Home Energy Myths Busted!

December 04, 2009

Many of us are looking for ways to be more energy efficient around our homes in addition to saving money on utility bills.  With this increased concern for energy conservation and cost cutting, a lot of tips are circulating on how to accomplish this.  Some of these tips date back to what our grandparents told us to do.  These myths are so ingrained in us because we were told by so and so that we don’t even realize they may actually be having the opposite affect … wasting energy and costing money!  

Below is a list of myths and the actual facts behind them.

Myth:  Closing off vents and registers will reduce your heating costs.

Fact:  In a modern forced air heating system, the pressure load is balanced throughout your home.  Blocking the vent will impact how the system inhales and exhales air; it can throw the system out of balance, causing it to have to work harder or even break down.  The most energy efficient practice you can do is to have heat evenly distributed throughout your home.  Blocking vents in certain rooms will make those rooms colder.  Because heat moves from greater concentrations to lesser concentrations, the colder rooms will draw heat from the other rooms in the house, making the whole house feel colder and causing you to raise the thermostat. 

Myth:  Fluorescent lighting is unhealthy.

Fact:  Fluorescent lighting has changed a lot in the past few years.  Today they have greatly improved color quality and that annoying flicker and hum have been eliminated from fluorescent lighting.  Because they require less electricity, they generate less power plant pollution, which has many known health effects.  Fluorescent lights do contain small amounts of mercury and must be disposed of properly.  The claim of fluorescent lights “sapping people’s vitamins” and the like have no basis in fact.

Myth:  Leaving a ceiling fan on will cool a room … even when you’re not there.

Fact:  Fans cool your skin, not the air; they do not lower room temperature.  A fan works by circulating the air in a space; when the air moves across the skin, we feel cooler even though the air temperature in the room remains the same.  If a fan runs in a room when no one is there, no one is feeling its benefits.  So it’s just wasting electricity.

Myth:  Duct tape is good for sealing ducts.

Fact:  Although duct tape has many good uses, it actually does a pretty lousy job of sealing ducts (contrary to its name).  It doesn’t work well in dusty or dirty conditions (you can’t get any dirtier or dustier than an air duct!).  Also, the tape tends to fall off as it ages and the adhesive dries out.  Mastic tape sticks, seals and insulates much better.

Myth:  The higher you set your thermostat; the faster your furnace will heat up your home.

Fact:  Furnaces will deliver heat at the same rate no matter how high the temperature is set.   If you set your thermostat at the desired temperature, it will reach that point just as quickly as if you set it higher.  Since you’ll probably end up having to move the temperature down a few degrees anyway, you’ll wind up using more energy than you intended in the long run.

Myth:  There is no benefit in adjusting your thermostat when you don’t need heating or cooling, such as at night or when nobody’s home.

Fact:  Research shows that the longer your house stays at a reduced temperature when heating or at an increased temperature when cooling, the more energy and money you will save.  This is because heating and cooling cost depends mostly on the difference between indoor and outdoor temperature.  When you adjust the temperature down in the winter or up in the summer, you simply reduce this temperature difference.  In fact, setting your temperature back 10 or more degrees for 8 hours while you sleep or go to work can reduce your energy bill by 5-15%.  A programmable thermostat can adjust temperatures automatically for you.

Myth:  Leaving lights, computers and appliances on uses less energy than turning them off and on repeatedly and makes them last longer.

Fact:  The small surge of power created when lights, computers or appliances are turned on is infinitely smaller than the energy used by running the device when it’s not needed.  Rule of thumb: any time you can turn a device off, it will save money.

Myth:  A dripping faucet is not a big deal.

Fact:  Not true!  Put a bucket underneath and see how quickly those drips add up.  A single dripping faucet can add up to 300 or more gallons of water per month.  That’s a big chunk on your water bill.


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Last Updated: June 07, 2024