These energy myths can cost you real money

Do you ever wonder if your kids listen to a thing you say? Stop laughing, because I have proof kids do hear some of what we tell them. The only snag is that some of what we tell them isn’t true.

Take the popular notion that if you’re leaving the room for only a few minutes, there’s no point in turning off the lights because it takes so much extra energy to turn them back on again.

Contrary to the myth, you can measure in fractions of a second the amount of energy needed to re-light a bulb after it has been turned off. So unless you have cool superpowers and can zip in and out of rooms in a fraction of a second, you’ll always save energy by turning a light off when you leave and then turning it back on only when you return. Anything else wastes electricity and costs you money.

Like most myths, it contains a tiny kernel of truth. Long ago, early fluorescent lights used a small surge of power at start up, but even then, switching the lights off usually saved energy in the long run. Some older appliances, such as TVs of the 1950s-60s, also used power by slowly warming up. But today turning the lights, TV and most other things off when you’re out of the room is a sure bet. If you have a question about a particular appliance, check with the manufacturer. Most will say “off” saves energy and gives all those hot circuits inside a welcome break.

Changing old habits can be hard, but new technologies and innovations can lend a hand. Occupancy sensors will automatically shut off the lights when a room is empty, and timers and motion sensors can help as well. Today, they’re becoming standard practice in many new buildings, including homes.

If you use these handy helpers with CFLs (compact fluorescent lights), look for bulbs marked as designed for this use. Give the PSE Energy Advisors a ring at 1-800-562-1482 or go to to learn more.

Andy Wappler is a senior public relations manager at Puget Sound Energy. He joined PSE in February 2008 after being chief meteorologist at KIRO-TV. He looks forward to hearing from you at