Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Sept. 21, 2021

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Energy Adviser: Energy myths explained

The Columbian

Did Benjamin Franklin invent electricity? No. Electricity occurs naturally and isn’t invented. Franklin’s 1752 kite experiment proved static electricity and lightning were the same phenomenon, though, and started the process of harnessing electricity to be used as needed.

Wasn’t a Nobel Prize awarded for LED light bulbs? Not exactly. The 2014 prize was awarded to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura because in the early 1990s they discovered out how to create bright blue light from semiconductors. Without blue light, no one could create white light. Their discovery did make white-light LED bulbs possible, however. And LEDs have now dramatically changed home, business and industrial lighting with the vastly improved energy efficiency and wide variety of uses.

Isn’t window replacement the best way to reduce my home energy costs? It depends. Unless the windows are so old, ill-fitting or damaged that they fail to keep out air and moisture, the better first step is often weatherization. Sealing air leaks by caulking around windows and weather stripping doors, filling in holes, insulating walls, floors and attics can make a home more energy efficient than new windows, for a lot less money. Once you’ve completed all the weatherization steps, then consider replacing your windows. And check with the utility first for information on rebates and incentives.

If I set my thermostat higher, won’t it heat up my home faster? No. This is a case where what seems logical isn’t. Your thermostat tells a home’s HVAC system to heat or cool to a specific temperature. Cranking it up doesn’t tell the system to speed the process up but just raises the temperature higher before it shuts off. It wastes energy because it makes you heat the home too hot before you notice it. It also wastes even more energy if you forget to dial it back down once your home heats up. The opposite is true when you want to cool your home. Think about it this way: when did pushing an elevator button several times get you to the next floor faster? Neither works that way.

My phone, tablet and laptop chargers don’t use energy when they’re not charging, right? False. Chargers plugged into a wall socket that have an indicator light will transfer a current, even if it’s not powering anything. The same is true for electronics with a quick-start or standby mode — usually those that use a report control. That faint light on the front of these “off” devices mean they’re still using energy around the clock.

Can I save energy by washing dishes by hand instead of using my dishwasher? Maybe. It depends on the volume of dishes you wash. If you wash only a single place setting at a time, you might save water and be more energy efficient. However, what if you wash the same number of dishes by hand that you’d normally load into a full dishwasher? Then, the dishwasher will use less water, less soap, and less energy. Most modern units have energy-efficiency settings for using less water and energy. These, plus only running full loads, can help keep your costs down.

Didn’t electricity use start in the 20th century? False. About 600 B.C., the Greeks wrote about making static electricity by rubbing amber (fossilized tree sap) together with fur. Archaeologists have found a number of ancient batteries near Baghdad dating to about 240 B.C. and suspect they were used for electroplating thin layers of gold or silver. Still, the volume of electricity created and the efficiency with which it’s used has increased exponentially since then, and technology continues to improve.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.