Saving energy as a family

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“Can we install it? Please?” The kids were supposed to be getting ready for bed. The only thing I find harder than trying to follow instructions is trying to follow them while having people talk to me. So I was inclined to say “no”. Then again, wasn’t this a great learning through living moment? Besides, my almost ten year old is actually a lot more detail oriented than I am so the help was probably welcome.

We opened the Hive Starter Pack and it was like opening a box of goodies: two smart bulbs, a motion sensor, an active plug and the Hive Hub, which connects everything to the Hive app on my phone. The kids had fun taking it all out and working out where the different devices should go. Even the packaging was appealing. But more importantly, the instructions were *genuinely* easy to follow. We had to refresh a page to get things going but other than that, everything was plain sailing.

For us, the big benefit of trying Hive’s smart home system is to try to make taking responsibility for our family’s environmental impact a little easier. While corporate change and government pressure are the keys to tackling the climate crisis, looking at what we do individually is an ongoing topic here. Partly that’s because it helps to take small actions so we don’t get overwhelmed. So I was glad to involve the kids in our working out how the Hive devices could help us save energy as a family. For a start, their smart bulbs are 80% more energy efficient than the average incandescent light bulb, which seems pretty major.

We worked out that the sensor needed to go in the hallway so that people getting up in the night to either use the loo or get into a parent’s bed weren’t scared and wouldn’t switch and leave a light on. Since we’re in a small cottage, a hall light can often risk waking multiple family members up, so I really appreciate the dimmer on the smart bulbs, allowing me to set the brightness to give just enough light to reassure and guide a night waking child. I’ve even seen that the motion sensor can even be linked up to the heating and lighting system using Hive Actions so everything turns off when you leave the house!

Early farm starts and my up and down sleep patterns often mean that one or both of us fall asleep in bed with our kids so the rest of the Hive Smart lighting needs to be concentrated downstairs. That way, we could turn the lights off with the phone app rather than having to come down and risk waking up fully. And we also avoid leaving the lights on longer than we should. For that matter, when we do fall asleep with the kids, the dimmer on the hall light means that we can head up to our room without going into full light then staying up for hours. I’d love to fit the bathroom with smart bulbs so we can keep a dimmer on and head to bed without difficulty.

Our living room can also be quite dark even in daytime, which means that we often have all of the lights on when we’re home, especially on cloudy days. This means that we have at times forgotten to turn the lights off when dashing out in a rush without the time to do a full room by room check. With the Hive app on my phone, I can go through all the lights on my phone once we’re out so I can make sure everything is turned off, which is pretty reassuring. I’d also be intrigued to try setting the bulbs to turn on and off in a pattern while we’re away for safety, which would be a lot more energy efficient (and look more natural) than leaving them on full time. I can see how little tricks like these could help us save money over time. I don’t know about you but this pandemic year has seen our bills leap up from being home more, so I’m looking forward to seeing the difference in making these changes.

A few things we have found help to limit energy use:

Concentrate the lighting on one area – for us this is our living room. Our kitchen is pretty bright so if I do a sweep of the rest of the house to make sure all the lights are off once we’re all downstairs, we’re less likely to leave lights on.

Have the kids plug their laptops into the smart plug. This means that it’s easier to make sure they’re unplugged and not using energy while not in use, if they forget to unplug them once they’re done.

Or plug the TV into the smart plug. That way, when the TV is turned off using the remote, you can be sure it’s properly “off”. So many of us underestimate the energy used when the TV is on standby!

Limit the length of showers. Our young people love showers and I’m not great at remembering how long they’ve been in there so before they get in, we set a timer together to remind me to tell them when it’s time to get out.

Have honest ongoing conversations with your family about energy use: what uses energy, how to keep your energy spend low and why it all matters. If you explain what you’re aiming for, you may find that your kids come up with energy saving solutions you hadn’t even considered. And if they can connect their actions with something concrete, they’re a lot more likely to remember to turn off the lights when they’re leaving the room than if you just keep telling them that that’s what they “should” do. You may even find they’ll remind you too.

This post is in conjunction with Hive but all thoughts are my own


[she/her] • writer • unschooler • team Soul Farm • Revillaging podcast • breastfeeding counsellor • Trinidadian in Cornwall

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