American residential energy costs have jumped from less than eight cents per kWh at the turn of the century to around 12 cents per kWh this year. With rates on the rise, it’s unsurprising that households want to cut their energy bills. But how do you do it? Read on to learn about common energy savings myths and how to really slash your utility bills.
1. Computer Screen Savers Save Energy
For decades, computer manufacturers have led us to believe that their screen saver modes saved energy. However, the colorful displays take power to run just like any other program.
To really save energy, disable the screen saver and set your computer to enter sleep mode after 10 to 15 minutes of inactivity. As a further energy-saving measure, set your monitor to turn off at the same interval.
Just remember that sleep mode isn’t a long-term solution. Leave your monitor and computer in this mode overnight and you’ll waste 12 watts of power. Remember to shut your computer down when you finish using it, or set it up to automatically shut down after it sits idle for a set time.
2. When Devices Are Off They Don’t Draw Power
This one is only true if you unplug your gadgets as well. Otherwise your devices will continue to draw what’s called vampire power. This is particularly true of appliances which enter stand-by mode, like televisions and microwaves. It’s no small matter either. Studies suggest “vampire power” accounts for 25 percent of American power bills.
To avoid vampire power draining your wallet, simply unplug each appliance when it’s not in use. Alternatively you could invest in a power strip which cleverly cuts power when you flick its switch.
3. Closing the Air Conditioning Vent Saves Energy
It seems logical that closing air conditioning vents in unoccupied rooms would cut your electricity prices. However, a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Labs actually found the opposite is true. Energy is consumed at the unit, rather than the vents, so closing your vents simply means the air works harder to escape. During winter, the extra air pressure can reduce air flow across the heat exchange coil and cause damaging compressor problems. In summer, pressurized cold air can create the kind of humid environment that’s the ideal breeding ground for mold and mildew.
Rather than closing vents, consider whether you really need to use your air conditioner. If you’re only using one room, adjusting your clothing or running a portable heater or fan may be enough to create a comfortable environment.
4. Using an Electric Space Heater is Economical
In some cases, it could makes sense to heat just the room you’re in rather than your entire house, but if you’re using power-hungry space heaters this often isn’t the case. That’s especially true if your home is powered by natural gas. Electricity costs between four and ten times more than gas, so running a couple of small heaters can actually cost as much as warming an entire home with gas.
Rather than using energy-guzzling space heaters, instead try lowering your thermostat a degree or two. You’ll barely notice the change, but it’ll make a significant difference to your power bill. If you do start to feel the chill, bringing out your winter woollies can warm you without piling onto your power bill.
5. Leaving a Light On Uses Less Power Than Switching It Off and On
This common myth assumes that a significant power draw occurs every time a light is switched on. While it was once true that turning lights on and off shortened their lifespan, in modern times the practice has no effect at all.
The best way to cut your energy costs is to simply turn lights off as you leave the room. A traditional light bulb uses 60 watts of energy each hour. This bulb consumes a kilowatt of energy every hour it’s on. That kilowatt costs around 12 cents. It sounds like a small amount, but if you leave just that single light bulb on for 16 hours a day all year you’ll pay $43.80. Leave multiple lights on and the numbers really start to add up.
If you are forgetful, it’s worth investing in an auto-sensor which will turn off your lights once you leave the room and turn them back on when you return.
So forget the myths and focus on the facts to cut your energy costs.