Don't Fall for This Common Misunderstanding About Home Energy Use

Do you find energy conservation confusing? You're not alone. According to a recent study, Americans are by-and-large misinformed about what household appliances consume the most electricity. As a result, homeowners who wish to cut down on the energy they use in their home electrical work might find themselves spending time and resources to improve efficiency in areas where they won't see big gains. Read on to learn more about where most of our energy goes and how you can get the biggest payback for your conservation efforts.

The Failings of Cognitive Accessibility

In general, Americans tend to overestimate the amount of power that is devoted to common home devices like computers, television and lighting, while underestimating the amount of energy that is consumed by bigger ticket items like heat, air conditioning and hot water heating. That's because we confuse the amount of time we spend actively using a specific device with how much power it uses.

“Consumers tend to use the frequency with which they think or interact with a given energy source as a proxy for its consumption,” Ohio State University psychology doctoral student Dan Schley, lead author of the study, said to the Washington Post. For example, someone who spends eight hours a day working on a computer might naturally be inclined to think that device is what's driving up the electricity bill.

How to Make Your Actions Count

However, it turns out that the energy consumed by common electronics is dwarfed by what goes into major appliances. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a whopping 48 percent of energy in the average home goes toward heating and air conditioning. The hot water heater takes the next largest individual chunk, at 17.7 percent. The refrigerator uses 13.7 percent, with all other appliances and electronics accounting for about 21 percent of the total.

The upshot? If you really want to cut back on consumption in your home electrical work, you need to target the biggest guzzlers. That means making interventions like installing smart thermostats, turning down your water heater temperature and beefing up the insulation in your home. The simplest, most effective change that most families can make is to bump the thermostat down a few degrees in the winter and up a few degrees in the summer.

Don't Neglect the Small Stuff

That's not to say you should ignore simple behavioral changes that can save money in other areas of your home electrical work – things like unplugging devices when they aren't in use, installing energy efficient cable boxes, using the power-saving settings on your computer and turning off the lights when you aren't in the room. Just treat these items as the appetizers and desserts of your energy-saving strategy, rather than the main course.

If you need help identifying the largest loads on your home electrical work, arrange for a visit from an expert electrician today.

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