Energy saving myths
5 Tips Home Edition: You don't need hot water to wash your clothes and that Energy-Star appliance might not be as energy efficient as you think.
By Gerri Willis, contributing columnist

NEW YORK ( - Finally there's some good news about your energy bill. It won't be as expensive as you may think, according to the Energy Department. Costs are expected to increase only slightly, making your air conditioning bills a bit less painful.

In today's Five Tips we're going to help you cut your bills even more by debunking common energy saving myths.

1. Get your TV dinners ready

Getting ready to warm up last night's lasagna? If you want to save energy, stick it in the microwave as opposed to heating it in the oven. Using kitchen appliances that are sized to the task at hand will help you cut down on your energy costs.

In fact, you could save 30 to 40 percent of energy costs, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

If you're only cooking for one, you should think about using smaller pots when preparing meals. If you have an electric stove, use a smaller burner for a larger pot. And this really makes sense if your air conditioner is pulling double duty.

To be even more energy-conscious, drag out that crock pot. Appliances that concentrate heat are big savers.

2. Little things add up

Think about all those gadgets we keep plugged in day in, day out. Things like your cell phone charger, your iPod charger, the digital clocks on your stove or your coffee pots, the computer monitor, your TV, and even your night light uses energy when you're not actively using it.

It may not seem like much, but consider, if you keep your computer monitor on all the time, that will cost you $.60 cents a day, or $18 a month. And if you fall asleep watching television, you'll find that you'll pay about $6 a month for the privilege. (This is considering you pay about $.10 a kilowatt and sleep eight hours on average).

Keeping your cell phone and battery charger plugged in may cost you $1.50 a month and the night light? That'll cost you $.50 a month if you keep it on 24/7. On a national scale, the Alliance to Save Energy estimates that on a national level, these vampire devices use about 5 percent of our energy and cost consumers more than $8 billion annually.

To figure out what wattage your appliances are using, check the label. The amount of power the product uses should be marked clearly according to John Drengenberg of the Underwriters Laboratories.

3. Be moderate with the thermostat

If you're just sweltering in the heat and you want to adjust your thermostat, don't turn the thermostat to lower temperature thinking the house will become cooler more quickly. Thermostats run at the same level until they reach the temperature setting you indicate. And you could run up a pretty hefty bill if you turn the thermostat down low and forget to return it to the usual setting.

Of course, setting your thermostat a few degrees lower when you're out of the house does help to cut down on your energy expenses. This can save you about $100 each year, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. But keep in mind that to really see a dent in your bill, you'll have to be out of the house for at least 8 hours.

4. Try the cold cycle

You don't need hot water to kill the germs anymore. You can save a load of energy if you use warm or cool water instead of hot water in your washing machine. That's because between 80 and 85 percent of the energy used to wash clothes comes from just heating the water alone.

5. Be wary of efficiency labels

We all gravitate toward the Energy-Star labels of appliances when we're out shopping. But you may want to take these labels with a grain of salt.

The benefits of this label are under fire after an investigation by SmartMoney magazine claimed the Energy Star Program is not well monitored and uses outdated test procedures. For their part, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Dept. of Energy deny these findings.

But either way, you should make sure the cost-savings will be worth it if you do decide to invest in an Energy-Star appliance.

As Harvey Sachs of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy says about the energy-star label, "You may not be getting the most efficient product, but you're getting something that is better than run of the mill without doing the research."


Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. Send your questions, your comments and your own ideas to us at 5tips@cnn.comTop of page

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