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12 common energy myths debunked – so you can now motivate ALL your staff to save energy

Learn to recognise these myths in Scottish businesses and find out how to get your staff on board to convert them into the kind of energy saver you’re looking for.


Energy myths blog - images of chargers

You can do a lot to reduce your business’s energy bills by investing in new equipment and changing processes. However, to maximise energy savings, it’s vital to get your colleagues on board. 

You know the kind of thing - switching off lights when they’re not needed, turning off machinery when it’s not in use, controlling heating properly, closing the windows and doors before turning up the heating. All simple things to do – but very often it can be hard to get everyone in your business doing it.

If you are struggling to get some of your staff to be more energy efficient, perhaps it’s because they have succumbed to a common energy myth. There are number of myths that have found their way into our business over the years and can still misguide the actions of some people. 

We asked our team of advisors to share some of the myths they still come across in Scottish businesses today, and to explain why they are just myths... 

 

Myth 1 - It’s more efficient to leave lights on, than turn on and off

Top of the list is the old chestnut that it’s better to leave lights on when leaving a room if you’re going to be returning later. 

It’s hard to pin down the exact origins of this one – but it’s probably to do with the introduction of the fluorescent tube where early models suffered lifespan issues when turned off and on frequently and that require a small burst of energy when switched on.

Safe to say, things have moved on and with modern LED lighting in particular, it’s always going to be cheaper to switch off lighting whenever it is not needed. If someone in your business is leaving lights on when not needed, they are simply wasting energy and money.

 

Myth 2 - Phone and laptop chargers don’t use energy if plugged in as long as they are disconnected from the device 

It’s true that some chargers will not use energy if they are plugged and not connected to their device. But many others do use power, known as ‘vampire power’. 

You can generally tell if you are a victim of vampire power by checking to see if the charger is warm. If it’s warm, it’s using energy and costing you money. 

The easiest way to be sure that you are not wasting energy is just to unplug all chargers that aren’t being used. Unfortunately, garlic doesn’t work.

 

Myth 3 - Most heat is lost through windows

All buildings lose heat through walls, windows and roof space. Some buildings, the poorly insulated ones, lose it much faster than others.

But windows aren’t necessarily the biggest culprit – even though many people think that. Windows only account for a small percentage of the heat-loss area in a building. In fact, in a typical building, walls account for far more surface area and are likely to be where most heat is lost. 

Therefore, when it comes to energy efficiency, it’s best to insulate your walls before you think about upgrading your double glazing.

 

Myth 4 - Solar panels are only good in summer weather

Some people believe that it needs to be a hot day for solar panels to be doing anything meaningful. But, in fact, the warmer it is, the less efficient the panels are. Solar panels work by capturing the sun’s energy using photovoltaic cells – it is the light from the sun, not the heat, that is being converted to electricity. And hot panels just don’t work as well.

What’s more, solar panels don’t even need direct sunlight to work – they can still generate some electricity on a cloudy day. The cells still convert the available sunlight into electricity, which can be used to run appliances and lighting.

 

Myth 5 - Solar panels don’t work in Scotland

It’s true that solar panels may not generate as much electricity in Scotland as they do in sunnier locations, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work. 

In fact, a small 4kWp system in Scotland can generate about 3,200 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity a year. That’s enough energy to make 160,000 hot cups of tea or to power a three-bedroom family home for a year. 

Check out the Green Network for Businesses for lots of examples of Scottish businesses already saving energy thanks to solar panels (and many other technologies).

 

Myth 6 – The light from LEDs isn’t as good 

LEDs are the most long lasting and energy efficient lamp technology available. Early LED lamps often produced light that was said to lack ‘warmth’ and was blinding, but that shouldn’t be a reason to stop you from upgrading your lighting today.

Technology has progressed rapidly and LEDs now include diffusers and reflectors which soften lamp output to make it less dazzling, and have a colour rendering index (CRI) comparable to fluorescent lamps. Lamps with a warmer colour temperature are available and don’t cast the blue tones of the whiter, brighter LEDs. 

If you’re putting off investing in energy-saving LED lighting because some people in your organisation still hold the belief that LEDs aren’t good, why not speak to a lighting supplier and get some samples to trial – and prove how good they are.

 

Myth 7 - It’s cheaper to keep heating on all the time on a low setting

Buildings and their contents store heat very effectively and most buildings will stay warm for a long time after heating is switched off. Yet many organisations leave it until close of business each day to switch off their heating. 

Good cost savings can be made without impacting on staff comfort levels by switching heating off much earlier in the day. Doing this cuts energy bills and reduces the wear on your boiler too, extending its life. It’s a double win.

 

Myth 8 - Screensavers save energy

The clue’s in the name. Screensavers are not designed to save energy, they were actually designed to prevent phosphor burn-in on old-style CRT and plasma computer monitor screens. They are now used primarily for entertainment and branding purposes.

So, when monitors are not being used, encourage staff to turn them off. Otherwise, they are wasting energy… even if they have a nice screensaver.

 

Myth 9 - Voltage Optimisation is a scam

Voltage optimisation is one of a range of technologies used for voltage management within many businesses. Voltage management technologies are used when the voltage entering a building is higher than the voltage required by equipment. 

By reducing the voltage, you will reduce energy consumption and your bills. See how voltage optimisation has helped Glasgow City Council reduce its energy consumption and bills.

 

Myth 10 - Replacing light fittings is too expensive so it’s best to stick with your current lights

It’s a common misconception that changing lamp technology requires you to pull out all your current fittings and replace them with new ones. 

In reality, this can now usually be avoided.

Most halogen and compact fluorescent lamps will have an LED equivalent, which can be installed without alterations to the fitting. Where necessary, there are also retrofit kits available that your electrician can advise you on.  If you are a tenant, you may also wish to consider leasing your lighting. 

 

Myth 11 - Turning a thermostat up higher will heat a room quicker

Sorry, no it won’t. The room will heat up at the same rate but will then just continue to heat the room, wasting energy and money. Your air-conditioning might even kick in to cool the room back down...wasting even more energy and money. Ouch.

 

Myth 12 - Paper towels are cheaper than electric hand dryers

Well, paper towels may indeed use less energy than hand dryers, but what about the purchase costs of all those paper towels (not to mention the waste disposal costs)? We’ve done the arithmetic on this one for you.

For a typical business where the bathroom is used 200 times per day (and just two paper towels used per visit) the annual running cost for paper towels is £1,040. Compare this to the annual operating costs of a hand dryer - estimated at just £156.

(If you would like to see our sums, you’ll find them on page 21 of our waste guide.) 

 

So, if you find staff in your business that still believe in these myths, and it’s stopping them from acting in ways that are more energy efficient, you hopefully now have all the knowledge you need to get them on board and convert them into the kind of energy saver you’re looking for. 

And remember, our staff engagement toolkit has a host of professional resources specially designed to help you motivate your staff to save resources. 

 

Resource Efficient Scotland is a programme from Zero Waste Scotland. Free support to business is funded by the Scottish Government and by the European Regional Development Fund through the £73 million Resource Efficiency Circular Economy Accelerator Programme.

 

 

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