How often have you shouted, 'just put a sweater on!’, when your kids complain they’re cold? Or, 'turn off the light!’ in a bid to save energy? Despite growing awareness about the importance of sustainability, getting kids and teens interested in energy saving isn’t easy.
To help them understand why it’s important, here are some tips to help everyone save energy while cutting down on fuel costs.
Our top energy conservation tips for kids
- Deal with vampire energy
- Switch off chargers
- Unplug less-used items during daytime hours
- Wear clothes more often before you wash them
- Only run the dishwasher and washing machine when you have a full load
- Use paper sparingly
- Think about how you heat food
- Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth or washing your hands
- Turn thermostats down by one degree
- Install a rain barrel for outdoor watering.
30 effective energy-saving habits to instill in your kids
1. Show them the real cost of energy
Do your kids really understand how much energy costs? Do they know what your monthly household overheads are and understand what percentage of this is spent on energy? If not, show them how household expenses work.
- Total up all the energy bills and show them what you need to pay out every month.
- Next, connect real money examples to the cost of energy bills. Average costs vary from state to state, but households will typically spend at least $290.79 per month on electricity, gas, water, and sewerage. That’s around $3,480 per year. An increase of up to 32% nationally.
Show your kids the cost is equal to the following:
- A one-week vacation for two people within the US: average cost $1,578 per person for a 7-day break.
- Over four times as much as people spend on gifts during the holiday season: $823.
- Almost three times the cost of a brand new iPhone 14 Pro Max 256GB: $1,199.
- Finally, if you have a smart meter, show them how much is spent each day on gas and electricity. If the meter shows $10 a day, emphasize this adds up to around $300 a month, and $900 a quarter.
2. Talk about vampire energy
One area where teens can make a difference is through vampire energy saving. An energy vampire (also known as phantom power) is a power-sucker. A device that continues to consume energy even when it's left on standby, in sleep mode, or plugged in.
- Gaming consoles
- Phones that have fully charged *(most smartphones take just an hour to charge. They don't need to be plugged in overnight)
- Sound speakers
- Desktop computers and displays
- Satellite and cable boxes
- Coffee makers
- Electric toothbrush chargers
- Digital clocks.
Although you may think one or two things left plugged in won't make a lot of difference, a whole household of appliances sucking vampire energy definitely will. Vampire energy can account for 20% of your monthly electricity bill.
Research shows we could save an average of $197.49 per household on electricity bills each year by switching off these vampire devices. That’s over $26 billion wasted on vampire energy.
- Switch off when not in use. Every cord plugged into an outlet still uses an electric current. Many devices in sleep or standby modes continuously use energy for updates, or to connect to remote servers, and record data.
- Don’t forget the TV. Even when the TV is off, it's still ready to receive a remote signal anytime. Your set-top box is also always "lying in wait" until it's time to record the next show or run behind-the-scenes updates too.
- Unplug devices when charged. Once a device is powered up, it’ll maintain its charge when in standby mode, even if unplugged. So get your kids to charge and unplug phones, laptops, and tablets regularly and turn the power off at the switch.
- Unplug items not in constant use. Identify the devices you and your teens use less frequently to help stop phantom energy draws. For example, computers and game consoles can be switched off during school hours.
- Turn the thermostat down by one or two degrees. The Department of Energy estimates savings of 1 per cent for each degree of thermostat adjustment per 8 hours. This could cut your heating bill by 10%.
3. Explain how water uses energy
Oftentimes, kids and even teens don’t realize that the water we use uses energy. So it’s worth pointing out that turning the heating on and turning the thermostat up means more water is heated. And that uses energy. The same goes for showers, bathtubs, washing machines, and dishwashers.
Your kids can help conserve energy in the following ways:
- Take showers, not baths. Taking a bath can use up to 25 gallons of water. Taking a shower instead uses 3.5 times less water than a bath and therefore means you’ll use a lot less energy to heat the water. Shower with a bucket. It may seem weird, but while you’re in there you can capture a gallon or two to use for watering plants.
- Shut off the faucet when brushing teeth or washing hands. You’ll save two to three gallons of water each day. And be sure to turn off the faucet completely. Dripping faucets can waste 100 gallons a day.
