Trying to Save Energy? You're Doing It Wrong

A photograph of the author, Jason Woods.

By Jason Woods

March 7, 2019

Trying to Save Energy? You're Doing It Wrong

Cutting energy consumption is a worthy goal in a handful of ways: it could save you a little money, it’s less wasteful and it reduces the strain humans are putting on the environment.

So how does a responsible, good-intentioned person go about reducing energy consumption? As it turns out, saving energy isn’t always intuitive, and there are a lot of unhelpful misconceptions floating about.

But never fear, faithful reader, we’re here to start you down the right path. Here are six common energy myths, busted.

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MYTH: Idling your car saves energy.

The idea is that it takes more energy to start your car than it does to leave it running for a short while, but that’s only true for some vintage cars. If you’re going to be away from your car for more than 10 seconds, it’s best to go ahead and shut off your engine

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MYTH: The higher you set your thermostat, the faster your home will heat up.

Setting your thermostat to a higher temperature won’t heat your furnace faster. You’ll just end up with a house hotter than you want — and you’ll waste energy once you get uncomfortable and turn it back down.

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MYTH: You can keep a room cool by leaving the fan on.

Turning on a fan in the heat of the summer will certainly cool you down, but it doesn’t actually change the temperature of air in a room. If you leave your fan on when no one is in the room, you’re just wasting electricity.

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MYTH: Appliances don’t consume energy when they’re off.

If it’s plugged in, it’s likely using energy. Almost 25 percent of residential energy consumption in the United States comes from devices that are set to “off” but using energy so they can be immediately ready to use.

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MYTH: Handwashing dishes saves energy.

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MYTH: Leaving a light on is better than turning it off and on multiple times.

As with automobiles, turning on the lights just doesn’t take as much energy as many think. If you have fluorescent bulbs, estimates vary, but you should probably turn them off if you’re going to be gone from the room more than 5-15 minutes. If you have LEDs, turn the lights off every time you leave the room.