Consequence for leaving lights on: confiscate the bulbs!

Jennifer! Awesome!

My 5yo son’s room is upstairs and he was constantly leaving on ALL the lights in his room and the bathroom when leaving for school. I’d invariably come running back from the garage for something and have to hightail it upstairs while I was already running late. So I started confiscating lightbulbs.

His overhead light has four bulbs, his closet has two, and his bathroom vanity has four as well. Even the nightlight is fair game. He was baffled by the consequences at first, but then his environment started getting dimmer over the course of a couple weeks. My husband started asking when my son could get the bulbs back. So I said he wins one back each time he catches us seated in a room while lights are on in a different room nobody’s using. Our bathroom vanity is the worst: six bulbs, and they’re constantly left on. They put out a lot of heat because we haven’t yet splurged on the dimmable fluorescents that aren’t cheap. We’re all getting better about appreciating the energy we use, and it’s gotten us talking about conserving things like the cool air in the fridge and the gas we consume driving across town.

What a great hack — it turns what could be months (years?) of carping into a fun, enlightening conversation.

How do you get your family thinking about conserving energy/water?

Related: Turn off the lights or pay up

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  1. Ren says

    I have a friend with three kids that never turned off the light in the downstairs bathroom after using it. To solve this problem the family installed a motion sensitive light plate (no switch) in that room, just like in office buildings and classrooms it turns itself on with motion and eventually times out when there’s no movement.

  2. Uniphasian says

    Both of my kids are becoming more aware of the concept of carbon footprints.

    I used our last three years electric bills as a way to calculate how much coal it took to power our home for a year – I was astonished at the pile of coal it took to run our modest home. As a result, I began researching the cost involved in buying wind power from our local utility.

    I shared the results from this with the family, and noted that there was about a 15-20% surcharge to move to 100% wind power.

    We made the agreement to move to 100% wind power if we could reduce our energy usage by that 15-20% over the course of two consecutive months, so our bills would remain the same.

    The kids loved the wind-power idea so much that they are now turning off lights, computers, games, etc. even if they didn’t originally turn them on.

    That was big for us.

    We’ve only gone through one billing cycle, and were only making the effort for about 1/2 of that time, but already the bill showed a 10% reduction in kwh for that half-month.

  3. dafk says

    Actually since the entire family including mom and dad leave lights on maybe the son should take their light bulbs too. To me this sounds potentially dangerous on many many levels.

  4. Leigh says

    A friend had this problem with teenage daughters. They’d leave for school and leave lights, curling irons/flat irons, radios, etc. on.

    His solution was to turn off the circuit breaker to their rooms every time he found the lights on and them not there.

    The daughters had to go out to the circuit breaker panel and reset the breaker to get the lights back on. A few times of this and they were much more conscientious. Plus, they learned where the circuit breaker panel is and how to use it–always a good thing to know!

  5. Lynda says

    My Dad just deducted money from our allowance every time we left a light on or ran the water too long. It worked & I plan on doing the same with my son.

  6. remonelmomoses says

    Growing up, I would leave the lights on in the bathroom, bedroom, and everywhere. I would come home from school and find the lightbulbs missing. Yup, my mom had got to them first. I learned that in order to have light, I had to turn them off. Its a natural consequence. After a few times of this lesson your child will learn that this action will get something taken away. It is their choice to turn off the light when they are done.

  7. says

    LOVE the lightbulbs idea! But Jennifer says the family now TALKS a lot about conserving… did it accomplish the original goal?

    I’m going to try this with my son whose only lighting is one of those lamps with four or five goosenecks with colored shades… But every morning, it seems, after he leaves for school, I find two or three bulbs on, sometimes two or three hours after he’s left.

    The circuit breaker is a good one, too. It’s a long trek to our circuit box!!