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Delusions Abound on Energy Savings

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Americans deluded about energy and energy savings? Who would have thought? We’re so well informed about other topics…

That Peculiar Glance

When it comes to saving energy, many Americans seem to get it — and at the same time they don’t get it at all.

That’s the takeaway from a new study by researchers from Columbia University, Ohio State University and Carnegie Mellon University who found that people are far more likely to focus on switching off lights or unplugging appliances than on buying new bulbs or more efficient refrigerators. But people’s perceptions of the relative savings of various actions are significantly at variance with reality.

“Participants estimated that line-drying clothes saves more energy than changing the washer’s settings (the reverse is true) and estimated that a central air-conditioner uses only 1.3 times the energy of a room air conditioner (in fact, it uses 3.5 times as much),” the researchers wrote.

Perhaps more to the point, people seem conditioned to think of energy savings as they would of saving money: that they can save by simply reducing use, the study found. But the biggest energy savings are tied to replacing things that use a lot of energy with things that use far less.

Habits like turning out the lights when leaving a room may be virtuous but don’t move the needle much on energy savings. Yet that action was cited by more of those surveyed (19.6 percent) than any other method of saving energy. By contrast, just 3.2 percent cited buying more energy-efficient appliances.

The top five behaviors listed by respondents as having a direct impact on energy savings (turning off the lights, riding a bike or public transportation, changing the thermostat, “changing my lifestyle/not having children” and unplugging appliances or using them less) yield savings that are far outweighed by actions cited far less, like driving a more fuel-efficient car.

(click to continue reading Delusions Abound on Energy Savings – Green Blog – NYTimes.com.)

The full study (PDF) is here, if you are curious about methodology and so on.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 18th, 2010 at 7:19 am

Posted in environment,News-esque

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