We’ve all heard energy saving ‘tips’ from friends and family like: “it’s bad to open the window whilst the heating is on” to “screensavers save energy”. Whilst many of these ‘tips’ are widely believed – not all of them are true.
In this article we will debunk a few of the most common energy saving myths and find out which ones are actually true.
“It’s bad to open the window when the heating is on”
When you were a child you probably heard your parents say something to the effect of “we’re not paying to heat the whole street” – but leaving the windows closed and the heating on for too long can have a number of drawbacks. Firstly, it can make the indoor air feel stuffy, which can leave your skin and sinuses uncomfortably dry and may even result in nosebleeds, headaches and migraines, in more extreme cases.
Whilst it is true that it’s not a great idea to leave the window open for a long period of time when the heating is on, keeping them shut can reduce ventilation. This can cause damp, mould and rot. To prevent this, you could try to open the window for 10 minutes a day during the winter months.
“Screensavers save energy”
Remember the screensavers of the 90’s that looked like you were flying through space? Back when computers were starting to become regular household items and loading a webpage took 15 minutes.
Ever since those days it has become a wide belief that screensavers save energy – “it’s in the name right?”.
However, this is actually an outdated concept and does not apply to modern computers. Screensavers are a left over solution from the computers of old. Way back, computers used (cathode ray tube) CRT screens, which used phosphorous to produce light. These monitors had a problem known as ‘burn in’, which meant that any image that was left on the screen for too long was ‘burnt into’ the screen, leaving a ghost image long after it had been turned off. This technology was similar to old Polaroid cameras that burnt an image onto photo paper.
Screensavers came about as a solution to this old world problem – the idea was that if the image on the screen was moving then it would prevent ‘burn in’. So screensaver actually means to save your screen from ‘burn in’ damage – not to save energy.
As most modern computer screens are LED now, this is not a problem anymore. Screensavers are actually just as wasteful as any other computer program – to save energy try using hibernation mode on your computer.
“LED bulbs are more expensive than energy saving lightbulbs”
When compared side by side in a shop – then yes, LEDs are more expensive. However they can last up to 8x longer than a CFL (energy saving lightbulb) and they use 90% less energy. So they can be a worthwhile investment.
“Dishwashers are bad for the environment”
Dishwashers often get a bad reputation as they are lumped in with tumble dryers. However, whilst many tumble dryers are energy guzzlers – a lot of dishwashers aren’t that bad.
Some dishwashers are even ‘greener’ than hand washing! Many dishwashers don’t use that much energy as long as you use them efficiently. To maximise a dishwasher’s efficiency you could make sure that the machine is always fully loaded and stacked properly so that every plate and glass is accessible by the jets. Just be careful not to overfill it: if you stack your dishwasher to the roof then the jets might not be able to reach everything and your dishes could still be dirty (which is definitely not energy efficient).
Also, many dishwashers come with an ‘eco’ setting which can be a good option. Failing that, you could turn the temperature down by a few degrees to save energy.
“Electrical appliances don’t use electricity if they’re not being used”
Many modern appliances are designed to be as energy efficient as possible, but some electrical appliances draw energy even when they’re not being used. One of the worst culprits is the phone charger which can cost you up to £80 extra a year in ‘vampire energy’ (energy that is being sucked up when the phone isn’t charging). To prevent this, simply turn the switch off at the wall – or you could invest in energy saving plugs.
“Electric space heaters save money”
It’s not surprising that this myth has circulated when you think about the modern day mantra of “use only what you need”. The idea of only heating the one room that you’re using, instead of heating your whole house seems like a very savvy one.
However, space heaters can be a massive drain on energy. Using two space heaters can use as much energy as heating your entire house using radiators. When used in conjunction with insulated rooms for only a brief time they can be economic, but if you’re not using them in these specific circumstances – it can be better to use your boiler.
As an alternative to space heaters, you could try simply turning off the radiators that aren’t being used.
“It’s better to leave lights on, than waste power turning them off and on again”
This is a pretty old myth that some people still believe. You may have heard your Dad say: “turning them off and on sparks an electric surge which uses more power than just leaving the lights on”, but it’s simply not true. There is no significant power draw at all, even if you’re only leaving the room for 10 minutes you should try to remember to turn the lights off.
“Turning the thermostat up will heat the home faster”
Picture this: you’ve just gotten home after a long day at work, it’s a cold winter’s day so you crank the thermostat up, because on full blast it’ll surely heat the home faster right? Wrong. Regardless of what temperature the thermostat is set at, it will still take the same time for the boiler to heat up the whole house. So you may as well set the thermostat to the temperature you want it at.
Alternatively, you could buy a smart thermostat and heat your home remotely using a mobile app whilst on the commute home.
“Turning the heating down at night doesn’t save any energy because you’ll have to warm it up again in the morning”
It actually takes less energy to warm up a home than it does to maintain a constant temperature through the night.
Therefore turning your heating down on a night is the more cost effective solution.