Energy adviser: Six energy myths debunked for 2014



Buried deep within every myth is a grain of fact. As a result, stories and half-truths are repeated so often, they take on a life of their own. Let’s look at a few such myths concerning energy.

Myth No. 1: Wall heaters and cable ceiling heat are inefficient. All electrical heaters use resistant heating. For every watt of electricity they consume, they produce a watt of heat. That’s 100 percent efficient. A heat pump, on the other hand, can be as much as 200 percent efficient — for every watt of electricity it consumes, it produces two watts of heat.

Myth No. 2: My appliances consume no energy when they are shut off. In the past, this might have been true. Now many appliances have “standby” modes so we can use them instantly. Any appliance awaiting your command uses electricity. Some use nearly as much when they are fully on. In addition, appliances with LED indicators or ones you turn on with a remote also consume a small amount of power all the time. So does that charger cable you’ve left plugged in the wall socket to recharge your smartphone or drill battery.

Myth No. 6: Heat rises. This myth confuses heat energy with heated air. Heat is a byproduct of other energies, chemical, electrical or mechanical, for example. Heat transfers from one object to another when the objects touch, and therefore heat moves in any direction. When you grab a hot iron skillet, the heat transfers to your hand; you get excited and pull your hand away.

Warm air rises because the air molecules touch a “hot” object (say a heater coil) that transfers heat to them. These “hot” molecules “vibrate,” expand slightly and move faster. Fewer of these “vibrating” molecules fit into a cubic inch. This means they take up slightly more space, which makes them more buoyant than cooler molecules. Being lighter, they bubble up through the cold air, eventually floating above it. The cold air molecules are heavier and smaller so more of them fit into a cubic inch of space, making them denser. Gravity also exerts a greater pull on cold air molecules and they “fall.”

Myth No. 4: My leaky faucet is no big deal. According to the EPA website, a faucet dripping 10 drops per minute wastes about 500 gallons of water in a year — enough for 60 loads of laundry. If it’s a leaky hot water faucet, your hot water heater will be running extra cycles that it shouldn’t have to. Both will cost you more than a gasket to fix the faucet.

Myth No. 5: My fan cools my home. Fans don’t cool air. They move air. The air moving over you evaporates any moisture on your skin and that’s what cools you. Leaving a fan on while you’re at the pool on a hot day, won’t give you a cooler home to return to.

Myth No. 6: Compact fluorescent lights are expensive and don’t last long. These days, you can purchase CFL’s for less than $2 per bulb, and if you haven’t tried them in a while you may be surprised by how much better they are. Improved manufacturing helps today’s CFLs last up to eight times longer than incandescent bulbs. Installed in a frequently used fixture, they pay for themselves in energy savings in just a few months. An added perk? When your CFL bulbs do burn out, bring them in to any Clark Public Utilities location for recycling and we’ll trade you old bulbs for brand new ones, up to six per visit.

Energy Adviser is produced by Clark Public Utilities and relies on the expertise of utility energy counselors and staff, who provide conservation and energy use information. To contact us call 360-992-3355, email or visit