Energy Conservation Myths

Energy conservation plays an important role in sustainability. Sound conservation practices can go a long way to promoting a sustainable future. Unfortunately, some accepted practices have been proven to be myths. Penn State University has investigated some energy conservation practices and has found that many of them are not effective or are counterproductive.

Myth: Leaving fluorescent lights on uses less energy than turning them off and on repeatedly, and makes them last longer.

Fact: The energy surge that is created when some lights are turned on is smaller than the energy used by burning the lights when they are not needed. While it had been true that cycling fluorescent lights on and off significantly reduced their useful lifetimes, these problems have been largely overcome through better design. It is best to turn off the lights when they are not needed.


Myth: Keeping your thermostat at the same temperature day and night uses less energy than turning it down at night and heating your room up again in the morning.

Fact: It generally takes less energy to warm up a cold room in the morning than it does to maintain a constant temperature throughout the night.


Myth: The higher you set your heater's thermostat, the faster your room will warm up.

Fact: Setting the thermostat all the way up only wastes energy and increases heating costs. Most heating systems can create heat only at standard rates.

Tip: If you have reversible ceiling fans, set them in the winter to circulate the heated air collecting at the ceiling down towards the floor.

Myth: Setting your air-conditioner thermostat to its lowest setting when you start it will cool your room faster.

Fact: This won't cool any faster, but will just use more energy. As with heating systems, most air conditioning systems will cool only at standard rates.


Myth: It uses less energy to boil water if you start with hot water from the tap.

Fact: It uses the same amount of energy to bring water to 212 degrees Fahrenheit regardless of the energy's source. If water is preheated by the hot water heater, energy has already been used to increase its temperature (although there may be heat loss due to uninsulated pipes).


Myth: An efficient air conditioning or heating system will automatically reduce energy bills.

Fact: This is true to some extent, but all of the possible savings will not be achieved if the systems are not sized and operated appropriately. A high-efficiency system that is left on continuously will cost more to operate than a less-efficient system that is turned on only when necessary.

Tip: Use a programmable setback thermostat.

Myth: When my appliance is turned off, uses no energy.

Fact: Many devices continue to use energy when they're switched off, especially those that contain clocks. These products draw "ghost energy" or "standby power" 24 hours a day, often without the knowledge of the consumer.

Tip: Plug video monitors, cable boxes, computers VCRs and other devices into a multi-plug outlet that can be easily turned off with one switch.

Myth: Electric heating is more efficient than other oil or natural gas-based heating.

Fact: It is true that almost all of the electricity used by an electric heater is transformed to useful heat. However, as much as two-thirds of the input energy into making electricity (coal, natural gas, and so on) may be lost in the process.

Tip: Combustion appliances in the home must be installed and vented properly and must always have a continuous, reliable source of combustion air.

Myth: Every person can make a difference by doing their part to conserve energy.

Fact: This is true! Every little bit helps.

View five common energy saving myths.