In this blog we take a fun look at some experiments that can be done in the classroom and that demonstrate how to measure energy consumption. We also take a look at what can be done to conserve energy.

There are three simple ways to conserve energy:

  1. Be energy efficient – this can be helped with the use of more modern technology. For example, modern refrigerators use much less energy than older ones. Compact fluorescent and LED lights burn less juice than incandescent bulbs.
  2. Look at alternative forms of energy. A passive solar room or photovoltaic outdoor lighting takes advantage of free energy from the sun.
  3. Stop wasting energy. We all do it but there are simple things that can be done such as fix those dripping taps, plug leaks where cold air can seep in and turn off appliances when you’re not using them.

All the usual stuff but it really matters, and to show you how it matters, we have three fun experiments that you can try at school or at home.

1. Shower or Bath

Shower or bath energy consumption experiment

We all know that you need energy to heat water and so if you can get a good wash without using so much hot water, you’ll save energy, right? So which uses more water, a bath or a shower?

This experiment will help you determine that.

Get your family’s cooperation and ask all family members to take a bath instead of a shower on one day. Make sure each person leaves the water in the bath when he or she is finished. Then check the height of the water. You can mark it with a bath crayon or with coloured tape. Or you can measure it with a ruler and record the level.

Next, get everybody to take a shower (using the bath shower) and ask them to plug the drain before they start so that the water doesn’t escape and then measure the amount of water left in the tub when each person is finished and mark or record it.

Now compare the average amount of water used for each method.

Less water used = less energy used. Simples!

2. The Energy Effects of Shade and House Paint

energy consumption tree shade

Really, can something as simple as shade from a tree or paint help save on home energy bills?

This experiment will help answer that question. The “house” in this case will be a small cardboard box. An anglepoise lamp (non LED) will play the role of the sun.

Firstly, set up the box – make sure it is a box with a tightly shutting lid – by placing a thermometer inside to measure the temperature. Next, arrange the light so that it shines directly on the box. After twenty minutes, record the temperature inside the box.

Next, set a houseplant between the lamp and the box so that it’s shadow rests on the box or “house”.

Check the temperature again after twenty minutes and see if the shade had the effect of keeping the box cooler.

To test paint’s energy effect, take two identical boxes and paint one white and one black or a dark colour. Put each an equal distance from the light and record the temperature inside after 20 minutes. Which box gets hotter? How would this affect energy usage if it were an actual house?

Basically, choosing the right shade trees or exterior paint colour could help save energy if they keep a house cooler in summer and cut the need for air conditioning. In winter, however, it might be better not to have shade, so that the house could absorb heat from the sun. In that case, trees that lose their leaves in winter might be the best energy savers

 3. Make a Solar Water Heater

solar water science experiment

In this experiment you can make your own hot water just by using the power of the sun.

First get a flat box around 90cm square and 5-7 cm deep and paint the inside black, or line it with black paper. Next, take 6 meters of flexible black tubing and make two holes in the sides of the box, one near a corner and the other close to the opposite corner. Insert the end of the tube through one hole. Shape the tubing into flat loops that don’t overlap but run up and down the bottom of the box. Keep looping until you’ve used up most of the length. Pass the end out through the other hole.

Place a glass cover on the box and tape the edges to hold it down.

Now you have a solar collector and can begin the experiment by putting the box in the sun and submerging the lower end of the tube in a bucket of water.

Draw water into the tube and start a siphon action. Keep the outflow end of the tube lower than the inflow end to keep the siphon working and let the water trickle into another container. Use a clothes peg to crimp the tube and limit the flow to a trickle.

Place a thermometer in each container of water to track the temperature change.

Ask the following questions:

  • Does the angle of the box toward the sun make a difference?
  • What if you use a longer piece of tubing and make more loops?
  • How could this work at home?




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