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See the Savings

Posted by Elisa Taub
See the Savings

For the past week, the temperature here in Los Angeles has been easily spiking above the 110 mark. As it did, the state asked everyone to conserve energy in an attempt to avoid the rolling blackouts that plagued us Californians last summer. I in turn did, my part to conserve energy by turning off lights and doing my laundry and dishwashing in the evening, instead of my normal late morning routine.

But this time instead of going around the house constantly turning off the extra lights I decided to enroll the help of a couple of trusty helpers (my kids) and teach them a little about energy conservation in the process. So I rounded up the kids from their usual morning perch in front of the TV and we all headed out to the backyard for a little visit to the electricity meter. My goal was to simply show the kids how our power is measured and give them a visual sense of how much electricity they were using. But what I got was so much more.

I flipped on a couple of extra lights and the bathroom fan as we made our way out to the meter. Once there I instructed them to watch the meter wheel turning, pointing out to them how fast it was moving. They watched the little black spot on the wheel quickly appear and disappear, and were generally nonplussed.

But then I sent them back into the house and told them to see how much electricity they could turn off in the house, and I could see a little excitement generating. They rushed around the house trying to claim the title of most turned out lights and then returned to the little spinning meter on the side of the house. They couldn't believe how much it had slowed. Their interest was now piqued.

Could they get the wheel to slow down even more? Could they get it to stop? Suddenly my two kids became electricity detectives. They headed back inside and searched high and low to try and save more energy. They shut down the computers, they unplugged their charging Nintendos, they turned off the bathroom fan and then they wanted to turn off the air conditioner - which I agreed to temporarily for the sake of science. After all it was 104 degrees already. A teacher I attempt to be, a martyr I am not.

When all was said and unplugged, they were surprised at some of their findings. While that wheel did indeed slow a little further they couldn't get it to stop. The culprits they never thought about? The pool pump -- which runs 8 hours a day, the refrigerator -- a continuous energy suck, and all the power strips around the house. Did you know that having these electrical strips plugged in the wall even with nothing plugged into them burns electricity?

So was this just a one-day conservation lesson? I think not. Since our little backyard field trip, I've noticed less lights on in empty rooms, and a new willingness to actually not whine when I ask the kids to turn off all the lights when we are headed out of the house.

We've even added "Light Monitor" to our list of rotating household chores and this job assignment is often met with a hearty "Alright!" Is our family making a dent in the national energy problem? I like to think so. But what I really want to see is our comparative power usage between this and last year on our next utility bill. A little money savings would be a welcome benefit as well.