Turning Off The Lights Isn’t The Best Way To Save Energy In Your Home

Turning Off The Lights Isn’t The Best Way To Save Energy In Your Home

If you wanted to reduce your home’s energy consumption, what’s the first thing you would do? If you’re like most people, you’d start by turning off more lights, or maybe the TV. However, the appliances that will save you the most energy are the ones you rarely think about.

Picture: Skip Moore

Turning off your lights saves a bit of energy, sure. However, things like your water heater or air conditioner use heaps of energy; far more than your lightbulbs use. We tend to focus on turning off light switches because that’s something we can control without sacrificing any comfort and minimal effort. As psychology doctoral student Dan Schley suggests, this is because we have an inherent bias towards the things we interact with and control:

Because they use the lights a lot, they tend to infer that lights consume a lot of energy. On the other hand, consumers tend not to think about their water heating (other than when they run out of hot water) or interact with their water heater very often.

There’s also another energy drain just outside your home: your car. Between your vehicle, your home heating and air conditioning, and your water heater, most of your home’s energy use can be attributed to something besides lightbulbs. That doesn’t mean that you can’t save money and energy by switching off the lights or the TV. However, if you want to reduce your bill (or just help out the environment, you’ll need to start looking elsewhere.

If you really want to save energy at home, forget about your light switches [Vox]


  • Standby power is a huge drain. I started to do things like turn off tv at the wall same with other devices not being used, computers etc. It did make quite a difference. Though for me heating and cooling are more luxuries so I’m turning them on rather than off.

    • Standby power is also a great way to increase the cycles on your capacitors, meaning you’re really increasing the chance something will blow up.

      I’d rather spend a few dollars a year making sure my $10K worth electronics is as safe as possible.

      • But just putting a device with a switch mode power supply into standby mode will discharge the main filter capacitors anyway so then switching it off at the mains will create no extra cycles and the caps running the standby section on the supply are constantly cycling at 50 or 100hz in standby mode anyway so how is it adding extra cycles?
        I’m also yet to see a capacitor fail and go short not open.

      • Ive been switching off my Sony Bravia TV (2009) and PS3 (also purchased in 2009) at the mains every night. Knock on wood nothing has happened. Im quite sure they test this type of stuff on their devices before selling, especially if this happens to a lot of people it starts to appear as though its a major issue, and thus puts off consumers from purchasing that brands devices in the future in fear of the same thing happening. Customer hesitation in purchasing and poor customer feedback costs a company a lot more than a bit of thorough testing.

        • Actually I do even know why I started to discuss this with him, we aren’t in the 50’s any more we don’t rate capacitors in cycles any more, it’s a non issue these days, we rate them in HOURS, so turning it off, reduces the amount of hours it is in use.

  • Well, if your downlights are halogen, you are using a ton more power than LED. 50W vs 7-10W.

    • Halogen’s arent’ 50W any more. Yes, more than ‘energy saving’, but not that huge.

      • There not having been any major alterations to the laws of physics recently, halogens still take the same wattage they did previously. So yeah, some are 35W but most halogen downlights are 50W.

        • you people and your globes. so mainstream.
          i like to venture tot he woods and fields in the evening and collect fireflies to put in a jar.
          then in the morning, discard their used bodies in the compost bin.
          way better for the environment in my honest opinion.

    • This. We just got switched to LEDs for free thanks the the Govmnt and our electricity bill has almost been halved.

  • At some point I will build or renovate a home and fully expect to build a system that allows me to go to the mains and shut down power in different sections of the house, all the way down to individual power points. Not that hard really, and would help a lot I expect. But then I also expect to be off the power grid too.

    • They do have fancy switches on individual power points that can shut off the mains power already 😛

        • It’s all there through Home Automation, but I think the salient point is that retrofitting a home with all that gear would be expensive vis-a-vis building it in from the start (if you were already building a home anyway).

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