Energy Myths: Cooling


A recent conversation at the grocery store gave me an idea for a new thread—debunking some energy and energy-efficiency myths.  Despite the Spring-like conditions in the Northeast, it really is summer, and I’ll start off with a few cooling myths.

MYTH:  Using a programmable thermostat—or adjusting manually—and ratcheting back your heating or cooling where no one is home doesn’t really save energy.  Quite simply, yes it does!   The longer your house stays at a higher temperature when in cooling mode (or at a lower temperature when heating), the more energy and money you will save. This is because heating and cooling cost depends mostly on the difference between indoor and outdoor temperature—the closer the temperatures indoors and out, the less energy you use.  Depending on usage, on how far you change the setting while you’re gone, and how efficient your home is, you could expect to save 5 to15%.  A programmable thermostat can adjust temperatures automatically for you.   (Caveat:  in areas with variable rates—peak summer rates are often late afternoon.  You’ll use less energy back turning off the A/C while you’re gone—but you may pay more.  The answer here is to make your house as efficient as possible to get the cool air in and keep the heat out!)

MYTH:  Turning off the A/C, but leaving the fan on to mix the air saves energy.  Nope.  First, you’re actually using energy—and creating heat—with the fan.  Second, most duct systems leak air to the outside—keeping the fan on actually increases this leakage, so you may lose the cool air even faster. 

MYTH: The lower you set your thermostat, the faster you’re A/C will cool your house.
False.  You should set the thermostat at the temperature you want–it will reach that point just as quickly as if you set it lower.  Setting it lower means you’re likely to forget or to “catch” it at the right time, making the room colder and wasting energy.

A lot more home energy misconceptions out there—and I’ll try to hit some them in the coming months.


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