✔ Turning your thermostat from 20°C to 18°C could save you £560 per year
✔ You lose 35% of your home’s heat through the walls
✔ Leaving your TV on standby has basically no effect on the environment
We all have misconceptions when it comes to our home energy use. There’s no home energy class at school, and trying to talk to your cool teen friends about it wouldn’t have gone down well.
So you learn from family, or whoever else you can, and sometimes that means hearing stories with a dubious relationship with reality – which isn’t enough.
It’s crucial to know how best to heat and cool your surroundings, so you can live your best, most temperate life.
So stop painting your radiators black (because it almost certainly won’t help), shut the door to stop the heat getting out, and read on as we debunk the nine most pervasive home energy myths of our time.
Head straight to a specific section by clicking one of the myths:
Putting the TV on standby is good; turning it off at the mains is basically pointless
1. MYTH: Keeping a fan on cools a room
It doesn’t cool the room; it cools you.
The air feels cold when it hits your skin because it’s moving faster than normal, but the air temperature itself doesn’t change.
This means you should switch off a fan if you’re leaving the room, or you’ll be wasting energy – and money – for no good reason.
If you want to cool down a room for real, use an air conditioner, which physically removes the heat from a space.
2. MYTH: Washing dishes by hand saves more water than using a dishwasher
Gone are the days of being forced to wash everything you own by hand – but are we dooming the planet by wasting water on perpetuating our laziness?
As it turns out, there are no longer any environmental downsides to this technological development, because you use more hot water cleaning by hand than by machine.
So it’s much better for Mother Earth if you put your dirty crockery into the dishwasher, switch it onto an eco-friendly setting, and kick back with a conscience as clean as your plates.
Modern technology truly is a wonder.
3. MYTH: You can save a ton of energy by avoiding standby and unplugging chargers
We understand why this misconception has spread.
After all, it makes intuitive sense. Leaving anything plugged in all year long must require a massive chunk of energy; it’s just common sense.
Except it doesn’t.
Modern-day chargers, whether they’re for mobiles, laptops, or tablets, use a tiny amount of electricity when they’re not charging your devices – just 0.438 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year, according to a study by How-To Geek.
This means that by keeping them unplugged, the average person in the UK would save 6.29p – per year.
Your oven uses more energy in 20 minutes than your unused charger does in a year – and the savings are similarly small when it comes to your TV.
So don’t waste your time on plugging and unplugging chargers.
If you want to help fight climate change and save the planet while powering your home, focus on making other, more effective changes – like using solar panels.
4. MYTH: Most of your heat is lost through the windows
The idea that most of your home’s heat is lost through your windows is similar to the notion that you lose the majority of your body heat from your head – because they’re both untrue.
Windows and draughts are responsible for 25% of your heat loss, which pales in comparison to the 35% you lose through your walls, according to The Guardian.
Another 25% exits your home through the roof, while the remaining 15% escapes through the floor.
Where you lose heat from your home
So instead of banning anyone you live with from opening the windows, focus on getting your walls insulated.
That’ll stop more heat from escaping, making for a warmer, less expensive, more energy-efficient life.
5. MYTH: Turning the thermostat higher will heat your home faster
Setting an ambitious goal can be good for your productivity – for instance, if you aim to clean your whole home in a day, and end up only cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, you’ve still achieved plenty.
But your thermostat doesn’t have this kind of psychology. In fact, for the next few years at least, it doesn’t have any kind of mentality.
If you raise the target temperature beyond the number of degrees you actually want, the machine will heat up your home at the same speed; it’ll just heat up your home for longer.
That’s because it’s trying to reach the level you set for it, even though you never really wanted to sit in 40°C heat.
And once it’s climbed that mountain and set the air around you on fire, you’ll inevitably need to use your air conditioner to cool the place down, compounding your initial mistake and using even more unnecessary energy.
Keep it simple: set your thermostat for the temperature you actually want.
6. MYTH: Keeping all your internal doors open will make your home warm
This myth has precisely zero scientific basis.
In reality, each room that’s getting heated will get warmer if you shut its doors, allowing the hot air in the space to circulate and then get warm again.
If you leave all the doors open, you’ll let the heat leave the room and disperse, making it much less effective.
Even if you’re heating every room in your home at the same time (which you ought to avoid), you should shut all the doors. Keep the heat in a small area, and you’ll be golden.
7. MYTH: You should briefly use an electric heater instead of turning up the central heating
If your central heating system runs on gas – the case for 85% of British homes – then turning up the thermometer will be better for your wallet and the planet.
Your electric heater runs on electricity (obviously), which is more expensive than gas, and potentially more damaging, since most energy doesn’t come from renewable sources.
Your electricity will therefore likely be fuelled by gas, oil, coal, or nuclear power, and will require even more energy to get to you than if it was sent directly to your boiler.
If your electricity uses renewable energy, that would make your electric heater better for the environment – but it would also improve your boiler’s output.
So instead of pointlessly emitting extra carbon with a heater, use your thermostat, and do your part to help save the planet.
This is nothing. Stop it. Choose the temperature you want
8. MYTH: Closing vents in empty rooms is energy-efficient
This sounds sensible – limit the space your air conditioner or heater has to service, and you can reduce the energy you use, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
All you’ll do by closing your vents is increase the air pressure within the ducts of your heating and cooling system. This pressure can lead to air leaks, which will reduce the lifespan of your unit.
The vents need to vent – and the best thing you can do is let them.
9. MYTH: It’s better to leave the heating on all the time, on a low setting
For the sake of your bank balance – not to mention the Earth itself – please don’t do this.
There is no point heating rooms you’re not in, unless you’re some sort of supervillain who wants to slightly speed up the effects of climate change.
You’ll use a tremendous, gratuitous amount of energy, and achieve nothing else. If you’re worried about some parts of your home being cold, those rooms can handle it.
Instead, switch the heating on in the rooms people are in, and let your heating stop working when possible.
After all, most homes are very talented at holding onto heat, having been built with this need in mind. Trust them to do their thing, and stop wasting money and energy.
BONUS MYTH: Switching your lights on and off is worse than just leaving them on
The idea that you should leave your heating on constantly is in the same bracket as the idea that turning lights off uses more energy than leaving them on all the time – which is also untrue.
It produces a tiny spike of energy when you press a light switch, but this is nothing compared to the sizable environmental benefits associated with turning lights off.
It can be hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the best ways to save energy and money on your heating, lights, and water.
Hopefully, by debunking these myths, we’ve given you the tools you need to live your best home energy life.
So go, fly like the wind, and put these tips into action – you’ll be better off in no time.