How’s That Work? – Debunking Energy Myths

by Tim Biebel, Vice President, Prudent Living Inc.

Marketing firms always present their products in the most positive light possible. In their defense, that is their job. In your defense, you need to be aware that some things aren’t always “AS SEEN ON TV” when it comes to energy efficient upgrades to your home. It is important to have realistic expectations when pursuing a home energy project. Below you will find three advertising myths that are discussed from time to time at Prudent Living offices.

#1 – You can save thousands of dollars in utility bills with little investment! Read that in a used car salesman voice and you can see right through it. In some rare instances, some houses are tailor-made for energy improvements, but it doesn’t happen very often. While most energy upgrades can save a bundle each year, they typically have lengthier paybacks than what the advertisers would want you to think. Having an energy audit done on your house will give you a good starting point for how to make improvements in the future, but don’t be surprised when reality hits and you realize the advertisements are a little, well, only kind of true.

#2 – You have to replace your incandescent bulbs with CFL bulbs now! The interesting thing that is often overlooked when it comes to lights is that if they are not on they don’t cost you anything! Most of the costs on an electrical bill result from electrical devices other than your lights. For instance, your refrigerator, dehumidifier, AC, freezer, electric heat, etc., are all big consumers and lights pale in comparison unless you are leaving them on twenty-four hours a day.

The truth is that you don’t need to run to the store to buy CFL bulbs and replace working incandescent bulbs. Replace them when they die, but in the mean time take a look around your house and figure out what is actually sucking energy money out of your wallet. And … don’t forget to shut off the lights when you leave the room.

#3 – Installing fiberglass insulation in your attic is a great way to save money! There is a popular commercial playing quite often of a dad and his son laying out fiberglass insulation in their attic on a sunny Saturday morning. Cute commercial, bad idea. Fiberglass insulation does not work well when installed in an attic. Air can move through it, which severely reduces the effective R-Value. If you are a do-it-yourselfer like the father and son in the commercial then a much better idea would be to buy bags of cellulose and rent the machine that blows it into attics. It sounds dubious but it’s not and it will probably be a lot more fun, plus it will save you much more money.

And hey, if something goes wrong with the machine it will make for a much better memory than laying fiberglass in a hot attic on a summer afternoon.

It’s very important that you, the consumer, inform yourself. Do not take advertisements as energy efficiency gospel. Instead, do some research before investing your time and hard-earned money into something that may not save you any money at all!