Professor Quester picture.

I'm Professor Questor, inviting you to join me on an "Energy Quest." How many ways can you think of to save energy around your house?

California's electricity problems taught us all to think about the energy we use everyday. There's never enough energy to waste!

Many Californians learned to use their energy more efficiently. We also learned how to conserve energy - how to make thoughtful choices about ways we can use less. We learned how important it is to not waste energy, so there is enough for everyone.

Californians "Flexed Their Power" by using energy at different times of the day, by turning lights and machines off when not being used.

If you want to find out why California had its "Energy Crisis," the U.S. Department of Energy has a good background page at:

Are YOU and your family having an energy crisis? You may be if you're wasting energy. How many of these ways to save energy around the house do YOU know?

graphic of change a light campaign Change a Light, Change the World

We really can "Change the World" with just one light bulb. The key is that the more people that take this step, the more we can change the world.

Fight the Light!

Don't leave lights on when no one is in the room. If you are going to be out of the room for more than five minutes, turn off the light.

If you know of a light that everyone forgets to turn off, make a sticker or a sign to hang next to the switch that says "Lights Out!" or "Don't Forget!"

Where possible, use compact fluorescent light bulbs. Those funny-looking bulbs produce the same amount of light by using 1/4 of the electricity. Plus, they last for years and years without burning out.

There's one light bulb that firefighters in Livermore, California, never turn off. It uses very little energy and has been burning for 101 years! Find out more about the Centennial Bulb,

Don't Leave Things Turned On

Turn off the TV when no one is watching it. The same goes for computers, radios and stereos - if no one using it, turn it off. Turn off all the appliances at the surge protector/control strip - that four- or six-plug extension chord that you plug all your computer things into. Some devices, like modems or other networking boxes are drawing small amounts of power all the time. Check with your folks first, but the best thing to do is turn them ALL off at the surge protector.

It's a Matter of Degrees!

In warm weather, the thermostat at home should be set at 78 degrees. (Don't do this, of course, if it will cause health problems for anyone in your family.) When no one is home, set the thermostat at 85 degrees. That way, you'll reduce the need for air conditioning and you will save energy. If you have ceiling fans or other fans, turn them on. The blowing air can make you feel 5 degrees cooler, without running the family's air conditioner. Fans use a lot less electricity than air conditioners!

In cold weather, wear warm clothing and have your thermostat set to 68 degrees or lower during the day and evening, health permitting. When you go to sleep at night, set the thermostat back to either 55 degrees, or turn it off. When you leave home for an extended time, set the thermostat at 55 degrees or turn it off, too. That way, your family can save from 5 percent to 20 percent on your heating costs. (Don't do this, of course, if it will cause health problems for anyone in your family.)

Don't Heat - or Cool - the Great Outdoors!

Americans use twice as much energy as necessary to heat their homes. That accounts for a lot of wasted energy!

If you have a fireplace, close the damper when you don't have a fire burning. An open fireplace damper can let 8 percent of heat from your furnace escape through the chimney! In the summer, an open fireplace damper can let cool air escape. It's like having a window open!

Make a map of your home, and mark all the windows, heating vents, and outside doors. Take a ribbon and hold it up to the edges of the doors and windows. If the ribbon blows, you've found a leak! Ask Mom or Dad to seal the leak with caulk or weatherstripping.

Think about your curtains. Keeping the curtains closed on cold, cloudy days helps block the cold outside air from getting inside. Also, keeping the curtains closed on very hot days keeps the hot air out!

In the Bedroom

Turn off your electric blanket when you aren't in bed.

Don't leave on your computer, TVs, radios or games that use electricity when you're not using them.

In the Bathroom

Wasting water wastes electricity. Why? Because the biggest use of electricity in most cities is supplying water and cleaning it up after it's been used!

About 75 percent of the water we use in our homes is used in the bathroom. Unless you have a low flush toilet, for example, you use about five gallons to seven gallons of water with every flush! A leaky toilet can waste more than 10,000 gallons of water a year. Wow!

Drippy faucets are bad, too. A faucet that leaks enough water to fill a soda bottle every 30 minutes will waste 2,192 gallons of water a year.

Another simple way to save water AND energy is to take shorter showers. You'll use less hot water - and water heaters account for nearly 1/4 of your home's energy use.

In the Kitchen

According to researchers who are paid to study such things, a load of dishes cleaned in a dishwasher uses 37 percent less water than washing dishes by hand! However, if you fill up one side of the sink with soapy water and the other side with rinse water - and if you don't let the faucet run - you'll use half as much water as a dishwasher does. Doing the dishes this way can save enough water for a five-minute shower!

