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True or False?

Insulating the ceiling will just cause more heat to leak out of the windows. False. Switching to electric room heaters will reduce your energy bill. It depends. When my appliance is turned off, it's off. More and more often that's not the case.

Saving energy has triggered a round of myths, half truths and downright incorrect information, but the Home Energy Saver department at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is out to debunk them.

The lab's research has turned up and over turned numerous energy-related myths. In some cases, the basic premise is correct, but the energy savings are much smaller than people realize. In other cases, the myth is based on factors that once may have been true, but have been subsequently resolved through better design, technology and manufacturing, according to the lab's Evan Mills, Ph.D.

Here are some of the myths the lab's debunked thus far.

When my appliance is turned off, it's off.

Most electric devices continue to consume "stand-by power when they're switched off, remarkably sometimes as much power as when they're on.

Cleaning refrigerator coils saves energy.

What sounds intuitively logical, provides only inconsequential savings. Attempts to measure the savings have been as fruitless as cleaning the coils.

Installing foam gaskets in electrical outlets will significantly reduce air leakage.

Less than 1 percent of a home's air leakage is due to outlets.

Leaving lights, computers, and other appliances on uses less energy than turning them off and makes them last longer.

The small surge of power created when some devices are turned on is vastly smaller than the energy used to run the device when it's not needed. That includes personal computers.

In the past turning appliances and lighting on and off drastically reduced their useful lifetimes, but better technology and design has largely overcome that problem.

Energy efficiency increases the initial cost of a home.

Not necessarily. There is little if any correlation between refrigerator efficiency and a home's purchase price. In some instances, efficiency can even reduce the initial cost when smaller ("downsized"), highly-efficient heating and cooling systems are installed. Smaller, high efficiency units generate as much heating or cooling benefits as large, inefficient ones.

Insulating the ceiling will just cause more heat to leak out of the windows.

Adding insulation to one part of a home does not increase the "pressure" on heat losses in other parts. However, poorly insulated areas will be major heat (or cool air) losers of heat and they often merit attention before improving already well-insulated parts of the home.

Switching to electric room heaters will reduce your energy bill.

If you have central electric heating, using room heaters only where you need it will most likely save you money. If you are heating with cheaper gas you can easily match or even exceed your heating bill by switching to portable electric units.

Fluorescent lighting is unhealthy.

If it's been awhile since you tried fluorescent lights, give them another chance. Today's fluorescents offer vastly improved warm color qualities and the annoying flicker is gone. Meanwhile, the pollution created by generating electricity to run standard inefficient lights has many known health effects.

Halogen lighting is super-efficient.

Halogen lights use slightly less energy than standard incandescent bulbs, but halogens require transformers that can use extra energy, even when the light is off. Halogens can also pose a fire hazard. Conversely, compact fluorescent lights are nearly three-times as efficient and don't pose a fire hazard. Many new models are dimmable, like halogens.

Electric heating is more efficient than fuel-based heating.

It's true that all, or almost all, of the electricity that goes into an electric heater is transformed to useful heat in your home. However, making electricity is an inefficient process. As much as two-thirds of the input energy (coal, natural gas, etc.) is lost in the process. This is why electricity is so much more expensive for the consumer than direct fuels.

Buying an efficient air conditioner or furnace will automatically reduce your utility bill.

True to some extent, the fact is you won't realize all the possible savings if the equipment is not sized or installed properly. Typically, air conditioner and duct systems are improperly installed, wasting one third or more of the energy used by he air conditioner. Proper sizing and installation procedures are also required to obtain maximum benefits from insulation, windows and other energy-efficient work at home.

Energy efficiency and energy conservation are one in the same thing.

Energy efficiency means getting a job done with less energy, say lighting a room, cooling a house or refrigerating some veggies. Those things energy makes possible are sometimes called "energy services" -- illumination, comfort, food preservation and the like. Energy conservation, on the other hand, means reducing the level of services, for example, reducing lighting or comfort or turning up the temperature of your fridge.

Reducing service levels or conserving does not necessarily mean sacrifice. For example, many spaces are over lighted by current-day standards, water heater temperatures are set too high, etc. Consumers have the option of improving energy efficiency, say by purchasing better appliances and the option to reduce service levels, both without reducing the quality of life.

The lab also offers additional answers to frequently asked questions and misunderstandings about energy conservation on it's Home Energy Saver Answer Desk.

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