Common Energy Efficiency Myths Debunked
March 24, 2017
April Fools’ Day isn’t the only time when you should be wary of hoaxes and untruths. Don’t be fooled by these home energy and energy efficiency myths!
Home Energy Efficiency Myths
1. You don’t need ceiling fans if you have an air conditioning system.
Unfortunately, many people believe that you don’t need fans if you have an air conditioning system. This is just not true. There are many ceiling fan benefits for homeowners with central HVAC systems.
First of all, they can be used to supplement both heating and cooling. With a ceiling fan, you can turn off your A/C or set it 2-4 degrees warmer without feeling any difference in comfort. Stagnant air also plays a role in how comfortable you feel. With constantly circulating air, you’ll feel more comfortable.
In the late fall and winter, ceiling fans can also help you feel warmer. Simply flip the little black switch on the base of your ceiling fan to reverse the blade’s direction and create an updraft. Since warm air rises, this moves the warmer air near the ceiling down to the living spaces below.
While HVAC systems can cost dollars to run per hour, your ceiling fan only costs cents per hour. Just remember that fans cool people, they don’t actually lower the temperature inside the home. So turn off all fans before you leave the room so you aren’t wasting any energy, even if it is only a couple cents per hour.
2. Energy efficiency and energy conservation are the same thing
The words efficient and conservation are often used interchangeably, but they mean two different things. Efficiency means doing the same job with less energy (or water, if we’re talking about water efficiency). Conservation means reducing the demand of things that require energy.
For example, turning your thermostat down in the winter is energy conservation. Buying a new heating system that uses a lot less energy is energy efficiency. Conservation tends to be behavior-based, while efficiency tends to be product-based.
Both energy conservation and energy efficiency are important for reducing our home energy use. Speak with your local HVAC technician about different ways to improve energy efficiency around the home, such as air sealing, duct sealing, and insulation.
3. The higher or lower you turn your thermostat, the faster your HVAC system will work to heat or cool your home.
Cranking the thermostat way up or way down only wastes energy and increases heating and cooling costs.
Regardless of your thermostat setting, the HVAC system outputs the same amount of heating or cooling. The only difference is the length of time your HVAC system is on. If you set your thermostat to 98 degrees, it won’t operate any harder or faster, it will just stay on as long as it needs to hit the desired temperature.
Here are some tips for speeding up your indoor comfort:
- Set your thermostat to the temperature that you desire.
- Ceiling fans can be used to save money and energy in the summer and the winter. When the temperatures begin to drop, switch the little black switch at the base of your ceiling fan to revere the direction of the fan’s blades. This creates an updraft that helps move the warm air near the ceiling down to the living spaces below.
- Keep lamps and any heat-producing appliances away from your thermostat. You also want to make sure it’s away from sunlight and anything else that can cause false readings. Don’t “fool” your thermostat into running the air conditioning system longer than necessary.
- Open up your blinds and drapes during the daytime to allow heat-producing solar rays into the home. Close all windows, drapes, and curtains at night to help insulate your windows from the cold.
4. When I turn my appliances and electronics off, I’m not using any energy.
Even when appliances, electronics, and computers are turned off, they are still drawing energy from the electrical outlet. The only way to prevent this “vampire energy” is by:
- Unplugging the device from the wall
- Plugging the device into a power strip/surge protector and switching it off when products are not in use
- Consider purchasing “smart” power strips (a.k.a. advanced power strips (APS)), which detects any unused electronics and turns them off when they are not being used.
There are various types of APS available for different needs, so check out the infographic developed by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory for more information about APS functionality and all of the different types that are available to help you save energy.
5. Buying an energy-efficient HVAC system will automatically lower my energy bills.
Yes, this is probably true, but unfortunately it all depends on who installed your system and how they did it. According to ENERGY STAR, over half of all new HVAC systems are improperly installed. This is mostly due to improper sizing, the most common problem we see in new HVAC installations.
While many HVAC technicians will simply replace your existing system with a similarly sized one, this is actually the complete wrong way to do it. The proper way to install the correct HVAC system is to measure the entire home and examine the current HVAC and duct system. This thorough investigation should happen before any upfront prices are offered.
If you are replacing your air conditioner, make sure you have the right technician doing the installation. Even if you chose the most energy efficient system, you’ll want to make sure it is properly designed and installed to realize all of the proper savings. If you don’t have a qualified contractor do the installation, you may be voiding your manufacturer warranties.
For more information, learn how to tell if you need a new furnace and how to extend the lifespan of your current HVAC system.
6. Electric heating is cheaper than fuel-based heating.
While it may be true that electric-based heating uses all or most of its energy to produce heat, the process for creating electricity is pretty inefficient. Nearly 2/3 of the fuel used to produce electricity is lost in the process. This is the major reason why electricity is a much more inefficient heating method than fuel-based heating.
7. Saving money and energy requires expensive upgrades
There are many low and no-cost ways to save money and energy around the home. While replacing your low-efficiency HVAC system for a new high-efficiency one will drastically lower your energy bills, the simplest way to save is simply by turning your thermostat back or off.
Dress appropriately for the weather and try not to set your thermostat higher than 68 degrees in the winter and no lower than 78 degrees in the summer. Additionally, if you set your thermostat back 10-15° F while away from home or sleeping, “the family can save 5% to 15% a year on their heating bill — a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long” (EPA).
You can also save around 1% on your cooling costs by raising the thermostat 10-15° F while away from home or sleeping. The smaller the difference between the inside and outside temperatures, the greater your overall heating and cooling savings.
Use this schedule for help programming your thermostat:
Source: ENERGY STAR [pdf]
If you don’t have a programmable thermostat or need help troubleshooting an existing thermostat, don’t hesitate to contact us. Remember to pay attention to low-battery signs and replace thermostat batteries as necessary. Your HVAC system might not turn on if your thermostat needs batteries.
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