MASON - Sixth-graders in Beth Smith’s science classes at Mason Junior High School are hunting down the culprits that waste energy in their homes and stopping them dead in their tracks.Through an energy investigation program called PowerHouse™, representatives from Central Texas Electric Cooperative taught the students how to identify the energy wasters in their homes and provided simple solutions to help them use less energy and conserve natural resources. Many students recruited family members to help them determine how they use electricity in their homes and to learn together how to reduce their monthly bills. While they developed their individual home energy profiles, students learned tips such as choosing the best thermostat setting for different weather conditions, deciding when to run the dishwasher, and selecting the most efficient light bulbs for their homework areas. By putting these tips to work in their homes, these families can reduce their energy use.“I can’t believe how much money we saved,” said sixth-grader Kylar Elliott.The energy audit reports also include information about how household energy use affects natural resources and air quality, and they provide options to reduce those impacts. Among other lessons, students learn that using energy wisely helps reduce the use of fossil fuels and helps delay the need for new power plants.“PowerHouse teaches students and their families that their own bad energy habits like keeping lights on, leaving the refrigerator door open, or setting the thermostat too low on hot summer days can waste natural resources and cost additional money on their monthly electric bills,” said Central Texas Electric Cooperative representative Carlos Staudt. “They learn that by making simple changes, each of us can help reduce the overall demand for water and electricity and help ensure that there is enough for many generations to come.”During the 2010-2011 school year, more than 6,500 students learned how to use less energy and save natural resources, thanks to PowerHouse presentations in 59 schools with 30 utility sponsors. Since LCRA developed the program in 1998, its wholesale electric customers have presented PowerHouse to nearly 61,000 Texas students.