Saturday, October 13, 2012

Renewable Energy Project Revamp

So I've got this idea for my renewable energy project this year. Last year I had students look at their total energy (electricity and heating) bills for their own homes and calculate their BTUs per square foot, and then compare that with a standard number for what an energy efficient home ought to be. Of course most peoples were well over the recommended amount. But that's where I stopped last year, and fair enough. To do more would be asking students to stand up to their parents and challenge them to do better. I had a few conversations last year about this with the students. They said, "We are not the decision-makers in our homes, so what can we do?" I didn't have an answer for them.

But I have an idea. What if, in addition to the calculation of BTUs per square foot, students could research options for their households: PV, solar hot water, air source heat pumps, pellet stoves, pellet retrofits for oil furnaces, weatherization. They could do the calculations (they're not terribly hard) to figure out approximately how much money their family could save. Students fill out some form that would give parents some easy-to-look-at options and projected savings - specific to their house - and then we hold a parents night, where students present their work generally to their parents.

Part of me feels like this is too nosey and meddling. Part of me feels like if education does not have real-life applications, then why do it?

I think I'm going to do it. It gives students as voice with their parents (or at least an opportunity for them to have a voice). It could save people money. It could save the earth some long-cycle carbon. Those seem like good reasons, even if it is meddling.