If you need to warm up or defrost small amounts of food, use a microwave instead of the stove to save energy. Microwave ovens use around 50 percent less energy than conventional ovens do. For large meals, however, the stove is usually more efficient. In the summer, using a microwave causes less heat in the kitchen, which saves money on air conditioning.

Don't keep the refrigerator door open any longer than you need to. Close it to keep the cold air inside! Also, make sure the door closes securely. There is a rubber-like seal around the door that you can test. Just close the door on a dollar bill, and then see how easy it is to pull out. If the dollar slides out easily, the door is probably leaking cold air from inside.

Is there an old refrigerator sitting in the garage or someplace else at home? Old refrigerators are real energy hogs! An old refrigerator could be costing your family as much as $120 a year to operate. Urge your parents to replace it if they don't need it, and remind them that one large refrigerator is cheaper to run than two smaller ones.

Shocking News About Batteries

Did you know that Americans use an average of about eight batteries a year per person? Wow!

Batteries that are thrown away produce most of the heavy metals - dangerous substances like lead, arsenic, zinc, cadmium, copper, and mercury - that are found in household trash. These metals are toxic. They can be harmful to humans and wildlife. When discarded batteries from our trash wind up in landfills, these dangerous metals can seep into the ground water and eventually into the food chain. So, instead of throwing batteries in the trash, we should all take them to a toxic waste disposal area, if at all possible.

Turn off the toys and games (like GameBoys TM) that use batteries when you are not playing with them. That makes the batteries last longer, and you won't need as many of them.

Forty percent of all battery sales are made during the holiday season. Ask for holiday gifts that do not require batteries.

Ask your parents to buy rechargeable batteries and a recharger.

Outside the House

Remember how saving water saves energy? Use a broom instead of a hose to clean off the driveway, patio or deck - this will save hundreds of gallons of water each year.

If you only have a small lawn, consider getting a manual push mower. It doesn't use any energy except your own. Pushing the mower spins the rotating wheels, which spins the cutter. Consider it good exercise!

Don't use an electric or gasoline leaf blower. Instead, use a rake.

If you need to leave a security light on over night, change the incandescent bulb to a compact fluorescent. It will last months and maybe years and save you energy and money. Some compact fluorescent bulbs even come in yellow so they won't attract bugs.

Think About What Your Family Buys

If you buy things that can be used over and over instead of buying disposable items that are used once and then thrown away, you will save precious natural resources. You'll also save energy used to make them, and you'll reduce the amount of landfill space we need when they are thrown away.

Those same savings happen you buy things that will last instead of breaking right away. Well-made items may cost a little more to begin with, but they are usually worth the money because they last for a long time, and you don't have to replace them.

When your family goes shopping, think about taking bags with you. Only about 700 paper bags can be made from one 15-year-old tree. A large grocery store can use that many bags before lunch! Plastic bags start out as either oil or natural gas. Oil and natural gas are non-renewable resources. This means they can't be reused, and when they are all gone, they are gone forever. And throw-away bags add a lot of pollution to the environment. If plastic and paper bags are used once and go to landfills, they stay there for hundreds of years Some stores offer discounts for people who use their own bags. For every bag reused, they give money back - usually about five cents for each bag.

With your parents, pick a spot in your house to store bags that you get from the grocery store. These bags can be used to carry things to friends' houses or for trash linings. After bags wear out, recycle them.

Other Recycling Tips

Make a scrap-paper pad. Gather pieces of used paper the same size with the blank side up. Find a piece of cardboard the same size as the paper and put it at the back. Staple the whole thing together, and use it as a place to write down grocery lists or things to do.

If every American recycled his or her newspaper just one day a week, we would save about 36 million trees a year. You can save a tree for every four feet of paper you recycle. It takes half as much energy to make recycled newspaper as it takes to make fresh newsprint from trees.

Recycle your newspapers. (Check to see if recycling centers want them tied together or in bags.) Anything that comes with the newspaper can also be recycled (except magazines, which must be recycled separately).

* Recycle your old notebook paper. It is considered "white paper," and makes better recycled paper. "White paper" is writing paper, notebook paper, white envelopes, typing paper, index cards, computer paper, and white stationary.

Cereal boxes, egg cartons, wrapping paper are called "mixed paper." All these things can be recycled. Mixed paper can be made into paperboard, the paper that is used on roofs.

For something fun, download the Recycle Rex Recycling Facts, Games and Crafts Booklet (Acrobat PDF file, 26 pages, 1.9 megabytes)

In Your School

The energy-saving ideas you used at home can also be used in school. Consider creating a weekly "energy monitor" - someone who's job it is to make sure lights are out when there's no one in a room. He or she can also make sure that machines are turned off when not being used. Have your teacher or principal check with the California Energy Commission to see if you school can become a "Bright School."

Links to Other Websites About Saving Energy

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