Energy conservation is all about saving energy by using less of it. It is something adults think about a lot as using energy in the home impact the environment and costs money. If the whole family works together to use less energy, it can help save the planet by reducing your impact on the environment and will help save money too. This is something kids of all ages can help achieve. Let’s take a look at how we can all save energy.
Before we dive into all the different ways children can help reduce energy usage in the house, it is important to understand what we are talking about. So, what is energy conservation and why does it matter?
Simply put, energy conservation is preventing the waste of energy so we can protect it for use in the future. Youngsters often assume energy is free and never-ending, simply because they don’t know any better. However, the most common forms of energy used to powerhouses are non-renewable, this means there is only a limited amount of them and once the natural resources are used up they are gone and we cannot produce more. This is why it is extremely important to conserve the energy we do have and do our best not to waste it.
All energy that is produced and used has an impact on the environment. Conserving energy is important for:
Understanding energy plays an important part in understanding why we should conserve it. Energy is all around us, it’s everywhere but energy has to go through a process for us to be able to use it to power our homes and items such as heaters and appliances. Let’s take a look at what gas and electricity are and how they are produced:
Gas is sourced from fossils (animal and plant material that’s millions of years old) that are found deep under the Earth’s surface. These fossils are used for many things including energy and materials. Gas companies will drill down to the gas and then pump it out. Once the gas has been captured, it is sent through high-pressure pipes to wherever it is needed. Gas is highly flammable making the maintenance of the pipes that carry the gas extremely important. The pipes travel to meters outside houses, the meter outside your house will measure how much gas your family uses. Pipes will connect the meter to the gas appliances in your home.
Whenever you flick a switch or plug in a charger, electricity is travelling to your home from far, far away. It travels along the wires and poles you may have seen along the roads and near your home. Here’s how it happens: electrical current is produced through a generator that uses coal, natural gas, water or wind. Electricity is called a secondary source as it needs another source such as gas, coal, nuclear fuels, wind or sunlight to generate it. Once the current has been generated, it is sent through transformers that increase the voltage and push the power long distances through transmission lines. It then reaches a substation where the voltage is lowered before heading to smaller transformers then to homes such as yours and mine. When the electricity reaches your house, it passes through a meter that measures the amount of electricity being used.
Electricity powers anything you plug into a power socket. Although a lot of energy is currently non-renewable, there are natural renewable solutions to produce electricity such as wind turbines where the wind turns the windmill to produce a current and solar power where the heat and light from the sun are absorbed into solar panels. Wind and sunlight are both sources of renewable energy meaning they won’t run out. Producing energy from renewable sources is cleaner and better for the environment.
Now we have some understanding of energy and the process it has to go through for us to be able to eventually use it let’s take a look at why it is so important for us all to use less energy where we can.
· Natural Resources
Energy comes from natural resources such as water, natural gas and oil. The types of natural resources used for energy are non-renewable. This is why helping by using less energy is so important.
· Reduce Pollution
Pollution can be spread by using certain resources. These chemicals and gases get into the air and water and cause the Earth to heat up more than it should. This has a knock-on effect on the weather and can cause a wide range of issues for humans, animals and plants. By using less energy we are creating less pollution.
· Combat Global Warming
Greenhouse gases contribute to global warming. Small changes can help combat global warming and being more mindful of your energy use helps.
· Stop Habitat Destruction
The fossil fuels need to come from somewhere and they are often found in wildlife habitats. By conserving energy now, you are helping to ensure these natural areas are still around for future generations to enjoy.
Energy costs money, if you use less your family will be paying less. Following the energy saving tips below is a great way to cut down on costs without needing to make big changes to your lifestyle.
