Myths and Misconceptions

      Here are the real answers to your questions

The following have been gathered from various sources.

Idling Myths and Facts

Myth: Idling is good for the engine and helps it warm up.
Fact: Contrary to popular belief, idling isn’t an effective way to warm up your vehicle, even in cold weather. The best way to warm it up is to drive it. In fact, with today’s engines, you need no more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days before you start to drive.

The notion that idling is good for your vehicle is so 80’s – in fact, it hasn’t been the right thing to do since the advent of electronic ignitions. The truth is that excessive idling can damage the engine.

The reason?
An idling engine isn’t operating at its peak temperature, which means that fuel doesn’t undergo complete combustion. This leaves fuel residues that can condense on cylinder walls, where they can contaminate oil and damage parts of the engine. For example, fuel residues are often deposited on spark plugs. As you spend more time idling, the average temperature of the spark plug drops. This makes the plug get dirty more quickly, which can increase fuel consumption by 4 to 5 percent. Excessive idling also lets water condense in the vehicle’s exhaust. This can lead to corrosion and reduce the life of the exhaust system. An engine running at idle is not hot enough t run the catalytic converter at it’s rated temperature, so more pollutants are generated, and this will cause a lower life for the cat.  Also if your car has over 100,000 mi on it the oil pressure at idle could be dangerously low. Low oil pressure will cause higher wear on all engine components, leading to an early failure or even a complete engine lockup.

Myth: Diesel engines need to idle for 5 minutes or more in the morning, especially on cold days.
Fact: This is one of the most commonly held myths in North America concerning diesel engines. Most engine manufacturers recommend that newer diesel engines run for no more than 3 minutes before driving.

Gelling of diesel fuel use to be a problem, but refiners have worked to resolve this issue by creating winter blends that better withstand colder temperatures.

Letting an engine idle actually does more damage to the engine than starting and stopping. Running an engine at low speed (idling) causes twice the wear on internal parts compared to driving at regular highway speeds, which can increase maintenance costs and shorten the life of the engine.  Please check your owner’s manual to find out specific warm-up guidelines for your vehicle.

Myth: Diesel exhaust doesn’t hurt anyone.
Fact: Diesel exhaust contains several chemicals and compounds that are detrimental to human health. The health effects of diesel exhaust are both acute, from short-term exposure, and chronic, from long-term or repeated exposure. Specific health risks and their severity depend upon the amount of chemical that you are exposed to as well as the duration of the exposure.

An acute exposure to diesel exhaust could cause an irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs as well as light-headedness. Chronic exposure to diesel exhaust can have several more severe effects on human health. Chronic exposure is likely to occur when a person works in a field where diesel fuel is used regularly or has repeated exposure to diesel fumes over a long period of time. Human health studies demonstrate a correlation between exposure to diesel exhaust and increased lung cancer rates in occupational settings. Experimental animal inhalation studies of chronic exposure to diesel exhaust have shown that a range of doses cause varying levels of inflammation and cellular changes in the lungs. Human and laboratory studies have also provided considerable evidence that diesel exhaust is a likely carcinogen.

Please visit the IDEM DieselWise Health Effects Page for more information about the health effects of diesel exhaust.

Myth: Heavy-duty diesel truck idling does not waste that much fuel.
Fact: Fuel is a large expense for the trucking industry. Idling adversely impacts fleet and truck owners by increasing both fuel and maintenance operating expenses. An hour of idling time consumes about one gallon of diesel fuel. At approximately $4.60 per gallon for diesel fuel, this represents a direct added cost to the trucking industry of about $4.5 billion each year.

It is estimated that idle reduction technologies could reduce fuel usage by an additional 1 billion gallons annually. This translates into over $4 billion additional dollars that could be saved by reducing fuel cost.

Myth: Shutting off and restarting your vehicle is hard on the engine and uses more gas than if you leave it running. Reality: Frequent restarting has little impact on engine components like the battery and the starter motor. Component wear caused by restarting the engine is estimated to add $10 per year to the cost of driving, money that will likely be recovered several times over in fuel savings from reduced idling. The bottom line is that over ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine.

