We’ve all heard at least a gigawatt of different rules about energy use over the years. Turn it off, leave it on, open it up, shut it down – the list goes on.
With an ever-increasing number of energy-efficient products and new options to be considered, understanding which rules make sense for your modern home can be challenging.
Learning how to decrease utility bills is a balancing act, so being able to separate truth from fiction is a great starting point. We’ve collected five of the most common myths about home energy use, complete with practical solutions to help you save.
Myth #1: “Heating and AC are the biggest energy hogs in my home.”
This statement may have been true 20 years ago, but improvements in the efficiency of furnaces and AC units have dropped their consumption of energy from 58% in 1993 to just 48% today. In addition, the majority of that cost comes from heating your home, not cooling it, so Texas households fare even better, as we’re more prone to cranking our air conditioners, not using the heater.
So what’s the real culprit? You’re reading this article on one of them now: electronic devices. Computers, printers, gaming consoles, and gigantic-screen televisions — along with bigger, fancier appliances and the lighting needed for these bigger, fancier homes — are all powered by electricity. Using these items has pushed total consumption UP from 42% in 1993 to 52% today, and that consumption is predicted to keep growing.
There’s an easy solution for this, and it has to do with Myth #2.
Myth #2: “Leaving my computer in ‘sleep’ mode when I’m not using it saves electricity.”
Wake up! Computers left plugged in — even if they are suspended between awake and asleep — are sucking up an alarming amount of electricity. In fact, the same goes for most other electronic gadgets.
The best way to cut down on electric energy use for Myths #1 and #2 is to plug your electrical devices into a power strip. Then, when you’re not using them (especially at night), there’s just one switch to turn off.
It may take an extra minute to power up your computer again in the morning, but while you’re waiting, you can ponder what to do with all the money you’re saving.
Myth #3: “Closing vents in unused rooms will save money.”
It’s tempting to consider, and seems to make sense: close the vent in the guest room and the second den you only use for entertaining, and you’ll use less energy, right?
Nope. Closing vents changes how your HVAC system processes air flow. Essentially, it’s looking for “balance,” and a closed vent throws that balance off, which causes the system to work harder.
It’s better to keep the temperature at a comfortable level for daily use, and then adjust it slightly as needed for waking versus sleeping hours.
A somewhat related myth: “Ceiling fans keep rooms cooler.” Actually, ceiling fans keep the people in those rooms cooler by circulating air across their skin, but the temperature stays the same.
Myth #4: Setting the thermostat lower will cool your home faster.
It’s vacation time! You set the thermostat a little higher to save on energy while no one is home. Brilliant.
When you get back, you set the thermostat to just above freezing so the warm, stuffy air goes away faster. Not so brilliant.
It’s like an elevator. Repeatedly pressing the button isn’t going to make the elevator arrive faster. Thermostats tell the HVAC to cool (or heat) a home to a certain temperature, so setting it lower doesn’t affect the speed at which it cools.
Myth #5: To save a bunch of money on utility bills, spend a bunch of money on switching out your old windows for the new, energy-saving variety.
Yes, energy-efficient windows can help lower utility bills. If you’re building a new home, you should certainly consider double-pane, low-e windows.
But in older homes, the cost of changing out all your windows won’t equal the energy savings they provide for a long, long time. The fact is, even the most out-of-date windows will change your percentage of heat loss or gain by only about 15%.
Keep your old windows, implement the other solutions provided here, and you’ll get a lot bigger bang for your energy buck.
A helpful way to save and better understand your energy bill is by taking advantage of innovative products that help your save and better understand your usage. Direct Energy offers Free Power Weekends to all Texas customers. This plan does exactly what it says, you won’t be charged for the electricity supply you use from Friday at 6pm to 11:59pm on Sunday. That’s two hours more than our competitors, making it the energy plan with the most FREE weekend hours in Texas!
With Direct Energy’s Free Weekends Plan, customers who have high energy activities throughout the weekend have the greatest potential to see real savings, compared to what it would cost to do those activities during the rest of the week.
All customers who sign up with Direct Energy, will have access to a custom insight tool called Direct Your Energy. This tool personalizes your energy experience by providing you with insights into your home energy usage. You can see how much energy you used every day, and what that meant for your electricity bill, as well as which appliances in your home used the most energy.
Plus, the Direct Your Energy insights are sent straight to your inbox as Weekly Usage Summary e-mail. From week to week, you can see if your home’s electricity usage went up or down, and make necessary adjustments to help manage your costs.
http://www.eia.gov (specifically, see below)
Energy intensity changes are influenced by factors such as energy prices, shifts in household energy fuel sources, consumer preferences for increased comfort and entertainment options, and increasingly efficient technologies. Programs designed to increase the adoption of efficient technologies such as residential appliance standards, building codes, incentives, energy labeling (such as the voluntary ENERGY STAR® program), and other informational programs also work to decrease consumption. The gains from energy intensity improvements would have been even larger if it were not for consumer preferences for larger homes and increased adoption of home appliances and electronics. In this period, the average home size grew by about 20%. With increased square footage came adoption of more and larger devices such as more televisions with larger screens and new or expanding end uses such as computers, networking equipment, and home entertainment devices.