We’ve looked at energy on a global scale but it can be difficult for children to feel motivated about turning off lights or closing the fridge door if they don’t have an understanding of why those seemingly small actions are actually very important. One of the best ways you can help them make sense of energy is by talking to them about the energy usage of household appliances in your home. Help connect the dots by combining what we have learnt about energy to things you can see around the house. Here are 4 of the key culprits of large energy usage at home:
· The fridge – the refrigerator uses a lot of energy in the home, it is often the most expensive item to run. Did you know that when you leave the fridge door open, all of the cold air escapes and the temperature of the fridge is raised? This means the fridge has to work even harder to maintain the optimal temperature and keep all of your food cold. Try not to open the fridge for a long time, only open it when you know what you want and be as quick as you can at taking stuff out and putting stuff in.
· TV – the TV also uses a lot of energy. Having the TV on is great if someone is watching it but leaving it on when you go to do other things is not good for your home’s energy usage. If no one is watching the television, it should be turned off. Even a TV that is in standby mode will be using energy so encourage everyone to turn the TV off when it is not being used.
· Tumble Dryer – a tumble dryer is also an expensive appliance to run. You can save energy and money by hanging out clothes when the weather is warm and by only turning the tumble dryer on when you have a full load of washing to dry. Kids – don’t turn the tumble dryer on without your parents’ permission! Drying only your swimming costume in a tumble dryer might be easy but it is not a good use of energy.
· Lights – how much energy the lights in your home use depends on the lights you have fitted. Sometimes we leave the lights on without noticing but we should always try to remember to turn lights off when they are not needed. Make it a habit to turn off lights when you leave a room. Using energy-saving lightbulbs can also help by producing the same amount of light while using far less energy. Oh, and kids, if you see your parents are forgetting to turn off lights you can remind them too so your whole family develops this great, new, energy-saving habit.
Life without electricity is difficult to imagine but to save energy you don’t have to turn your electricity off completely, you just need to be more mindful of how you are using it. We challenge you to save energy using the following tips and tricks:
1. Spend Less Time Watching TV
Watching the TV and playing video games uses power. When the TV is not being used, make sure it is turned off. There are lots of fun things to do that don’t involve the television. Maybe spend some time playing outside or reading books, these are both great activities that don’t involve any power. Maybe you can have a family games night or spend time in nature. All of these activities are not just tons of fun! They are also helping to save energy and the environment.
2. Turn Off Switches
Teach the whole family to turn off switches before they leave a room. Switches can include lots of different items such as the TV, computer, lights etc. This can be a great habit to get into and will help save a lot of energy in the long run. If your child is struggling to remember this, you could create a checklist to stick on the door or introduce incentives to encourage them to keep up with this new routine.
3. Keep Showers Short
Longer showers use more water and more energy is needed to heat the water. Keep showers short to save energy. Use a timer or select a song that is the length of time the shower should be to help you keep track of time when you are showering. These are mindful methods that can be used by the whole family so you can all reduce your power and water usage.
4. Hang Wet Clothes Out to Dry
We mentioned earlier that tumble dryers use a lot of energy and tend to be expensive to run. We all know that kids love playing in water so from now on, let’s all hang our wet towels and swimsuits outside in the sunshine to dry. It can be as simple as draping them over the back of a chair, they’ll dry off in no time if the sun is shining and it will mean no electricity is needed to dry them.
5. Turn Off Lights During the Day
Turning off switches when you leave a room is a good habit to get into but we want to challenge you to stop turning lights on when there is natural light available. If the sun is shining, turn off the lights and open the curtains. Turning on lights when you enter a room or wake up in the morning is a habit for many people but start asking yourself if you really need the light on. As best as you can, use natural light during daylight hours instead of electricity. This makes sense and is a simple way to not waste energy within the house.
6. Close the Fridge
We all know what kids are like when they are hungry, they love to stand in front of the fridge with the door wide open. Sometimes they even forget to close it properly! From now on, let’s all only open the fridge when we are getting something (we need to think about what we want before actually opening the fridge so there will be no reason to hold the door open for a long time). Once we have got the item we were looking for, we need to properly close the fridge door before walking away, this will help keep the fridge cold and save energy. Remember that the longer the door is open, the more cold air is escaping and the harder the fridge will need to work.
