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SuperMouse's avatar

Does flicking a light switch on and off really waste electricity? Does it start fires?

Asked by SuperMouse (30785points) August 22nd, 2008

My parents used to tell me that flicking the light switch on and off wastes electricity and could start a fire. Is this true? These are the same people who told me that if I kept making faces my face would freeze that way and that gum takes 12 years to digest.

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9 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

And if you swallow a cherry pit, a tree would grow in your stomach. How old are you?

SuperMouse's avatar

@Gail, actually it was a watermelon seed.

Edit: I am 42 and my face has never frozen, I have never had gum clog my intestines, and I have yet to have a watermelon grow in my stomach. I started wondering about the light switch story when – apparently channeling my father – I told my eight year-old to stop the flicking because it would start a fire.

lefteh's avatar

I’m no electricity expert, but I think it is different from bulb to bulb.
For example, fluorescent lights use a lot more energy to start up than incandescent bulbs. However, fluorescents use less energy while running.

I think.

iJimmy's avatar

Technically it is wasting electricity since you can’t really use the flickering light for anything. But maybe entertainment. The question is does it use more than leaving it on. I suspect not. As for starting a fire… Maybe in some extreme situation. Sounds like something for Myth Busters.

gailcalled's avatar

@Supermouse; That is a very funny story. I hope you live to a very old age and see whether your eight-year-old as a parent tells his(her) child the same thing.

I hope you spend many wasteful happy hours on Fluther

iJimmy's avatar

I was thinking… When electricity was first being rolled out many people were afraid of it. Much like cell phones today. Perhaps starting a fire so easily was just a result. And parents just passed it down generation after generation.

rowenaz's avatar

I asked my husband about this, he’s an electrician, and he said, “What the fuck are you talking about? Just turn the damn light off and let’s go to bed.” I don’t know. It’s not going to start a fire, because it is only closing the circuit.

mac316's avatar

I’m with rowenaz’s husband!! The switch only closes the circuit to the light or appliance. Actually, you might notice a small spark in the switch when you turn it off.
In any case, the switches used today are well tested and approved before being offered for sale. As evidenced by the “Underwriters” seal. This seal means that the device may be safely covered under your homeowners insurance.

Furicist's avatar

There is a common rumour that keeping a light switched on is more efficient than turning it off and on to save energy, claiming having it heat up again takes ages. Keeping a light on will only be more efficient if you only plan on keeping the light off for 5 seconds or less.

Gum does not take 12 years to digest. The reason the gum keeps hard in your mouth is because you keep chewing it, making it form new bonds again and again. If you stop chewing gum (I have fell asleep with it in my mouth) it dissolves to smaller pieces and eventually totally dissolves. I have often woken up with a minty gooey mouth with tiny white bits everywhere!

Your face will never stick to one expression, I dont know the true origin of it, but you may want to look up tetanus. The infection itself could cause spasms causing peoples faces to contract into grotesque expressions. Perhaps, in the days when people did not understand the cause, they blamed pulling faces on the infection itself.

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