As with many cultural trends, home energy has had its fair share in the public eye. From carbon footprints, to solar paneling, to the recent occasionally apocalyptic predictions surrounding climate change, today’s consumers are more environmentally conscious than previous generations. With such awareness, more information (and misinformation) has been circulated about energy in the home. From cleaning methods to light bulb types, contradictory messages based on little other than word-of-mouth or dodgy internet articles need to be addressed. Here is a glimpse into six of the most pervasive home energy myths:
Myth #1: Hand Washing Dishes
For some reason, the myth that washing dishes by hand is more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient still persists. The logic is understandable if you’re incredibly frugal with the amount of hot water you use. However, if the dishes are greasy, or if you’ve just finished off the last of the spaghetti bolognese and have a stack of red-stained pots and pans, you’ll generally find that you need to change the dish water two or three times. This is so the hand-washed dishes don’t have that horrible residue that allows you to smear your fingerprint all over it!
Hence, washing dishes by hand quite often uses just as much energy as loading the dishwasher. Modern dishwashers often include options for different sizes of loads and a variety of cycles according to how stained the dishes are. Energy-efficient dishwashers that allow you to customize the dishwashing load in this manner can often end up using less energy than washing by hand.
Myth #2: Keep Lights Switched On
This one seems utterly illogical, but you’d be surprised how many people believe that keeping a light switched on continuously uses less energy than switching it on and off. It is not known where this particular myth stemmed from, but the idea consists of believing that the energy used in flicking the light switch exceeds that of keeping a light bulb burning twenty four hours a day. In most cases, the energy required to switch any device on or off is much less than the energy consumed by keeping it turned on.
Myth #3: Dangerous Mercury in Lightbulbs
Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) are known for their energy efficiency. The standard lifespan of a CFL bulb can be anywhere from five to sixteen thousand hours. It’s no secret that CFL bulbs last much longer than their predecessor, the incandescent bulb, which has a lifespan determined by voltage. In other words, the brighter an incandescent bulb is, the faster it will burn out.
The myth in respect to CFLs and incandescent bulbs is concerned not with lifespan, but with the presence of mercury in CFLs. It is a widespread belief that CFLs are more dangerous than traditional bulbs because they contain mercury. While it is true that CFLs contain mercury, it is a myth that this makes them more dangerous. First, the mercury inside a CFL is only released into the atmosphere if the bulb is broken. Second, all light bulbs release mercury into the atmosphere when they generate electricity! In fact, over its lifetime, a CFL will emit less mercury than an incandescent bulb.
The myth that CFLs are more dangerous simply because they contain mercury is nonsensical, particularly when you realize that it not the presence of the mercury that matters; it is how much actually gets released into the environment. In this sense, the myth should be turned completely upside down in order to circulate the truth: traditional light bulbs are more harmful to the environment in regards to mercury emissions.
Myth #4: Thermostat Efficiency
It is commonly thought that a thermostat has some sort of mind of its own and can instinctively choose to work harder, or slow down the pace. Quite often, people buy into the myth that adjusting the temperature of a thermostat to higher and lower than the required one will make it reach its goal faster. For example, if the desired temperature is 70 degrees F, some people think that raising the switch up to 80 degrees will cause the thermostat to reach 70 degrees more quickly. Similarly, setting it to a lower temperature than required will put the thermostat into ‘get-cold-fast’ mode and allow it to reach the cooler temperature much faster.
The reality is, heating and cooling systems alike work at the same constant speed regardless of the required temperature or setting. Your house will get warm or cold just as quickly if you set it to the temperature you want it at; not ten or twenty degrees higher or lower! In fact, messing around with the thermostat this way will waste more energy as the system strives to reach the higher or lower temperature you set. Unless you stand and watch, and somehow test that the temperature meets your requirement, chances are that your home will reach the higher temperature setting, using up unnecessary energy unnecessarily.
There are ways you can boost energy efficiency in your home that are determined by your heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) system. This is a home energy reality and not a home energy myth. Having your HVAC regularly maintained by a HVAC professional will not only make your home more energy efficient, and it will likely reduce your energy bills. HVAC systems have over one hundred components, and the wear and tear of these components can degrade the energy efficiency of the entire system. Scheduling regular maintenance of your HVAC system not only ensures your living environment is consistently comfortable; it is also better for the environment. To learn how to boost efficiency this summer, check out our blog 5 Ways to Cut Your AC Bill This Summer.
Myth #5: Standby Power
It is a common home energy myth that electrical appliances that have a standby mode don’t use electricity. Televisions and computers are the most common types of electrical appliance that contribute to this myth. A computer’s standby mode is better known as its ‘sleep’ or ‘hibernation’ mode. We all know someone who thinks that switching off the TV using the remote control’s power button turns it off completely. This is certainly a stubborn myth that continues to deceive naive consumers.
The reality of standby power modes is that the device in question continues to use electricity even when it appears to be switched off. If you see any kind of light near the TV or computer screen, it’s still on. Sure, it doesn’t use nearly as much electricity as when it’s technically ‘on’, but why allow this myth to continue when having appliances in standby mode wastes home energy?
Myth #6: Switched Off is Off
A close relative of the ‘standby-means-off’ myth is the ‘switched-off-is-off’ myth. It wouldn’t be surprising to find out that this is the most common home energy myth of all. You might be shocked at this, but anything plugged in uses electricity. This is particularly true throughout America and right here in Maryland, where you don’t often see on/off switches at the socket. A lot of European countries have switches directly on the socket that can be turned on and off in order to control electricity flow. However, we find these exceedingly rare in Maryland and Washington DC. Therefore, anything that is plugged into the wall is using electricity.
Don’t Be Fooled
Home energy myths still manage to convince even the most intelligent person of their reality. Don’t let all of the trendy energy-saving tricks and tips shared by friends and colleagues fool you. They’re only helping to circulate the endless cycle of inaccurate information about energy efficiency in the home. But not to worry, now you are prepared with the truth of how to truly maintain your home the most efficiently possible