Energy Saver

Oh, the (Energy-Related) Stories I Have Heard...

February 7, 2012

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I don't have an interesting tidbit, video, or page to link to today, so I thought I would share a few things I've heard people say about saving energy. I'd call them "stories," except I'm paraphrasing and summarizing so much that it's more like random advice that I've heard people give. I think they're kind of fun reminders that, well, we are all pretty energy-savvy here, but there's still a lot of education that needs to be done.

Let's get this started!

Once upon a time, I knew someone who was sure that it would cost less to use a gas fireplace to heat their living room than it would to let the central heating run. They figured the fireplace could heat a small area better than the central air, which would have to heat the whole house.

Is that true? It depends! You need to check your utilities to know that, because they charge you differently for gas than for electricity. But to do that, you need to know how much gas your fireplace actually uses. (And that's useful information. I wonder if my apartment could tell me that much about my fireplace?) For me, though? Gas is kind of pricy. If I had a wood and pellet-burning fireplace I could at least look that up on Energy Savers.

I once knew someone who thought they could turn the heat off and use a space heater instead. This would only be the case if you had a space heater that used less energy while it was on than your central heating did. So! Look into how much energy your space heater uses. Learn about your space heater. I can assure you that every single one of the cheap-o brands I've bought were so grossly inefficient that they couldn't be used as my primary heating source.

...Of course, there's another reason to not try to heat your entire house with a space heater. And that's because most of you live in a place where it will freeze, and you can't decide to just turn your heat off to save money.

Because, you see, I also knew someone who thought it was fine to just turn the heat off all winter and rely on blankets and sweaters instead. Think of your pipes before you do that!

And, finally, here's a weird one. I knew someone who had heard the truism that running the oven heats up your kitchen. That's true! This person decided that, consequentially, this meant that running the oven with nothing in it was a good way to heat a kitchen. And... yeah, don't do that. If you want to heat your house, do it with something that's designed for heating. If you try to be creative about it you might burn down your house.

I think the lesson is this: If you're serious about saving energy, you have to do a little research. Yes, yes, "research" is a word that makes some people cringe. Sorry. But you have to know how much energy you use to know how to cut back in the right places.

Figure out where you're wasting energy. Read your utility bill. Know how much you have to pay for electricity or gas. Know how much it costs to run your appliances. (If you want to do the math, you can estimate your energy use with this handy formula) Then you can decide what you should heat your home with and for how long.