Taking Action: Energy Efficiency at Home and at School

Issues of climate change and energy consumption are daunting for children to comprehend or take part in solving. Locally, what can children do to address these matters? Awareness and action can start in our homes and in our schools.


The Energy Information Administration estimates that almost half of home energy consumption in U.S. homes can be attributed to heating and cooling (42 percent), along with additional rounded-off percentages for lighting and appliances (36 percent), water heating (14 percent), and refrigeration (9 percent).

Making our homes and schools more energy efficient can greatly reduce energy use, thereby saving money and the environment. Efficiency deals with how well we utilize energy, deriving a maximum of energy from the least amount of effort, distinctively different from cutting energy use through conservation only. Efficiency can be improved through using appliances that draw less energy, becoming more aware of how you use energy in the home or school, or cutting down on wasting energy sources.

Children can do simple things like reducing the amount of “ghost energy” consumed by electronics such as VCRs or stereos, which still draw energy even when they are turned off, turning lights and computers off when not in use, or shortening time in the shower. Knowing how much electricity a given item draws can also build awareness. For example, a hair dryer can draw as much electricity as a large appliance, sometimes as much as 1800 watts–as much electricity as a dishwasher uses. You can demonstrate this idea by purchasing an electric meter reader, such as a Kill-a-Watt meter, and plugging in various electronics to compare power consumption.

Children can also assist in implementing energy-efficient measures in the home. These measures include replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent ones, sealing leaks and cracks in windows and doors, installing more efficient showerheads or thermostat regulators for heating and cooling. Bigger measures like purchasing energy-efficient appliances and heaters or getting a home energy audit can also greatly help. In some homes, these measures can collectively reduce energy use by nearly 50 percent.

In the school environment, children may not have even considered the energy needs of running a school building. Implementing campaigns, ideally designed by the students and faculty, to improve the use and consumption of energy in the school will not only save on energy costs but also instill an awareness of how energy is used in our daily lives.


Resources

Energy Hog
With sections for both adults and kids (with a stern “No Adults Allowed” warning for the kids’ page!), this site has lots of information on improving energy efficiency in the home. The kids’ section has games that enable kids to become “Energy Hog Busters” as they learn ways to save energy in their homes.

Alliance to Save Energy
This web site provides background and consumer information about energy use in the home. It tells how to calculate various elements of home energy consumption and compare them with more energy-efficient measures.

The NEED (National Energy Education Development) Project
This professional development program provides resources, activities, student resources, and face-to-face workshops, which are often sponsored by local organizations for teacher training.

Energy Star: School Energy Efficiency
For those who want more in-depth information about school energy efficiency measures.


This article was written by Robert Payo. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Robert at beyondpenguins@msteacher.org.

Copyright October 2008 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

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