- Don’t throw clothes in the hamper after every wear (underwear aside). Air clothes instead and wash them after a couple of wears. Re-use shower towels too.
- If your teen uses the washing machine, make sure they wash full loads at lower temperatures (60 or 80, rather than at 110 or 130 degrees). According to Procter & Gamble Co, the average American family washes 300-390 laundry loads per year. An Energy Star certified washing machine consumes about 316kWh per year (costing around 17 cents per load) and uses 16 gallons of water.
- Scrape plates before putting them in the dishwasher and use the Eco setting. You use up to 27 gallons of water washing dishes by hand. Whereas an energy-star-rated dishwasher uses as little as 3.
Also, the higher the energy rating of your dishwasher, the cheaper it is to run and the less water it uses. Work out the KwH of your appliance (it’s printed on your energy rating label) and multiply it by the cost of your electricity per KW. For example, if your dishwasher runs on 1.5kWh and your energy costs 15 cents per kW, it’ll cost around $0.22 for a one-hour cycle.
- Plan ahead and avoid using the clothes dryer. Teens are notorious for wanting things immediately so encourage them to think ahead to avoid unnecessary use. Clean lint traps regularly and dry items of a similar thickness together to save drying time.
Electric clothes dryers are one of the most energy-intensive appliances in the home. Each hour of electric drying costs between 24 and 72 cents an hour, depending on the model. Drying three loads a week could cost you around $115 per year, whereas hang-drying is free.
- Install a rain barrel in the backyard. Thousands of liters of rainwater fall every year. Yet 30-60% of domestic drinking water is used to water yards and gardens in the US. Instead of wasting drinking water, collect rainwater and use it in your garden. It’s better for your lawn and plants as well as the environment. Plus, you’ll ease the burden on your local water supply and save money in the process.
4. Turn off the lights
As the average home has 40 light bulbs, the cost to light your home can seriously add up. According to the US Energy Information Administration, lighting accounts for 10% of the average US household electricity consumption.
Turning off the lights as you leave a room can save you money. How much you’ll save depends on how many lights you have in one room and the type of light bulbs you use.
The Department of Energy breaks down electricity use and costs by bulb. For example, a 60W incandescent bulb consumes around 60 kWh of electricity over 1,000 hours. While a 12W LED bulb costs only $1.32 to operate for the same amount of time.
Leaving 10 halogen lights on for an hour per day when they’re not needed can add an extra $17 to your lighting bills every year. Leaving on 10 incandescent bulbs unnecessarily for one hour a day can add an extra $24 to your annual bill.
- Make turning off lights the responsibility of the kids — it’s hard to have control over some of the bigger energy-saving tactics but they can easily run around and switch all lights off.
- Lead by example — switch lights out yourself when you leave a room.
- Use sticky notes on switches to remind everyone to switch off.
- Walk kids back to rooms to turn lights off. It’s a pain but it works eventually.
5. Energy conservation in everyday life
Conserving energy outside of the house can also help the environment and minimize the use of our energy resources. Here are just a few of the things kids and teens can do.
- Ride a bike or walk to school. Driving a car uses gas and produces emissions. Walking or cycling creates less noise, less air pollution and results in fewer emissions warming the atmosphere.
- Use a reusable water bottle. Oil and energy are needed to produce plastic bottles that end up in landfill.
- Recycle your lunch. Ensure you recycle or compost any food and packaging waste. This in turn helps conserve resources and energy used for landfills.
- Use paper sparingly in school and for homework. Just one kilogram of paper requires 324 liters of water to produce. Help conserve energy at school by using less paper and making sure you use both sides of a sheet.
- Spend less time on devices with friends. Devices used less frequently require less charging time, saving energy.
- Save energy when you make a meal. A good one for teens to think about is how they heat food. For example, using a microwave is far more energy efficient than cooking on a traditional stove.
- Keep windows and drapes closed during the day when at school to keep rooms warm. Additionally, in the summer, drapes and blinds can block out heat from the sun, keeping homes cooler. If you need to use air conditioning to keep your home cool, make sure windows are closed in warmer months too.
How can GoHenry help?
Conserving energy is crucial during the cost of living crisis, as it helps save money. Be sure to link these conversations together so your child understands how reducing energy can also cut your household bills. It’s a good way to talk to your child about spending and saving money too.