15 Energy-Saving Myths That Don’t Actually Lower Your Utility Bills at All

Learn which 'energy-saving tips' are actually costing you money.

Woman looking at energy bill
Updated June 6, 2024
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Many of us are trying to save energy, whether for financial or environmental reasons, or both.

Yet, many myths about saving energy around the home simply don’t work.

Here are 15 changes that won’t actually lower your utilities and keep more money in your wallet.

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Making the HVAC work faster saves energy

Cultured Images/Adobe home with smart thermostat on wall

Some people try to save energy by turning their thermostat way up or down to reach their desired temperature as quickly as possible. Then, they turn off the unit to let it “coast” for a while.

But this doesn’t work and can burn out your system faster than letting the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system do its thing more reasonably.

Using space heaters saves energy

New Africa/Adobe modern electric fan heater on floor

People will often try to save energy by keeping a home’s main heat source down and plugging in space heaters. They assume that electric space heaters must save more energy than actually using heat throughout the entire house.

But that’s not the case. Instead, those little space heaters suck up a lot of energy, pushing your bill higher.

Ceiling fans significantly lower the temperature

kirill4mula/Adobe electric ceiling fan running inside room

Similar to space heaters, some people may believe that using a ceiling fan is a more efficient way to cool a home than using the AC.

While a ceiling fan may feel nice, it doesn’t actually cool the air. In fact, it can actually radiate heat from its motor.

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Electricity costs less than other energy

Renata Hamuda/Adobe electric bill with pennies and bulb

This is the myth that perpetuates the space heater and ceiling fan myths since electricity is generally more expensive than natural gas or propane. 

If you're looking to cut your utility bill, you’re better off using heating systems powered by the latter resources rather than relying on electricity.

New windows pay for themselves in energy efficiency

ronstik/Adobe male worker installing new pvc window

New windows certainly can save energy, but they can also be very expensive to purchase and install. In fact, it’s difficult to recoup the cost in energy savings.

Turning off the AC when you’re not home saves energy

insta_photos/Adobe woman adjusting temperature using smart thermostat

If you let your house heat up during the day, your AC unit will actually work harder when you return home.

This is a situation where compromise works better. Instead of completely turning off the HVAC unit when you leave, leave it on at a higher setting.

Switching a light on and off uses more energy than leaving it on

Nattawit/Adobe hand drawing string to dim lamp

Turning a light on does increase energy usage initially. However, that increase is not enough to justify keeping the light on indefinitely.

The surge lasts less than a second, so you'll probably waste more energy leaving the lights on for long periods when you don’t need the illumination.

Appliances cost less to run at night

kichigin19/Adobe dishwasher with clean dishes in kitchen

All things being equal, running devices such as the dishwasher at night will not save you money.

Some utility companies reward customers for using appliances during off-peak hours. Those folks can indeed save money by running appliances at night.

However, the rest of us pay a standard rate for energy usage at any time of day.

Only your HVAC matters when reducing energy usage

StockPhotoPro/Adobe woman shocked while reviewing bills

Some people focus solely on their HVAC system when trying to reduce energy usage.

Yes, the HVAC uses a lot of energy. But don’t discount the amount of energy that other items — including appliances, computers, and televisions — use daily.

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Turning appliances off stops energy usage

Gorodenkoff/Adobe loading dirty dishes in dishwasher

Even when an appliance is turned off, it can still draw some energy. It may look like it’s sleeping, but it's still adding to your bill. If you want to stop the energy flow completely, you need to unplug the device.

Closing vents in unused rooms saves energy

The Toidi/Adobe man adjusting air vent by hand

You can close the vents in unused rooms, but your attempts to save energy this way could backfire.

When you close vents in one room to redirect hot or cold air to another room, it can create buildup in HVAC ducts, which in turn can cause leaks.

Washing dishes by hand uses less energy than a dishwasher

Nattakorn/Adobe happy asian couple washing dishes together

Today’s energy-efficient dishwashers use less water and electricity. Washing dishes by hand actually uses more water.

If you use hot water, the water heater uses more energy. Filling up the dishwasher and pressing a button is actually the energy-efficient way to go.

CFL bulbs are the most energy-efficient choice

Concept Island/Adobe hand holding energy saving light bulb

While compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are slightly less expensive than light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, that doesn’t make the former the better energy-efficient option.

While CFLs are more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs, LED bulbs are still the gold standard for energy efficiency.

Heavy drapery will keep the cold air out

Rithor/Adobe attractive woman removing curtains from windows

It sounds like it could make sense, right? Heavy drapery should act as insulation to keep drafts and cold air out on frigid days.

But not so fast: Opening up that drapery will let sunlight in, which will heat your home. Focus instead on keeping the windows locked to create a tight seal that keeps out cold air.

A screensaver will use less energy

iana_kolesnikova/Adobe beautiful woman working using laptop

A screensaver full of movement and graphics can actually use more energy than letting your computer drift off into sleep mode.

Instead, change your settings to let your computer go to sleep faster and use less energy.

Bottom line

Lomb/Adobe couple shocked while reviewing bills

Energy-saving myths abound, and many of them are well-intentioned and may even sound like they make sense.

But these myths don’t really work in an era of more energy-efficient appliances, HVAC systems, and homes.

If you want to get ahead financially and help the environment, you will have to consider other ways to reduce your energy usage.

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Author Details

Heather Bien

Heather Bien is a writer covering personal finance and budgeting and how those relate to life, travel, entertaining, and more. With bylines that include The Spruce, Apartment Therapy, and mindbodygreen, she's covered everything from tax tips for freelancers to budgeting hacks to how to get the highest ROI out of your home renovations.