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Top 10 Home Energy Myths

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Some ideas are so widely held they appear to bear little scrutiny or even a second thought. While often factual, such common wisdom may be based on outdated or false information. Widespread misconceptions about home energy use can increase energy bills and lead to unnecessary maintenance and reduced comfort. Here are 10 common energy myths that may be costing you:

  1. Setting the thermostat higher or lower will heat or cool your home faster. Furnaces and air conditioners work at the same speed, no matter what the thermostat setting. In fact, more energy may be wasted as the system continues to run to reach the further set point.
  2. Energy efficiency and energy conservation are the same things. Efficiency is using less energy to do the same thing. For example, CFLs can light your home more efficiently than conventional incandescent bulbs. Conservation is reducing your need for energy by changing your behavior, such as setting your thermostat lower.
  3. When an appliance is turned off, it's off. Many appliances and electronic devices continue to use power after they have been turned off—sometimes as much as when they are on. This is known as phantom load. The best way to stop the drain of power from these devices is to unplug them.
  4. Leaving lights on uses less energy than turning them on and off. In most cases, the small surge of power needed to turn a light on is much less than the power that is wasted by leaving it on when it's not needed.
  5. Duct tape is good for sealing ducts. Despite its name, duct tape doesn't work well as a duct sealant. It will dry out over time and wrinkle. Mastic tape is a better choice.
  6. CFLs are more harmful to the environment than traditional bulbs. CFLs do contain a trace amount of mercury; a hazardous substance emitted into the atmosphere when the bulb is broken. However, CFLs use far less energy than incandescent bulbs, helping to reduce mercury emissions resulting from the generation of electricity. A 60-watt incandescent bulb will produce nearly 6 milligrams of mercury emissions during its lifetime while a comparable CFL will yield less than 2.
  7. A higher efficiency air conditioner or furnace will automatically reduce energy bills. This is true to an extent, but proper sizing and installation are necessary to optimize savings. An efficient, but oversized, system may negate much of the potential savings, while a poorly designed duct system will waste energy. Windows, doors and insulation also affect system efficiency.
  8. Dimming lights by 50 percent will cut lighting costs in half. In reality, the relationship is not quite as direct as that, and the savings may be less than expected. Dimmed lights do use less power, but when lights are dimmed, the voltage drops and the filament becomes cooler, reducing efficiency.
  9. Closing off vents will reduce heating and cooling costs. Closing vents is not a good way to save on energy costs. Heating and cooling systems are designed to distribute air evenly; closing vents throws the system off balance. This causes pressure to build up, resulting in duct leaks that waste energy. 
  10. Leaving a ceiling fan on will cool a room. Ceiling fans circulate air making your skin feel cooler. This allows you to save energy by raising the thermostat. However, they don't cool the air. Leaving them on in empty rooms wastes energy. 
Knowing the facts about energy use can help you save money and stay comfortable. Search the Energy Library for information on how to make your home more energy efficient.


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