Myth: I need to run my engine to keep windows defrosted.

Fact: If a vehicle’s engine is warm and the heater is working, a driver can shut the engine off for close to an hour, even if it’s cold outside, and still get the heater working fairly quickly after the engine is restarted.

Light Bulb and Electric usage Myths
Myth: Light bulbs and computers use more energy when you turn them on and off.
Wrong, turning off your computer can save you electricity and allows your computer to last longer.
Spinning hard drives fail sooner when they are on 24/7. Turning off lights also allows them to last longer.

Myth: Solar panels take more energy to produce than they make in use.
Actually, PV panels produce enough energy to make themselves in 1-1/2 to 3 years (and have a typical lifespan of well over 20 years. By comparison, a nuclear power plant has to produce power for 17 years just to make up the energy used during construction.

Myth: Compact Light bulbs hum and flicker.
Fact: In the early days this was true, now most good CFL bulbs do not hum or flicker and produce a pleasing warm light. CFL bulbs come in a wide variety of shapes sizes and colors, and the long tubes now also come in a super efficient variety called Super T8.

Myth: I will save money by using my old bulbs until they burn out.
Actually it costs way more to operate the old style incandescent light bulbs, and each month you operate one these old bulbs will cost about what it would take to replace it. So swapping out all your bulbs as soon as possible will save you the most money every month. Besides, using less electricity is good for the planet.

Myth: VCRs and computer monitors that go to sleep use no electricity.
Wrong: Phantom loads–(energy drain from instant warm-up appliances) use a considerable amount of electricity. Plugging them into power strips and turning off the power strip, will save 6 watts for TV/VCR, 6 watts for microwave and15watts for larger CRT monitors–power strips pay for themselves in a couple of months. You should consider a high quality surge protector for your TV / Stereo and other expensive electronics. The cheap power strips will not protect your goods in the event of a lightening strike.

Myth: Turning off my PC will use more energy when I turn it on again and cause other problems.
Fact: Do not be afraid to turn off your computer.  According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, modern computers are not hurt by frequent shutdowns. Power down the entire computer system (printers and other equipment, too) at night and on weekends: This option will save energy and extend the life of your computer.  It is a common myth that turning computer equipment off and on is bad for it.  Research on current technology shows an improvement in system life when the equipment is turned off, since heat and mechanical stress are the two leading causes of computer failure.  On older equipment (15 years ago) there was concern about power cycling stress, particularly on hard disks, but this is not true on newer equipment.  Equipment will become obsolete long before failure due to power cycling.  Your equipment will also be less vulnerable to damaging voltage spikes cause by weather or power failures when it is turned off.

Trash Myths

Myth: There is no need to sort my trash because it is sorted after pickup.
Truth: Most trash is not sorted by commercial haulers and ends up in the landfill. It is up to the consumer to sort out paper, metal and compostable materials.

Myth: Landfills need organic matter and paper in order to generate the methane gas.
Fact: The enormous amount of organic matter produced by decomposition creates problems of storage and disposal. In nature, a forest produces about a pound of dead leaves and wood per square yard every year. This may not sound like much material, but consider the amount that would fall on an area the size of a football field or soccer field. An American high school football field, including end zones, covers 6400 square yards (120 by 53.3 yards wide). A football field-sized area in a forest would be covered by 6400 pounds, or 3.2 tons, of dead organic matter per year. A soccer field covers 8800 square yards (110 by 80 yards wide). An area this size in a forest would be covered by 4.4 tons of dead organic matter. To give an idea of how much material this is, remember that an average-sized car weighs only 1.5 tons.

American cities produce even more organic waste (garbage) than forests, and very little of it decomposes and becomes recycled into new plant growth by natural processes. Every resident of Los Angeles produces 7 pounds of garbage per day! This is equal to one ton of garbage per year per person per year. The disposal and recycling of nutrients in garbage is a large problem because of the huge amount of garbage produced every day. Sanitary landfills are the current solution to the garbage problem.

Recycling and sorting your own garbage will reduce the amount of CO2 and energy used in hauling and dumping your waste.