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It's the beginning of August, and if you have kids that stayed home by themselves over the summer, you've probably noticed that your energy bill is much, much higher than usual. While it's too late to get them to change their habits over those summer months, the start of the school year is an excellent time to introduce new habits and routines. If you have children that are too young to stay at home by themselves, even better. You've probably already noticed, the younger they are the better they'll pick up on new habits and routines.
Taking Care of Mother Nature'
While not all of us are concerned with the environment, all of us are probably concerned about our energy bills. However, it's best to approach most children with non-financial reasons that they should be saving on energy use. The best way to do this is by talking to your children about the environment and why it's important to take care of it.
Most kids understand that air, water and food are important to survival. Most kids have learned about pollution in school as well. However, sometimes it's hard for children to relate their own energy consumption (playing video games, running hot water, etc.) to environmental pollution. Talk to your kids about how many of their everyday activities require energy, and ask them to help Mother Nature by reducing their own energy consumption.
Energy Saving Routines
Here are 10 habits or routines that you can introduce to your children, one at a time. Of course, you'll want to modify each suggestion to your child's age and level of skills. We won't call ourselves experts in parenting (we are experts in energy!), so we'll leave it up to you to find the best ways to introduce these habits and routines. We do suggest that you reward your children once they get the hang of each item.
- Turn off the lights. Your home's lighting accounts for roughly 10% of your home's energy consumption. Getting kids to turn off the lights is no easy task (from our experience anyway), but it can be done. If your child can get in the habit of this, the items below should be easy as cake.
- Don't touch the thermostat. If your child is old enough, they realize the thermostat is the ultimate key to warmth or coolness. But have they thought about putting on a sweater during the winter or taking off those flannel pants in the summer? If your kid can't get past this step, consider purchasing a thermostat guard with a lock. The $20 you spend may be well worth the energy savings on your bill.
- Turn of the water when brushing teeth. Cold water use won't increase your energy bill, but it sure will increase your water bill. But even the slightest turn of a hot/cold water faucet will use hot water. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children (and adults) brush their teeth for two entire minutes. Purchase an egg timer ($1-$2), write "turn the water off" on it, and get your child into two habits at the same time.
- Take a shower instead of a bath. We realize this isn't logical for your small toddler, but older kids can get in this habit easily. In addition, make sure that your children aren't brushing their teeth in the shower. Instead, have them brush their teeth when they are out of their shower and turn the water off!
- Assign an Energy Monitor. Give your kids some responsibility and authority by assigning one to the position of "Energy Monitor" (similar to a Hall Monitor). Let them be in charge of making sure everyone in the house is doing their part for Mother Nature (and your energy bill!). If you have more than one child, rotate the responsibility.
- Do homework next to a window with natural light instead of using a lamp.
- Turn of the TV, computer, and other electronics when not in use.
- Unplug cell-phone chargers when not in use.
- Don't open windows when the air or heat is on.
- Don't stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open for a long time.
- Ask Mom or Dad to turn the car off when the engine is idling.
- Ride a bike instead of asking Mom or Dad to drive you there.