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Energy Educator Column


Energy Educator lightbulbSeparating Facts From Myth

Several years ago I was asked to make a presentation to a school district that was considering implementing an energy conservation program like ours. When I got there I was disappointed to learn that many were not in favor of the program and some were even adversarial about it. As of this date, that district has still not implemented a formal program.

They gave me many reasons why they believed an energy conservation program would not work in their district, including this comment: “Even if implemented, who knows how much we could save?” This was a perfect segue to my point. If you don’t start an energy management program, you are not saving. Many of their arguments are common myths about energy conservation.

Myth No. 1: Leaving a light on uses less energy than turning it off and on several times.

Truth: Leaving an incandescent or fluorescent lamp on uses more energy than turning it on and off as needed.

Tips: Get into the habit of turning off lights when you leave a room. Use natural day lighting when possible and reduce or eliminate artificial lighting.

Myths No. 2 & 3: It is more energy efficient to leave your computer on when not in use. Turning my PC on and off will reduce its performance and useful life.

Truth: Any time you can turn off your computer it will save energy. Computers are designed to handle 40,000 on/off cycles before failure. Shutting down a computer actually extends its life cycle by reducing the intake of dust.

Tip: Turn off computers and monitors at night and on weekends. Remember that these machines generate heat and can cause an air conditioner to run more.

Note: We have more than 1,500 computers in our district. A computer that is left on over night uses 1.42kw of electricity. At the current electric rate, that wastes 24 cents a night. For this one computer, that translates to $88 per year. If all computers were only on during the 182 days of the school year (and off 24/ 7 the other 182 days a year), it would be a $44 dollars per year savings. Under this very conservative scenario, our district would realize a savings of $66,000 by shutting down all computers at night.

Myth #4: When my appliance is turned off, it’s off.

Truth: Most televisions, even off, use energy to be ready to quickly turn on when you click the remote. Many appliances that have front panel power buttons, or digital displays when on are monitored by a small micro-controller on a circuit board. When it detects you pressing the button on the appliance or via remote, it pulls in a large relay, and powers the rest of the appliance. This circuit board requires a power supply, which means it is using some electricity 24/7.

Tip: Unplug appliances such as TVs, VCRs and DVD players, printers, etc. over long breaks.