7. Don’t Leave Water Running
When you are brushing your teeth, turn the water off so you don’t waste it. If you are brushing your teeth with the water running, all of that water is going straight into the drain without being used. Turn the tap on when you need to rinse and clean your toothbrush.
8. Don’t Use the Air Conditioning Unless You Really Need To
If you can, use fans to cool off rather than the air conditioning unit, or if there is a cool breeze outside just open some windows. If you do turn the AC is on, close all windows and doors so it can be as effective as possible using the least amount of energy.
If your energy usage is measured using a smart meter, this can be a perfect way of showing kids how much energy is being used in real-time. Looking at the smart meter display and seeing how much energy has been used so far that day and how much it costs will help bring energy to life. It’s also great for comparing energy usage on different days, so you can compare the week before you started the above energy saving tips and the week after and you can see how much difference there is in the amount of energy used. This is a great way to show children the real difference their new habits are making.
Get ghost busting kids, there’s a phantom in the house that’s using energy even when you’re not using anything. Okay, the phantom isn’t real but phantom energy is! Phantom energy is when a device that is in standby mode still uses energy. This can impact the energy bill and means you’re going to be paying for energy you weren’t (or at least, didn’t need to be) using. A simple way to put an end to phantom energy is by unplugging the devices and appliances that are not in use. Get into the habit of unplugging chargers, TVs, computers and lamps when they are not being used so the energy phantom cannot take any energy away.
Getting children excited about saving energy is not the easiest of tasks. Maybe you have taught them all about energy and how important it is to conserve it but they are sliding back into their old habits and forgetting to implement the tips and tricks above. We know developing new habits and routines can be a challenge so, if this is the case in your home, you could try to encourage children to save energy by turning it into fun games such as:
This is a daily game where everyone races around the house to turn off anything that has been left on unnecessarily. Everyone needs to count how many items they turned off and then at the end of the race, all the scores are compared. This can help encourage children to see that it is important to only turn stuff on if you are using it. Celebrate all of the items being turned off and use this game as a way to remind the family why the switches should be off.
A no-electricity evening can be a fun way for a family to spend quality time together while appreciating how much electricity is used in day to day life. You could spend the evening reading and playing. You can use candles or a fireplace to produce the light needed. Sitting outside in the garden around a fire is also a beautiful way to spend an evening without using electricity.
Energy Kids offers lots of fun games and activities including quizzes, puzzles and riddles. There’s also a list of great resources below this article that are great for helping children learn about conserving energy in a fun way.
Energy is extremely important and it is something we need to be talking to children about. All of us need and use energy every single day, knowing how that energy is produced and the impact producing energy has on our planet are vital for understanding why we need to conserve it. We’ve covered loads of fun, simple ways kids can help save energy at home. Now there’s no excuse for lights being left on or for extra-long showers being taken. We all need to do our little bits to help conserve energy and make the world a better place. The resources below are great for discovering more interesting information about energy. There are also some really fun animations and games included that are perfect for helping kids learn more about different ways we can conserve energy.
If you would like to find out more about energy usage and energy conservation, here are a range of additional resources for kids and parents:
· Kids – Be an Energy Star – this is an animated activity created by Energy Star to encourage kids to learn about energy and the different ways we can conserve energy.
· NASA – Climate Kids – this NASA resource helps kids to understand climate, atmosphere, water, plants and animals and energy. It also has a section that looks at carbon footprints and ways you can reduce your impact.
· TVA Kids – TVA Kids looks at how kids and families can reduce their energy usage. The site includes games, videos and lots of important information.
· WPPI Energy – Energy Resource Center – This is great for calculating how much appliances cost to run and looks at ways money can be saved.
· Constellation – Energy Facts for Kids – this is an informative page that explains what energy is and shares interesting energy facts.
· Energy Saving Infographic – this infographic summarises the 9 ways children can help save energy.
· Energise Anything – this is a free resource from E-on aimed at 5-18 year olds to help get them interested in energy.