Energy efficiency: fact or fiction?

August 16, 2009 - 0:0

NEW YORK (AP) -- You’re a savvy consumer and you know how to cut corners when it comes to energy. You’ve given your dishwasher a rest and picked up a soapy sponge again. You even make sure never to fill your gas tank more than half way because you get more miles to the gallon.

Or wait, is it the other way around? Is it better to leave the computer on all day or shut it off when not in use? Does my refrigerator use less energy when it’s empty or full?
We spoke with people in the know at the Department of Energy, Edison Electric Institute, AAA and General Electric Co. to find out once and for all what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to powering down.
-------Computers and electronics
-----Screen savers save energy
FICTION -- Those hypnotizing screen savers give the illusion that your computer is on some energy-saving standby mode, but in reality, electricity is still pumping to keep your computer and monitor running. In fact, screen savers may even prevent the operation of your computer’s power-down feature - which actually will cut down on energy use. Screen savers may even use more energy than a basic blank screen.
Your computer stops using energy when it’s in sleep mode
FICTION -- Computers still use energy when in sleep mode. However, the electricity drawn in sleep mode is about 70 percent less that what is used when a computer is awake.
You waste more energy restarting a computer repeatedly than letting it run all day
FICTION -- Even though a small surge of energy is required to start up a computer, this amount is less than the energy consumed when a computer runs for long periods of time. If you plan to leave your computer for 20 minutes, trim some costs by switching off the monitor. For an absence longer than 2 hours, shut it down!
No energy is used after you turn appliances and electronics off
FICTION -- A plasma TV or stereo system when turned off still slowly drains electricity, a phenomenon called “phantom load.” Solve this unnecessary waste by unplugging appliances or using a power strip that, when switched off, will cut off power to the device. There are even power strips now that you don’t have to switch off. They do it for you and turn back on with the click of a TV remote.
------------Major appliances
It’s more efficient to keep your refrigerator full than half full
FACT -- The larger the mass of cold items in a refrigerator or freezer, the less work is required to maintain the appliance’s chilly temperature. You don’t need to stuff the case to its limits, but simply keep the space respectfully occupied with food and liquids -- a gallon of water if you have it -- as these items retain the cold.
Hand-washing dishes is more energy efficient than a dishwasher
FICTION -- Dish washing by hand seems like less wasteful option, but it actually consumes more water and energy. People typically leave the hot water running, using up to 14 gallons of water on average. Heating that many gallons of water is far more costly than energy-efficient dishwashers, many of which have a booster heater, a localized heater that raises water temperature for just 5 to 10 minutes. New dishwashers typically use up to 7 gallons of water per cycle. GE Appliances’ Paul Riley says to get the most out of an energy-efficient dishwasher, make sure it is fully loaded with food scraped off the plates. No need to waste more water with a pre-rinse. Scraping is sufficient as dish detergent actually needs something to clean, otherwise it will work at the finish on your plates.
Wash clothing with hot water for a truly effective wash.
FICTION -- Heating the water for laundry makes up about 90 percent of the energy used for washing clothes in a conventional top-load washer. Older washing machines heat up to 40 gallons of water, a major drain on energy. Cut out the hot water and you’ve got yourself some major savings. Using warm and cold water can be just as effective and can slash your energy use in half or more. Other ways to save: wash only full loads and switch to an energy-efficient front-loading washer.
--------Cars and fuel
It’s better to fill your gas tank halfway than full because the full tank weighs down the car and is less fuel efficient