Energy Myth Busters

  1. You should leave the lights on because it takes more energy to turn them back on than you'll save by turning them off.  FALSE!
    Fluorescent lights do take a small surge of power when turned on, but this is significantly smaller than the amount saved by turning them off. It used to be that starting them shortened their life, but again this is not significant. It's always better to turn off modern lights if leaving for more than a minute.
  2. When I switch an appliance off, it might still be using electricity. TRUE!
    Many electronic appliances, such as TVs, DVDs, and microwave ovens draw a significant amount of "standby power." In the average home, 75% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while they are "off." Across the US, this equals the annual output of 12 power plants and costs over $1 billion each year.
    See: Tree Hugger TV
  3. Computers are more reliable and they last longer when they're left on all the time. FALSE!
    The theory was that thermal cycling, from powering computers up and down, stressed and broke the components. The fact is that thermal problems are usually from heat buildup and/or poor ventilation. In any case, it's always better to shut the machine down for energy, security, and operational reasons. Experts agree - shut it off when you leave for the day.
    See: Energy Star
  4. Turning the heat down at night doesn't save any energy because you just have to warm it up again. FALSE!
    It takes less energy to warm up a cold room in the morning than it does to maintain a constant temperature throughout the night.
    See: Turn down the thermostat at night?
  5. Windmills kill a significant number of birds, bats, and moths. FALSE!
    Wind energy's impact on birds is extremely low compared to buildings, car/truck traffic, and housecats. Burning fossil fuels creates air and water pollution that does far greater harm to wildlife and the environment.
    See: Technology Review
  6. Showering uses less energy than taking a bath. TRUE!
    Taking a 10-minute shower with a code-compliant low-flow (2.5 gallons per minute) shower head uses 25 gallons of water. A bath takes 30-50 gallons. There are high-quality shower heads that use 1.5 gallons per minute or less.
    See: Bricor Technologies
    See: How to Take a Green Shower
  7. Solar energy cannot serve any significant fraction of the country's electricity needs. FALSE!
    Installing photovoltaic panels to cover the 5 million acres of "brownfield"-abandoned industrial sites in US cities - could supply 90% of our current electricity use.
  8. Turning your car off uses less fuel and is easier on the components than letting it idle for two minutes, even in very cold weather.  TRUE!
    Idling for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting the engine. Excessive idling can cause incomplete combustion, harm cylinder walls, foul spark plugs, and corrode exhaust systems. Driving slowly is more effective at warming up a car than idling.
    See: Natural Resources Canada

For additional information on Myth Busters - See: Science Beat