Building An Off-Grid Solar System With Your Child To Fight Climate Anxiety
Signs of climate change in the form of melting glaciers, heat waves, and extreme precipitation are so abundant even children can realize them. There is also growing evidence that exposure to the effects of climate change can cause anxiety in children.
InsideClimateNews.org quotes a former producer of a children’s television show who
says, “Climate anxiety is the second pandemic that kids in America are facing.” Hanna Ritchie of Wired.com adds, “Many young people feel like their future is in peril.”
The good news is that we can do much to show children that climate change can be slowed down or even reversed. For instance, advocating for renewable energy sources like solar and wind can help children with anxiety caused by the ecological destruction of the planet realize that there are solutions.
However, when dealing with climate anxiety among children, actions speak louder than words. Therefore, this article will provide some practical steps to help you fight climate change, including a hands-on idea of building an off-grid solar system with your child.
What is Climate Anxiety?
Harvard Health Publishing defines
climate anxiety (also called eco-anxiety) as “distress related to worries about the effects of climate change.” The same source adds that climate anxiety is not a mental illness but unduly worries about the uncertainties regarding the future.
How do we know that climate anxiety is real among children? Several recent studies confirm that climate anxiety is becoming increasingly common among young people. One of the most widely quoted studies is the 2021
survey published by The Lancet, one of the world’s leading medical journals.
The Lancet surveyed 10,000 children and young people from 10 countries. The results show that “Respondents across all countries were worried about climate change (59% were very or extremely worried and 84% were at least moderately worried).”
Symptoms of Climate Anxiety
Climate anxiety is not currently considered a diagnosable mental illness. Still, certain signs and symptoms can indicate this condition among both children and adults.
Healthline.com notes that a leading
sign of climate anxiety is “An increased sense of hopelessness about the planet’s changes.”
Here are other symptoms listed by Healthline.com.
- Frustrations and anger at those refusing to acknowledge climate change or the older generation for the part they have played.
- Fatalistic thoughts.
- Existential dread.
- Obsessive thoughts about the climate.
- Shame or guilt related to one’s own contribution to climate change.
- Post-traumatic stress after experiencing the impact of climate change.
- Feelings of panic, anxiety, and depression triggered by exposure to the signs of climate change.
The same source notes that the symptoms above could lead to problems related to focus, appetite, and sleeping.
Fighting Climate Change Anxiety
Even though it may look like all news about climate change is bad news, the reality is that there is good news too: climate change doesn’t have to be permanent.
This is a reality acknowledged by David Herring and Rebecca Lindsey, writing for Climate.gov. In answering the question regarding whether global warming can be slowed or reversed, they say, “While we cannot stop global warming overnight, we can slow the rate and limit the amount of global warming by reducing human emissions of heat-trapping gases and soot.”
Below are some
tips from Harvard Health Publishing on how you can help a child fight climate anxiety.
- Don’t dismiss the child’s concerns.
- Assist the young person in identifying organizations addressing climate change that they can become a part of.
- Help anxious children identify steps they can follow to minimize their impact on the environment.
- Encourage children to plant trees and spend time in nature.
- Support children when they make decisions about their lifestyles, particularly changes they can witness at home.
Building an Off-Grid Solar System with Your Child
Inspired by the last point in the bullet list above, we have put together the following guide to help you take practical steps to build an off-grid solar system with your child. This will help the young person understand that there are solutions to climate change and possibly reduce their anxiety and feelings of helplessness.
Even though we refer to an off-grid solar system here, we are not necessarily talking about building an off-grid system for your entire home as that may require more expertise and time. Instead, we are looking at building an off-grid system for something like your recreational vehicle, tiny house, or tree house.
What You Will Need
Start by working with the child to identify the resources and materials you’ll need for your off-grid solar system. Your list should contain the following:
- Solar Panels: These are also known as PV panels. They convert sunlight into DC electricity.
- Charge Controller: This component regulates the charge, ensuring that your batteries don’t overcharge.
- Inverter: The solar panels produce direct current (DC), which needs to be converted to alternating current (AC) for it to power most appliances. This is the device responsible for that task.
- Solar Battery: Because there will be times when your solar panels are not converting sunlight into electricity, you need batteries to store the energy you’ll use during such times.
- Monitoring system: This optional sophisticated system helps you monitor your energy use and intelligent home connectivity.
- Wiring and accessories: You will need a wide variety of accessories, including fuses, mounts, brackets, tools, cables, adapter kits, tray cables, and inverter cables.
To get an idea of a suitable size system for your needs, maybe you can use the Renogy
solar calculator. The calculator helps figure out how many solar panels you need. As the idea is to work with your child, you will want to give them tasks like entering data into the calculator and doing other research related to the project. This will ensure that they participate in decision-making, making them feel that they are making a difference.
Selecting Your Solar Panels
As you plan with your child on which solar panels will work best for your project, you’ll have to consider several factors:
The size of the panel is one of the biggest considerations. Panel size relates not just to the physical size of the panel but the size in watts too. Panels with a higher wattage will cost more.
Energy efficiency is another crucial factor when determining
the solar panels to buy. This denotes the proportion of sunlight received by the panel that is converted into electricity. More efficient panels tend to cost more than their less efficient counterparts.
To get quality and durable solar panels, take your time to consider the company that supplies the panels. Reviews from customers that have used the same company’s products are often an excellent way to start your research.
Determine Sufficient Battery Size
The battery size for your off-grid system will depend on what you want to use the system for. For instance, if you are designing this system for a small cabin with a few lights and devices, two 12-volt batteries may be sufficient.
The calculator we refer to above will help determine whether the battery size you are considering will be sufficient for your system’s needs.
Choose a Solar Charge Controller
Now that you have the panels to convert sunlight into electricity and the batteries that will store the energy, it’s time to get the device that will control the charging system: the
solar charge controller.
Your system will require a single charge controller. However, if you are building a massive off-grid solar system, you may need to consult a technician about the appropriate number of solar charge controllers.
You don’t need to purchase the solar charge controller if you’re using
foldable suitcase panels. These suitcases come with built-in solar charge controllers.
Get the Inverter
Get your child to understand that now that you have everything you need to generate the power from your off-grid solar system, it’s time to ensure that you can use the power to provide energy to your appliances and lights. For this, you will need an inverter.
When selecting the inverter, you’ll be guided by the total number of watts your system will power. If you’ll be making your system bigger in the future, it’s vital to consider this when you select the inverter.
Putting Everything Together
You now have all the items you need for your off-grid solar system. So, it’s time to put everything together. Here is our in-depth article offering a
step-by-step guide on building your system from start to finish.
No matter what you do on this project, don’t forget that you are working with a child. Therefore,
safety should be paramount.
If you’re installing the panels on a roof, you should have a roof-anchoring tool. Never let the child work unsupervised at any time. Always have someone working with you so they seek help in case of an emergency.
Even though the risk of electric shock in small solar projects is minimal, it’s important to read all manufacturer instructions, and ensure that the children you’re working with understand them.
Whether you are installing your system on the roof or ground, personal protective equipment is essential. Always wear shoes with a good grip. Clothes should cover the legs and arms to prevent cuts. Protect hands with gloves, your head with a hard hat, and eyes with goggles. Be safe.
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