Don’t fall for these summer savings scams

Some people call it gullible, but I call it choosing to trust people.

Sure, I’ve fallen for my fair share of jokes, like the time I truly believed that I could catch ...

Tagged: energy savings myths, summer, Saving Money

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Don’t fall for these summer savings scams

Woman's face and hair freeze as she's blasted by cold air from an A/C unit.

Now that I’m an adult, I’m very wise and definitely won’t fall for things like these summer energy efficiency myths.

Key Points

  • There are plenty of myths about energy savings.
  • Your home won’t cool more quickly if set your thermostat really low.
  • Fans cool people, not rooms, and shutting vents in unused rooms is hard on your system. 

Some people call it gullible, but I call it choosing to trust people.

Sure, I’ve fallen for my fair share of jokes, like the time I truly believed that I could catch a “snipe” bird by staying out all night with a garbage bag and flash light at summer camp. I was determined. And also bore the brunt of a lot of jokes when I was the last kid who figured out it was all an elaborate scheme.

Now that I’m an adult, I’m very wise and definitely won’t fall for things like these summer energy efficiency myths.

  1. Cool your house down quickly by setting your thermostat really low — You get home from work. Your house is really warm and stuffy, so you head over to the thermostat and set it to 55 degrees to cool it down quickly. Great idea, right? Wrong. Setting it to a lower temperature does not speed up the cooling time. The HVAC will work at the same pace until it reaches a certain temperature. Plus, you’ll be wasting a lot of energy if you forget to reset your thermostat later. Instead, just set it where you want it. Or better yet, get a programmable thermostat. That way you don’t have to keep your A/C running all day, but the HVAC can kick in right before you get home.
  2. Save energy by shutting the vents in unused rooms — We hardly ever use the spare room in the basement, so I should just shut the vent in there, right? Nope. Turns out that shutting vents can actually put extra strain on your system. Most central air systems are designed to distribute air throughout the entire house. Blocking vents messes with them and can lead to more system break downs.
  3. Run ceiling fans all the time to help keep the house cool — Fans cool you down, so you decide to keep them on all the time as a major cooling source — even when you’re not there. Bad idea. Fans make you feel cool because the breeze they create cools your skin. But they don’t change the temperature in the room. So, if there isn’t anyone there to benefit from the breeze, you’re better off turning it off and saving some electricity.

Now you don’t need to worry about falling for these myths ever again. And as a bonus tip, never trust an overly enthusiastic camp counselor who thinks it will be really fun to go on a snipe hunt.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Don’t fall for these summer savings scams

Some people call it gullible, but I call it choosing to trust people.

Sure, I’ve fallen for my fair share of jokes, like the time I truly believed that I could catch ...

Tagged: energy-savings myths, summer, Saving Money

Expand Article

Don’t fall for these summer savings scams

Woman's face and hair freeze as she's blasted by an A/C unit

Now that I’m an adult, I’m very wise and definitely won’t fall for things like these summer energy efficiency myths.

Key Points

  • There are plenty of myths about energy savings.
  • Your home won’t cool more quickly if set your thermostat really low.
  • Fans cool people, not rooms, and shutting vents in unused rooms is hard on your system. 

Some people call it gullible, but I call it choosing to trust people.

Sure, I’ve fallen for my fair share of jokes, like the time I truly believed that I could catch a “snipe” bird by staying out all night with a garbage bag and flash light at summer camp. I was determined. And also bore the brunt of a lot of jokes when I was the last kid who figured out it was all an elaborate scheme.

Now that I’m an adult, I’m very wise and definitely won’t fall for things like these summer energy efficiency myths.

  1. Cool your house down quickly by setting your thermostat really low — You get home from work. Your house is really warm and stuffy, so you head over to the thermostat and set it to 55 degrees to cool it down quickly. Great idea, right? Wrong. Setting it to a lower temperature does not speed up the cooling time. The HVAC will work at the same pace until it reaches a certain temperature. Plus, you’ll be wasting a lot of energy if you forget to reset your thermostat later. Instead, just set it where you want it. Or better yet, get a programmable thermostat. That way you don’t have to keep your A/C running all day, but the HVAC can kick in right before you get home.
  2. Save energy by shutting the vents in unused rooms — We hardly ever use the spare room in the basement, so I should just shut the vent in there, right? Nope. Turns out that shutting vents can actually put extra strain on your system. Most central air systems are designed to distribute air throughout the entire house. Blocking vents messes with them and can lead to more system break downs.
  3. Run ceiling fans all the time to help keep the house cool — Fans cool you down, so you decide to keep them on all the time as a major cooling source — even when you’re not there. Bad idea. Fans make you feel cool because the breeze they create cools your skin. But they don’t change the temperature in the room. So, if there isn’t anyone there to benefit from the breeze, you’re better off turning it off and saving some electricity.

Now you don’t need to worry about falling for these myths ever again. And as a bonus tip, never trust an overly enthusiastic camp counselor who thinks it will be really fun to go on a snipe hunt. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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We can help keep families from freezing

As a parent, my children’s safety is always top of mind. I tiptoe into my daughters’ rooms a few times a night to replace covers they’ve kicked off. And as I look at their ...

