Written by Phil Cerroni
Every year, TXU Energy, one of Dallas’ local energy suppliers, holds a special event for the children of their employees. It is called Solar Day, and it is meant to teach kids ways that they can help sustain our energy resources.
For the past four years, five dozen kids ranging from kindergarten to seventh grade visit TXU’s headquarters on Sierra Dr. in Irving to learn how solar energy works through workshops like using light to power a motor or experiments in reflective vs. absorbent surfaces. There were also just for fun stations where kids could get their nails painted with a polish that changed when it was exposed to the sun’s rays. Even the nail polish had a point as it demonstrated the energy transfer of the sun.
Juan Elizondo is responsible for corporate communication at TXU and was more than happy to elaborate on the importance of events like this to spread awareness.
“It’s a great way to connect our kids to what their parents do, and really help make a connection to the importance of power,” Elizondo said. “Our hope is that they bring it out to their friends. Most kids, especially this age, have science fair projects that they have to do, so we hope it gives them some ideas; and it gives them some good habits out into the community.”
Elizondo continued to share some of the way that adults can be sustainable as well, especially during a Texas summer.
“For most houses, fifty or sixty percent of the energy is going to your air conditioning,” he said impressively. “So by controlling the air conditioning, you can really get some great savings.
“We really advocate programmable thermostats, because even if you’re not going to waste any money by turning it off and turning it back on when you get home, you don’t’ want to get home to a hot house.”
Contrary to some opinions, cooling a house down when it is hot actually does save power.
“It does not take more energy to cool it back down. In some cases it might take less than leaving the air conditioning on all day. Generally speaking, you get home in the evening it’s not as hot as it is all day, and you haven’t been running it all day long. So the consumption is going to be equal if not less.”
Not all conservation techniques are equal, however, and Elizondo was quick to point out some of the most common urban legends about beating the heat.
“People leave fans on thinking that’s going to cool down their house. It really doesn’t. A ceiling fan or an oscillating fan makes us feel cooler, and the only way we feel cooler is if we’re in the room with it. It’s an urban myth that if you leave the fans on it cools the house and lowers your bill. It really doesn’t; it uses power for no good reason.”
One surprising fact Elizondo revealed was that energy companies want customers to use less of their product.
“To us it’s very important that our customers understand the power that they’re using - what they’re paying for, where they might be able to conserve,” he said. “Not only is that good for the entire state because of generation issues, but also because you don’t want to pay for power that’s not benefiting your family but is running in your home when you’re not there.
“We want to be a good advisor; we want to be somebody you can trust, and if we are helping you to conserve, we feel that creates a good relationship. A good, long relationship is better for us, is better for the customer.”
Michelle Due, a TXU employee, brought her son Nicholas to Solar Day for the second time. She says that he enjoys the activities, and she appreciates the information it teaches.
“They can learn what they can do with the sun, the energy they can create, how they can save other forms of electricity using solar power instead,” Due said.
They have already put some of these practices into place in their own home.
“We don’t use the lights during the daytime – we have lots of windows so we use the sunlight most of the time. We don’t’ even turn the light on till it gets dark,” she said.
Melanie Harper, a veteran teacher of 30 years, now participates in the NEED Program (National Energy Educational Development Program) which works with parents students, teachers, and government to build an energy conscious society that understands how to conserve so it is sustainable for the future.
“It’s important that they understand that they need to unplug their cell phone charger so that it’s not using energy when it’s not using the phone,” Harper said referring to the students at the event. “If we give them little tips like that, it teaches them conservation and sustainability for the future.”
Although some of these kids were just leaving grade school, Harper was adamant that these lessons were completely appropriate to them.
“We are not going to run out of the sun’s radiant energy, so it’s important to teach them that is a viable resource to use, that it’s renewable. That can help us not to use so many non-renewable sources of energy, which conserves natural resources for future generations,” she said. “They’re young. We’re planting seeds.”