with LED fixtures], and payback on your investment can often be achieved in less than three years.”
Myth #2: Replacing light bulbs is the most important energy efficiency measure
Although switching to LED bulbs is a simple way to improve your home’s efficiency, you shouldn’t stop there. Schifman says energy efficiency experts advise home and business owners to start with replacing lighting because it’s easy. But, she says this is not where you will save the most energy (or money.) “Lighting can be about 10%-15% of total energy usage, so it does help reduce electricity consumption and save money, but energy needs for space heating, cooling and ventilating is a much larger component of energy usage—typically closer to 40%-50%, depending on climate.”
Barbara McGarity, green living expert at Renewable Green agrees. “Lighting is believed to be the largest source of energy consumption, but it pales in comparison to other energy users in the home – especially the expense of heating and cooling.
Myth #3: People can save big just by unplugging electronic devices
The idea that your idle electronic devices are consuming massive amounts of energy is simply not true. “A lot of energy efficiency tips focus on reducing plug loads, “phantom” loads, by recommending that homeowners purchase timers or go around unplugging devices,” Schifman says. “The truth is, when electronics are turned off, the plug load is so low, that it will make virtually no difference in energy reduction (the one exception to this is digital cable boxes, which do pull in a lot of power and waste energy).”
However, Hales says it’s important to remember that items with a power adapter, indicator light or standby function do suck up energy even when they’re turned out. “These energy vampires, even when turned off, are draining 5 percent or more of your power bill, and the typical cable box alone uses half the electricity of an Energy Star fridge.” He recommends plugging these items into a power strip so you can turn easily them all off when not in use.
Myth #4: It’s Cheaper to Heat/Cool an Empty House
Do you adjust your thermostat when you’re preparing to leave the house for the day? According to Nate Burlando, owner of Distinct HVAC, perhaps you shouldn’t. “Many people set their A/C unit on low throughout the day in order to save costs,” he says. “They assume having it on low helps keep a regular heat/cool temperature and therefore costs less to bring it to your preferred temperature when you arrive at home.” However, Burlando says this is the wrong approach.
“Leaving your unit on when you’re gone consumes just as much energy trying to maintain the temperature it’s programmed to be.” He says the more economical action is to turn off your unit when you don’t need it and turn it on when you do. “I recommend setting a timer to turn it on a few minutes before you return home, so you arrive at the perfect temperature without wasting energy during the day.”
This view is shared by Hales, who says the longer your heating or cooling system is turned off, the greater your savings will be. “Adjusting your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours a day can save you 5 to 15 percent per year on heating and cooling costs – 1 percent for each degree it’s set back.”
Myth #5: Your Windows are Enemy #1 for Temperature Loss
Some myths are based on theories that may have been true in the past – and the theory that most of your hot or cool air is going out the window falls into this category, according to Brian Gow, President of Scheel Window & Door. “I believe this was the case many years ago, when window technology was simple,” Gow says. “But now, most of your heat is lost due to poorly insulated roofs or walls, and a lot less is due to your windows, as we’ve improved window quality dramatically over the past 50 years.”
Merin Jay, a window cleaning expert at Top Window Cleaners, says we can only blame windows for approximately 10% of total heat loss. He believes that old windows should be replaced, but also recommends a more economical solution. “A great way to increase the energy efficiency of your windows is to clean them regularly.” If your windows are covered with dust and dirt, Jay says they will reduce the accumulation of solar heat inside your home or office. “This is vital in the colder weather because your utility bills are much higher than the rest of the year.”
While energy efficiency might seem complicated, Heather Eason, founder of Select Power Systems, believes a lot of it is simply remembering what your mother said about conserving energy when you were young. In case you forgot, Eason has provided a list to jog your memory:
- “Close the door, we are not cooling the neighborhood.”
- “Don’t stand there with the fridge door open trying to decide what to eat.”
- “Don’t run the dishwasher with one plate, fork, and cup.”
- “Turn off the lights when you leave a room.”
- “The dog does not need the fan left on when you leave.”
- “If you don’t use it every day, unplug it.”
- “Just put on a sweater if you’re cold.”
- “Don’t watch so much TV.”
One final tip for saving money on your energy bills? Switch to a deregulated energy plan with Choose Energy. Enter your ZIP code at the top of the page to shop rates available in your area today.