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Energy Efficient Families

Written by Beth Heller
    Thursday, 31 October 2013
Energy Efficient Families

With significant increases in energy costs and the depletion of non-renewable resources, families are embracing energy efficiency. Including your children in decisions and actions you take can be rewarding, educational and fun! Here are a few suggestions to begin building your energy efficient home.


This "From the Archive" post first appeared in our November/December 2005 issue of our newsletter,
but these energy saving tips still apply today!


Home improvement projects for the entire family. Heating your home is the most expensive component of most energy bills. Heat that is lost through windows and doors greatly increases those costs. Any child who can walk can help you identify windows and doors that could benefit from caulk or weather stripping. Give your children a roll of masking tape (or pre-torn pieces taped to a clipboard or plastic container lid) and a piece of light weight ribbon. Have them hold the ribbon up to the edges of windows and doors. If the ribbon moves, have them leave a piece of masking tape at the spot where air is coming in. Once air leaks are identified, older children can help parents apply caulk or weather stripping.

Develop new habits. Encourage your children to wear warm pajamas to bed, then lower the thermostat at 65, 62 or even 60° while sleeping. Try setting your thermostat to 60° while you are gone during the day and no higher than 68° when you are home and awake. If your thermostat is currently set at 72°, this change could reduce your energy bill by up to 10%.

Pick up indoor hobbies that do not use energy, such as reading, puzzles, board games or art. Everyone in the family can conserve energy by reducing television and computer use. While it is difficult for many families to completely turn off the computer, you can set time limits and priorities. If it is within your time limit, explore the We Energies website) to learn how much energy household appliances use.

When cooking with your family, choose recipes that use a toaster or microwave rather than a conventional oven. If possible, try turning off the gas to your oven's pilot lights and relighting them when it is time to cook.

Shop smart. Finally, parents should take a long-term approach to saving money. If you need to replace an appliance, look for the energy star label. For example, an energy star refrigerator, costing on average $97 more than a standard fridge, can save you $23 a year. This means that within 4.2 years you have recouped the difference, and for the remainder of the refrigerator’s life you will save money and energy. Also, replace incandescent lights with fluorescent lights. Even though fluorescent lights are more expensive, they last longer. According to the US Department of Energy and US Environmental Protection Agency sponsored “Home Energy Saver” website (www.hes.lbl.gov), within 2.5 years of switching to fluorescent lamps and fixtures, you will recoup the additional costs at a rate of return of 41% (accounts for inflation).

If you are concerned about quickly saving money, check Focus on Energy for a consultant who can assess your home and make recommendations that will cut costs throughout the winter. Smart decisions today can make tomorrow better for your entire family.

Photo credit: Andrew Vargas

Beth Heller

Beth Heller

Senior Director of Education and Strategic Planning, Beth received her Masters in Business Administration from UW-Milwaukee in 2005, where she received the Outstanding Business Plan award for a plan to launch a branch of the Urban Ecology Center in Washington Park. She graduated from Lawrence University in Appleton, WI in 1994 with a B.A. degree in Biology and Education. Beth began working at the Urban Ecology Center in 2000 to combine her love of the city with her appreciation of nature. Beth loves to sail, bike, sing and hike.

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