We can tell our kids to turn out the lights, turn off the appliances, not waste electricity, etc., but they can’t always tell if it is making a difference or not in electricity use. So turn it into a challenge. Can they lower the amount of electricity the household is using? Why not start an electricity use investigation on Earth Day and see what kind of difference the whole family can make?
The first step is to learn to read the meter at your house. Get a pad and pencil and take the kids out to the meter. Look at the dials on the meter and determine the current reading. There are usually four dials – one each for the thousands, hundreds, tens, and ones digit. Write the four digit number down, along with the date.
Next, you need a baseline to start with. How much electricity are you currently using. Have them read the meter every day at the same time and write it down. Do this for a week. Start a spreadsheet with the data from each day. The amount used in kilowatts will be the current day’s reading minus the previous day’s reading. I suggest you calculate a weekly average, since your usage might fluctuate from day to day.
Now that you have one week’s average, start really trying to save. Make it a challenge for you kids. Can they get the weekly average down? Try turning off things like the lights, radio, TV, etc. when not in use. See if they can make a difference. Continue this for a couple of weeks.
Now, what if they really try to get it down for a week. Don’t use the dishwasher, the clothes dryer, hair dryer etc. It is possible! Believe it or not, we haven’t used a clothes dryer for about two years. We do line dry all of our laundry. It might not work for you, but you could try it for a week.
Try to continue into the summer. Keep looking at the weekly averages. When you see changes, try to think of what might have caused them. What happens to the readings when the weather warms up and you turn on the air conditioning?
After a few months, stop recording the meter readings, but encourage your children to keep thinking about what they learned. This study will really help your kids how the choices they make impacts the household’s use of electricity.