Teach Your Children Well


By Miranda Boutelle

Q: I’m making an effort to reduce my energy use, and I want my kids to start energy-saving habits as well. How can I encourage them to use less electricity at home? 

A: Educating kids on energy use and costs can help engage them in your family’s goal to use less electricity. They can be electric conservation champions if you ask them to help. 

A great place to start is to teach children the impact of saving energy; have them help you conserve with the household’s biggest energy users: heating and cooling systems. Set the example and dress appropriately for the seasons, even when indoors — socks and sweaters in the winter, tank tops and shorts in the summer. Clothing choices impact thermostat settings that can balance comfort and savings. 

This time of year, you can also leave the house during the hottest times of the day to go for a swim or play outside. Before you go, nudge up the thermostat a few degrees to avoid cooling an empty house. 

The second-highest use of electricity is typically an electric water heater. Use a shower timer so older kids can monitor how long they are in the shower. Teach them to wash their clothes in cold water. If you have a gas water heater, look at the gas bill to find opportunities to save. 

Powering down gaming stations and computers is another way to save on energy use. In the kitchen, keep the refrigerator door shut. Teach kids to take a quick peek and shut the door while they think about their snack options. 

If your kids are older, spend some time teaching them how to read the electric bill. Focus on what you can control: kilowatt-hour use. If they are old enough, teach them how to do the math. Calculate kWh use by multiplying wattage by hours used and dividing by 1,000. Multiply this by the kWh rate found on your electric bill to estimate how much you spend on power for each household appliance. 

For example, if you have a space heater that uses 1,500 watts and is on for four hours a day for one month, it uses 180 kWh. With an average rate of 13.1 cents per kWh in Colorado, the space heater costs about $25 a month to operate. In this example, that same space heater costs more than $70 per month if runs 12 hours a day. 

For household appliance wattage, look for the amount stamped on the bottom, back, or nameplate. If the nameplate does not include wattage, figure it out by multiplying the voltage by the amperage. 

For more information on energy use and how to save on your electric bill, visit your electric co-op’s website. 


Miranda Boutelle is the chief operating officer at Efficiency Services Group in Oregon, a cooperatively owned energy efficiency company. She has more than 20 years of experience helping people save energy at home, and she writes on energy efficiency topics for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 electric co-ops.