Tagged: LIHEAP, low-income families, heating, legislation

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We can help keep families from freezing

Model of a house topped with a hat and wrapped in a scarf

So when I hear that programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, may be eliminated from the federal budget, I worry for families that depend on those dollars to heat their homes.

Key Points

  • LIHEAP may be eliminated from the federal budget.
  • The program provides energy assistance to low-income households.
  • Contact your legislators and encourage them to save LIHEAP.  

As a parent, my children’s safety is always top of mind. I tiptoe into my daughters’ rooms a few times a night to replace covers they’ve kicked off. And as I look at their sweet, sleeping faces, I’m thankful that we have a warm home to shelter us in the cold of winter. (I’m also thankful that after three books, two requests for a drink of water, and at least one false alarm potty break, they’re finally sleeping, but that’s another story).

So when I hear that programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, may be eliminated from the federal budget, I worry for families that depend on those dollars to heat their homes.

LIHEAP is a $3.4 billion program that provides energy assistance to about 6 million households. Each state sets eligibility rates for the program, but federal law sets the income maximum at 150 percent of the federal poverty guideline. That equates to a household income of $30,240 for a family of three. Of those families served, more than 70 percent have either a senior 60 or older, a child 5 or younger or a person with a disability.

Here in my hometown, we’re still thawing out from the winter, and we know all too well that energy to keep our families warm isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity.

Please contact your legislators and encourage them to keep LIHEAP available to people who need it.

I know I’ll be writing my congresswoman and senators. Right after I finish our 50-step bedtime routine with my kids.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Good news KITT: Other cars are learning to talk too

It’s been a lonely few decades for KITT. Not only does the poor ‘80s Trans Am have no other cars to talk to, word has it David Hasselhoff never calls and even forgot poor KITT ...

Tagged: kitt car, fuel efficiency, hybrids

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Good news KITT: Other cars are learning to talk too

David Hasselhoff gives a thumbs-up while perched atop KITT car

The new software lets cars talk to each other and share information about what’s coming up. According to Popular Mechanics, this info lets cars precisely regulate a hybrid’s fuel consumption to increase fuel efficiency by 30 percent.

Key Points

  • New software lets cars talk to each other and share information about upcoming road and traffic conditions.
  • This info lets hybrid vehicles regulate fuel consumption and increase fuel efficiency by 30 percent.
  • David Hasselhoff is a bad friend.  

It’s been a lonely few decades for KITT. Not only does the poor ‘80s Trans Am have no other cars to talk to, word has it David Hasselhoff never calls and even forgot poor KITT on his Christmas card list.

But things are looking up for the Knight Industries Two Thousand.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, are working on software that lets cars talk to each other.

Although I’m sure they were mostly motivated by images of a sad, lonely KITT, they also developed the software to make hybrid vehicles more fuel efficient.

Hybrids are the mullets of the electric vehicle: Electric engine in the front, standard fuel tank as a backup. They also have a gas-powered generator to give the cars the best of all worlds.

Hybrids usually use up all the battery first and then switch to the fuel engine as a last resort. But if you knew all the factors of your trip, like traffic and road conditions, it would be more fuel efficient to use a combination of the electric and fuel engines.

The trouble is, it’s nearly impossible to know what’s coming up on the road to budget just enough electricity and gas to make it to your destination.

Until now.

The new software lets cars talk to each other and share information about what’s coming up. According to Popular Mechanics, this info lets cars precisely regulate a hybrid’s fuel consumption to increase fuel efficiency by 30 percent. As more cars talk to each other and share more information, that number could go up even more, making drivers — and KITT — even happier.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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New drone technology might make wind turbine maintenance cheaper and safer

Last week, we talked about how drones are helping solar plants be more efficient and drive down the cost of solar energy in some areas of the country.

But solar isn’t ...

Tagged: drones, wind turbines, energy technology

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New drone technology might make wind turbine maintenance cheaper and safer

Drone flies in front of wind turbines

The process to inspect a whole wind farm can take months. SkySpec’s self-piloting drones can do it in 20 minutes.

Key Points

  • A start-up company is using drones to help make wind turbine maintenance cheaper and safer.
  • Drones with advanced damage identification systems can inspect turbines in minutes.
  • The process used to take months. 

Last week, we talked about how drones are helping solar plants be more efficient and drive down the cost of solar energy in some areas of the country.

But solar isn’t the only kid on the energy block using drones.

Wind companies are using the little guys too.

 A small business with just 12 employees might change the way wind companies inspect turbines for damage.

The traditional method to see if turbines need any maintenance can be time consuming and sometimes dangerous. Someone has to climb to the top, visually inspect the turbine and blades and take pictures of any damage with a cell phone.

The process to inspect a whole wind farm can take months.

SkySpec’s self-piloting drones can do it in 20 minutes. Drones are deployed to inspect the turbine, top to bottom.

According to the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the drones use an advanced damage identification system that can detect wind turbine cracks and collect valuable data.

SkySpecs received a Small Business Voucher Award through the Department of Energy. Through the award, the company is working with Sandia National Lab to validate the damage detection algorithms it uses. They should be done by fall of this year, and hope to go to market with the product.

Automating processes like this can help reduce the maintenance costs for wind companies, and that could make wind energy cheaper.

Go, drones, go! 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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