Eight energy-saving myths – busted!

By Rachel England Tuesday 20 September 2016

Screen savers save energy, dishwashers are bad for the environment and you’re better off using a space heater than leaving all the radiators on. These are just a few of the most common energy saving mantras bandied about, but just because ‘everyone says so’ doesn't mean they’re true! We round up the most frequently-touted claims and smash them to pieces with the hammer of facts.

Screensavers save energy

Remember back in the 90s when home computers really became a ‘thing’ and you could stare for hours at that screensaver that gave the impression you were whizzing through space? Ever since then there has existed a widely-held belief that such jazzy screensavers are somehow saving energy, but it’s not true at all. In fact, screen savers are a left-over solution from a previous technology. Old CRT monitors, which used phosphors to emit light,  had a problem known as “burn in",  which meant that any image that was displayed on the screen for too long became "burnt into" the screen, leaving a ghost image long after it had been turned off. Most CRT monitors have now been replaced with LCD screens, which work in a completely different way - no phosphors means no burn-in.

Fun as they are to look at, these days screensavers are just another program powered by your PC and do absolutely squat in terms of reducing a computer’s energy consumption when it’s not being used. So instead of leaving your computer churning away, learn the shortcut to put it into hibernation mode, or at least get into the habit of turning the monitor off when you’re away from your desk.

Dishwashers are bad for the environment

Dishwashers get a bad rap because they’re often lumped in with energy-sucking appliances such as the power-hungry tumble dryer. But while tumble dryers remain a serious energy offender (drying your stuff on a rack in front of a radiator instead could save you up to £130 per year in energy costs!) the humble dishwasher is not a member of the bad crowd. In fact, it’ll use less energy than hand-washing dishes, providing you use it properly.

To maximise its energy efficiency, make sure the machine is always fully-loaded and stacked properly, so that every dish and pan surface is accessible to the water jets, but be careful not to overload it. If you stack your dishwasher to the rafters,  the water won't get everywhere and you'll be stuck with a load of dirty dishes. Choose the 'energy efficiency’ or 'eco' setting (pretty much every dishwasher comes with this function) or drop the temperature down a few degrees, then relax in the knowledge that your domestic laziness is actually good for the planet.

Electric space heaters save money

In these austere times the resounding message is ‘only use what you need’, so for individuals rattling around a big house or families keen to cut their bills it’s often more tempting to blast a single room into warmth with an electric space heater than it is to have all the radiators of the house on.

Of course, there’s absolutely no point heating rooms that aren't being used so there is some truth in this myth, but space heaters are enormous energy drains, and unless they’re being used briefly in already well-insulated rooms you really are better off turning on the boiler – running just two space heaters can cost as much as heating an entire house with radiators. Instead, simply turn off radiators in rooms which aren't being used. 

Cranking up the thermostat heats your home faster

You get home and the house is freezing, so you go to the thermostat and whack it up to full capacity thinking that somehow your heating system has become sentient and will recognise the urgency in this command, subsequently working extra hard to get you toasty warm. Afraid not. Like a stubborn mule your boiler will work at a steady and consistent pace, regardless of what you tell it to do, and it’ll take the same amount of time to reach your desired temperature whether you set it to that or to max.

The problem is, set it to max and you’re liable to wander off and forget about it, and before you know it your house is a sauna and you’re literally stifled by wasted energy. If this is a familiar scenario, take the time to figure out your boiler’s timer function and set it so that the house is warm by the time you get home.

It's bad to open the window while the heating is on

Having the heating on all day can make the air indoors feel stuffy, leaving skin and sinunes uncomfortably dry and may even result in nosebleeds, headaches and migraines. Yet many people resist the temptation to crack open a window because they recall their parents' admonition that "we're not paying to heat the garden!"  While it's true that it's not a great idea to leave the window open for longer periods of time while the heating is on, keeping them shut will reduce ventilation which can cause damp, mould and rot. Instead, try to open a window for five minutes at least three times a day during December, January and February, but make sure you switch the cental heating off during that time, so the thermostat doesn't go crazy.

It’s better to leave lights and appliances on than use extra energy turning them off and on again

Probably the oldest energy myth in the book, this one. Office managers and dictator dads alike are happy to bandy this pearl of ‘wisdom’ around when it suits, claiming that turning appliances off and on again somehow sparks a ‘surge’ of energy which makes simply leaving them on a preferable alternative. Nope. There is no significant power draw at all in turning an appliance on or off, so remember to hit the lights on your way out, even if you’ll only be gone for a few minutes. No excuses!

Electrical appliances don’t use electricity if they’re not being used

Modern appliances are generally designed to be as energy efficient as possible, but some electrical appliances draw energy even when they’re not being used – phone chargers are among the worst culprits. This ‘vampire power’ can cost you up to £80 a year, so switch your devices off at the wall when you're not using them.

LED bulbs are more expensive than energy-saving lightbulbs 

When compared side-by-side at the checkout, perhaps, but one LED bulb will last as long as eight CFLs (energy-saving bulbs) and use 90% less energy, making them a much more cost-effective investment. Check our handy guide for more information on LED lightbulbs.

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