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Incredible Energy Claims

The Oxford English Dictionary cites the phrase, if it’s “too good to be true” was first written in 1580. More than 500 years later, this expression seems to apply to every facet of modern times; powering our daily lives is no exception.

After learning of an incredible energy-saving or producing equipment or gadget, customers have often turned to their local public power utility as a trusted source for an unbiased opinion. Sadly, many manufacturer claims regarding product capabilities or efficiencies are grossly overstated. Furthermore, most customers don’t have the personal knowledge or experience to sort through the facts and fallacies by themselves. Below are a few examples utility colleagues have recently seen.

The Black Box

Manufacturers of these small devices claim you simply plug their unit into an electrical outlet to potentially save hundreds to thousands of dollars per year. They often lead their sales pitch by saying “This is the device your power company doesn’t want you to know about”. They might provide a lengthy explanation about how after a few weeks, their gadget learns how to optimize your appliance’s electricity use that will save an extraordinary percentage of energy. While the theory behind their device often yields savings for industrial customers with large motor loads, residential customers seldom see any difference on their electric bill.

Go Solar

With claims like “The International Energy Agency declares solar power is the “cheapest electricity in history,” homeowners are thrilled with the prospects of not only eliminating their electric bill but making an income from the extra energy produced. Usually, a company’s solar consultant schedules a time to meet with homeowners to individually “right-size” a system while discussing current incentives and tax credits, potential savings, decreasing equipment costs, and sustainability, as well as future energy costs and increasing property values. At the same time, they may not elaborate on electric utility interconnection, maintenance, unforeseen installation costs, battery storage requirements and more. Though most sales representatives recognize their company’s future relies on customers being satisfied with the installation, they also know their personal income is based on the customer saying “Yes”. Consequently, some claims have been misrepresented leading to consumer disappointment.


Common claims made by less-honorable window sales reps may include, “Their window saves up to 50% in energy.” Does that mean 50% of your home’s total energy costs? No. They are usually referring to a home’s heating and cooling losses through windows alone. Several studies have indicated that approximately 10 to 12% of a home’s total heating and cooling loss is through windows. When considering all losses, this calculates to an overall energy savings of 5 to 6%. Considering the cost of installing each window can range from several hundred dollars to well over $1,000, the payback from savings extends out many years.

Space Heaters

Imagine saving “50% or more on home heating costs” using “the most-efficient space heater ever made”. Such declarations are used to justify a 1,500-watt space heater that may cost several hundred dollars or more. Regrettably, some customers don’t understand the draconian measures they must take to achieve that level of savings such as lowering their whole home thermostat setting by 15°F or more and isolating in one room for the heating season. To add insult to injury, they are further perturbed after discovering other 1,500-watt space heaters costing as little as $20 produce the exact amount of heat just as efficiently as their expensive one.

Numerous other claims have been made by manufacturers of insulations/heat barriers, air conditioner refrigerant additives and whole house fans to name a few. While most energy efficiency and energy producing products are fairly represented in the market, some are just “too good to be true”.

If you’re looking at a significant investment, thoroughly research the promoting company through the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. The Department of Energy through Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a web-based evaluation tool to help consumers evaluate window energy savings. And the Environmental Protection Agency through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory offers a photovoltaic energy system evaluator to assist with evaluating solar projects.

As always, know your local electric utility will help to provide unbiased, objective information regarding any energy efficiency or energy producing products you are considering. They want to help you make the most of the energy needed in daily life including how energy is used and can be saved. For additional ways you can become more EnergyWiseSM, visit with your local public power utility.

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