Fun Ways to Teach Kids About Energy Efficiency and Responsible Energy Use at Home
There’s been a real energy revolution since we started business in 1991. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but a quarter century has passed since Bell Brothers opened its doors, and lots of changes have occurred in that time. Growing up, we didn’t think too much about energy efficiency and the effect we’re having on the environment. But a movement that seemed radical in the 70s gained traction in the next few decades, and it’s obvious to all of us that energy efficiency is here to stay.
That’s probably a good thing. Moving towards energy efficiency is good for our community, good for the environment, and means we spend less money on utilities every month — all good things. It makes sense to start to teach our kids some good energy habits when they’re still young, and we’ve found a few good ways to do just that. It’s not always a naturally fascinating subject — heck, most adults get bored when you bring out the EER rating info or start talking about the CFL lightbulb debate. But saving energy can be boiled down to a few basic concepts that are pretty easy to communicate to kids (and adults) in a fun way.
Energy = Money
Most kids have a pretty good idea that money is something we want to keep, not pay to someone else if we can help it. And when it comes to paying money for things at the store, it’s not hard to grasp — there are material goods there that you get for your hard-earned cash. But it’s harder to show them that turning on the air conditioner also means spending money, and you probably won’t win “parent-of-the-year” awards by busting out the utility bill.
Give your kids a couple pennies and a few quarters and show them that when they turn on the lights, it costs a penny. Turn on the AC and it costs a quarter. Explain that when the AC or the lights are on, they cost a penny or a quarter every two minutes respectively. That’s why it’s important to turn off the lights when we’re not using them, and only run the HVAC when people are home.
Make a Game Out of Saving Energy
See who can turn out the most lights when they’re not being used. Keep track of windows being left open and the same with doors, and then keep track of your kids closing them. Instead of leaving the water running while your brush teeth, have your kids turn it off and then on again when they’re ready to rinse.
This can be a tricky balance with kids because many will see them as just more chores. Be sure to notice when kids turn out lights and save energy around the house, and keep a scoreboard for the whole family. Make goals and give points for every time the kids do a good job saving energy. As hard as it is, don’t remind them yourself to save energy—make sure they’re doing it themselves. If they don’t, then they don’t accumulate points. If they do, you can have a little reward party once in a while.
You’ll know best what incentivizes your kids. Maybe it’s Friday afternoon ice cream or a movie on the weekend. There might be a sliding scale of goals and rewards — if they do a good job, ice cream. If they do a great job, movies. Don’t be shy about telling the kids they’ll get rewards for doing a good job — it’s something they can work towards if they know about it. Don’t forget to consider long-term goals as well: maybe a month or two of great energy saving can lead to a really fun thing.
Remember that it’s a game, not a new chore. Saving energy can be a hard concept to grasp, and kids won’t respond to punitive measures for not saving energy the same way they will to a rewards program for saving energy.
Involve Kids in Home Upgrades
If you decide to upgrade your home to save energy you’ll have contractors in your house doing work. It could be a water heater replacement, new windows, or insulation. Whatever the case, your kids will probably have questions. That’s a great thing to encourage — at Bell Brothers, we love answering kids’ questions about the work that’s going on. This is also a good way to alleviate any concerns kids might have. Young children especially may be thrown for a loop with strangers working in the house, and it’s important to show them why the work is important.
It’s also a great way to get kids thinking early about living in a home that’s energy efficient, and that it’s important to save energy when you can. The building techniques of the future are going to involve energy efficiency and it’s going to become more and more common—and eventually mandatory—for old buildings to be upgraded so they save as much energy as possible. We’re building good habits for the future, and making sure kids are ready for that future when it comes.