Five common myths about how to save energy at home

by Leslie A. Jones, Energy Star Certified Products

In the age of the internet, you can find lots of advice on ways to save energy at home.

However, while energy efficient products and technologies have evolved over the years, sometimes the advice you encounter has not. See what the experts at Energy Star have to say about five common myths about how to save energy at home:

Myth 1: Changing habits and behaviors is the best way to save energy in your home.

While adjusting your habits to be more conscientious of your energy consumption can certainly be helpful in reducing energy waste, some of the most significant choices you can make may not require any behavior changes.

One of the most impactful choices you can make as a homeowner and consumer to reduce your energy usage is to simply choose energy-efficient products when selecting items for your home.

When you choose products that have been Energy Star certified, you’re choosing a product that has been independently verified through third-party lab testing to be more efficient than

the standard requirements for that product. By making your choices count, saving energy is baked into your everyday life without you having to consciously change your habits.

Myth 2: It’s more energy and water efficient to handwash your dishes instead of running your dishwasher.

It can feel counterintuitive to think that running an appliance is more energy-saving than washing things by hand.

However, appliances like dishwashers have been engineered to use energy and water efficiently over the years, helping you save energy, water, and time. This is also partly because it’s easy to underestimate how much water is coming out of your faucet while hand-washing—and using your water heater to also heat that water uses a lot of energy.

Energy Star estimates that using a dishwasher that has earned the Energy Star label over handwashing your dishes can cut your utility bills by an average of $210 per year.

Additionally, dishwashers that have earned the Energy Star are approximately 20% more energy efficient and 30% more water efficient that your standard dishwasher.

Myth 3: Running longer cycles on appliances like your dishwasher and clothes washer will use more energy, whereas using shorter cycles will help you save energy.

Although using a “quick cycle” means that your appliance will be running for a shorter period, quick cycles are meant to save you time—not energy, water, or money.

Counter to what you might expect, some of the technologies in newer appliances may require that it runs for a longer period, yet it can be significantly more efficient. A good example of this would be a heat pump dryer—which has a longer drying cycle but is around 30% more efficient than a standard clothes dryer.

Heat pump dryers dry clothes at a lower temperature, which saves energy and ends up being gentler on your clothes. Additionally, heat pump clothes dryers do not need to vent outside, so there is more freedom where laundry can be located in the home—meaning fewer constraints when constructing or remodeling.

Myth 4: If you want to save money on your heating and cooling costs, the best thing to do is set your thermostat and then leave it alone. 

It’s no wonder Dad is so protective of the thermostat. Your home’s heating and cooling costs account for nearly half of your annual energy use—which, for the average American household, is approximately $900 per year.

While Dad’s quest to guard temperatures is indeed noble, it may not necessarily be the most efficient—or comfortable—experience for your household. The most efficient way to manage your heating and cooling is by using a smart thermostat, which can learn your temperature preferences and automatically adjust for comfort or energy efficiency without you having to manually monitor and adjust things.

While your thermostat, in and of itself, does not use much energy, it’s a key factor in saving energy at home as it controls your heating and cooling systems which are the biggest energy users.

Simply upgrading your thermostat to an Energy Star certified smart thermostat is a relatively inexpensive project that can reduce your heating and cooling bill by about $50-$100 a year on average. And for residences that you’re not consistently occupying (rental or vacation home) those savings jump to about $300 a year.

Myth 5: Your energy bill is only impacted by the products that plug into your power source and use electricity.

When thinking of ways to reduce energy waste in your home, your home envelope may not even be something that comes to mind. However, while these elements are not “connected”, they’re a critical part of home efficiency and can greatly influence the performance and efficiency of other elements of your home.

It is estimated that 9 out of 10 homes in the U.S. are under-insulated—and unlike when your air conditioning or water heater have issues, where you know immediately if you have a problem, inadequate sealing and insulation is something that easily flies under the radar.

By sealing air leaks around your home and making sure you have adequate attic insulation, you can cut your total home energy use by 10-11% and reduce your heating and cooling costs by about 15%. These energy savings can be even greater for colder climates.

For more tips from Energy Star on how to save energy at home, browse their full collection of Ask the Expert articles (