Auditing the Energy-Guzzlers in Your Home
In this lesson, students become aware of the electricity sources in their community, whether they are renewable or non-renewable, and the amount of greenhouse gases they produce. They identify what kinds of energy are used to heat their homes and water, and to power appliances and other energy-using devices. By calculating the amount of electricity used by each appliance/device in their household, students can determine their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which are mainly carbon dioxide (CO2), and then seek ways to reduce them.
Time Required: 2 hours
To make students aware of the energy consumed at home, the resulting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and how to reduce home energy use.
Part A: Understanding Home Electricity & the GHG Link
1.Home Research: Ask students to:
◦Make a list of all the things in their homes that use energy. (Get students to include not only appliances, computers, and so on, but also the hot water heater that produces hot water for showers and for washing clothes and dishes.)
◦Find out how their homes are heated — oil, wood, natural gas, propane, or electricity.
2. Discuss the findings: Put together a class list of appliances and devices. Discuss which of these (if any) would be powered by renewable energy (e.g., wind, solar, or hydro) and which use non-renewable energy sources (such as electricity produced by burning of diesel). Also create a list of types of energy used in heating their homes. Students’ homes may use appliances powered by hydro-sourced electricity (which is renewable), but be heated by oil (which is non-renewable).
3.Pose the question: What does this have to do with climate change? In the discussion, make sure the students understand how electricity is produced in their community, and that burning diesel to produce electricity means that every time you use electricity, you are emitting GHGs. Even if your community uses hydro electricity, at peak times the electrical utility may supplement it with electricity generated using diesel. The result is that your electricity use may increase GHG emissions.
Non-renewable sources of heat, such as oil or coal, also add substantially to GHG emissions. Wood heating, however, is not considered a source of greenhouse gases. This is because the trees that were burned as firewood are replaced by growing trees that take carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere. Wood, then, is a renewable energy source and considered GHG neutral. (Note: Wood burning is known to create human health problems. To reduce health problems from burning wood, use EPA-approved wood heaters and UL-certified chimneys. If wood smoke is dropping below roof level, adding a section to the chimney may be the simplest solution.)
4.Rank your list: Look at the list of appliances/devices developed by the class. Select about 10 of the items, and invite the students (possibly working in pairs or groups) to rank the energy-use per hour of these appliances/devices from highest to lowest energy-use. When they have completed this, distribute Student Handout #1: Energy Use at Your House. Direct them to the table entitled “How Much Energy Used in an Hour?” and invite them to compare this table to their ranking. Explain that some appliances, such as hair dryers, take a lot of energy but aren’t used for very long, while others, such as a fridge, take a lot of energy because they cycle on and off, day and night.
Part B: Home Energy Audit
5. Home Research: Ask students to take home Student Handout #1 and complete the table entitled “How Many Watts? How Many GHGs?” Go over what they need to do and the example in the table, to make sure they understand the process. (Decide whether you want students to complete “More Pieces of the Energy Puzzle: Hot Water & Heating” at the bottom of the handout. This is fairly complex, and students may need guidance.) Note: If this doesn’t seem feasible for your students, create a fictional family for your students: How much would they use various appliances, and heat their house?
6.How We Can Reduce: Either as a class, or in small groups, go over some of the charts. Explain the “One Tonne Challenge,” issued by the Canadian government, asking Canadians to reduce their GHG emissions by one tonne (20%) per year. Brainstorm ways that students and their families could reduce energy use in their homes. (Possible answers might include: lowering the temperature by two degrees, turning off computers when not in use, turning off lights, hanging out washing to dry in the summer, washing clothes with cold water, taking shorter showers, keeping the fridge door closed, and waiting until the dishwasher is full before running it on a short cycle. For more suggestions on reducing energy-use, see the checklist in Student Handout #2 (Enrichment): Some Ways to Reduce Your Energy Use.)
7.Action Report: Ask students to write a 400-800 word Energy audit report and action plan to reduce energy use and GHG emissions in their home. The report could focus on these questions:
◦What did you learn about GHG-emitters in your home: Anything you didn’t already know? Anything surprising?
◦How could your family reduce their GHG emissions? See the checklist in Student Handout #2 (enrichment): Some Ways to Reduce Your Energy Use. How could you help them make some changes?
◦What changes do you plan to make? Try to be as specific as possible, and work with your family to create an energy-reduction action-plan.
•Evaluate completed student charts (list of appliances completed, calculations correct)
•Evaluate written reflections (thoughtfulness, ideas about reducing)
Source:Climate Change North
Resource Type:Lesson Plan
Subject(s):Science, English / Language Arts, Social Studies,
Topic:Energy Use and Conservation, Renewable Energy, Sustainable Development,
Level:Intermediate / MiddleSecondary
Grade: 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Web Pages Used
"Great way to show students how they can make a difference at an individual level." (Posted By: noilesw)
"The examples of what is used to produce electricity and how homes are heated are more specific to northern regions. A good activity." (Posted By: Kathy Worobec)
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