You’ve read and researched and tried to make energy efficient choices to help our environment and your wallet, but you might still be in for some energy surprises.  You’ve replaced your lightbulbs, installed a programmable thermostat, and unplugged your electronics when not in use. You feel pretty well educated on energy saving.  However, sometimes what seem like common sense solutions can be counter productive or only real solutions under certain circumstances. That’s why it pays to tap the experts. According to tips from nasa.gov and from Reuven Walder at ecobeco, here are five energy surprises and how to solve them:

Surprise #1:  Turning off the lights when you leave the room, is NOT always the best choice.

You heard it all through your childhood, and likely have said it hundreds of times in your own home, “Turn off the lights when you leave the room!”  However, this rule depends on the type of lightbulbs you use. If you’ve converted to energy-efficient CFL bulbs (compact fluorescent), this rule may not apply.  Turning them on and off too often shortens the lifespan of the bulb.

Solution:  If it’s a CFL bulb and you will be out of the room for 15 minutes or more, turn it off. Otherwise, leave the light on.

Surprise #2:  Electric vehicles are not always as “green” as you might think.

Electric cars don’t give off pollution like standard gasoline-powered cars.  How can electric cars not be green? Where you live (and charge the car) matters.   Not all states use the same energy to run their electric power plants. In some communities, solar, wind, or water are used to generate electricity.  If you are lucky enough to have an energy service provider that uses these clean energy sources to generate your electricity, then an electric car is a very green choice.  However, if your electricity is produced at a plant that uses coal, charging your car is still producing pollution from the coal burned at the power plant.

Solution:  Contact your energy service provider to find out what energy source is used to generate your electricity.  You may still opt to purchase an electric vehicle, but at least you can make an informed decision.

Surprise #3:  Drafty windows might not be the culprit for the chill.

You walk by your window on a cold day, feel a chilly draft, grumble, and think, “I have to replace these windows!”  But maybe not. As you are heating your home in the winter, warm air rises. If there are any air leaks in your attic, the warm air that leaks out creates a vacuum.  This vacuum creates a strong pull of cold air from the outside through doors, windows, or other leaky areas. Likewise, in summer, cool air sinks and will escape through any leaks in the basement, forcing warm air inside.

Solution:   By air sealing and properly insulating your attic and basement, you’ll remove this vacuum effect and your windows won’t be drafty any longer.  You won’t have the expense of replacing otherwise good windows, plus, you’ll be saving on heating/cooling costs.

Surprise #4:   An attic fan isn’t the key to cooling a hot attic.

It seems like common sense that a hot attic could be cooled down by an attic fan.  However, if your attic floor is full of leaks, like so many are, an attic fun will simply pull cold air from inside your house up into the attic.  Effectively, you are paying to air condition your attic, which is vented to the outside. That’s the equivalent of leaving windows open while air conditioning.

Solution:  Properly air seal and insulate your attic to keep the cool air inside your house.  Once complete, the attic vents will suffice to release hot air without an attic fan.

Surprise #5:  Closing vents in unused rooms can damage your heating system.

Heating systems are designed to generate the precise amount of heat relative to your duct work system.  Closing vents increases the air pressure in the system, causing extra wear and tear on the motor. That leads to a costly repair or even costlier replacement prematurely.

Solution:  Keep all vents open so your heating system can perform the way it’s designed to perform.

Be proactive with a home energy audit

Getting educated and taking control of your energy use is good.  But sometimes, a little knowledge can be a bad thing, as this list of surprises illustrates. Getting input from an expert can put you on a more effective and lucrative path to energy savings.  Some energy suppliers (and other energy efficiency companies) offer home energy audits to pinpoint any problem areas in your home and offer solutions. Having an energy efficient home saves you money today and is easier to resell later.

Energy efficiency is a multi-faceted project.  Click here for more energy saving opportunities.