The terms green and environmentally friendly are often thrown into conversations about the home too loosely, which is why you need to be aware of which energy myths are true and which are false.

MYTH: Saving energy requires sacrifice.

TRUTH: High-quality renovated homes use less energy and are more comfortable than the average house. They have fewer drafts, fewer hot and cold spots, cleaner air, and lower energy bills.

MYTH: Solar panels are the best way to lower energy bills.

TRUTH: Solar panels cost a lot. You may be able to save more energy than they will ever produce by making simpler, less-expensive improvements to your home. Starting by improving efficiency also ensures that a smaller (less expensive) solar system will be able to get the job done. Get professional advice on the best options for your situation.

MYTH: Recycled and natural materials will make my home “green.”

TRUTH: Don’t spend extra money on green building materials without making the efficiency improvements your home needs to operate without wasting resources.

MYTH: Energy efficiency and energy conservation are one and the same thing.

TRUTH: Well-intentioned information campaigns during the oil crises of the 1970s created a lot of confusion about how to save energy and even about how to talk about saving energy. Energy efficiency means getting the same job done while using less energy. This could be lighting a room, cooling a house, or refrigerating some vegetables. The things made possible by using energy—such as illumination, comfort, or food preservation—are sometimes called energy services.

Energy conservation, on the other hand, means reducing the level of services, such as reducing lighting or comfort, or turning up the temperature of your fridge. Reducing service levels (conservation) does not necessarily mean sacrifice, however. For example, many spaces are overlit by current-day standards, many water heater temperatures are set too high, and so on. Consumers have the option of improving energy efficiency (such as through purchasing better appliances) and/or reducing service levels, but lowering the quality of life is not a prerequisite for reducing energy demand.

MYTH: Energy efficiency increases the first cost of houses.

TRUTH: While efficient products usually cost more, in some cases there may be little or no added initial cost. Most efficient products are also premium products (in terms of features, warranty, and so on), so it's difficult to say that you are paying for the efficiency. In some instances, efficiency can even reduce first cost, as in the case where smaller, properly sized heating and cooling systems can be installed if they're highly efficient. When homes are designed well and include such measures as passive solar lighting and heating measures, optimum-value engineering, correctly sized HVAC systems, high-tech windows, and shorter duct runs, up-front building costs often turn out to be about the same as those of conventional homes, while operating costs are significantly lower. What’s more, high-performance homes offer huge savings in terms of occupant comfort and safety, and reduced litigation and callbacks.

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