Grade Level: 6th to 12th; Type: Social Science
This experiment strives to determine if concerted tracking of electricity and water usage will lead to better conservation habits and whether these habits will in turn lead to reductions in electricity and water bills.
- Does keeping a physical record of lights being switched off when not in use lead to better implementation of this habit?
- Does this switching off of lights significantly reduce electricity bills?
- Does keeping a physical record of shower lengths lead to shorter showers?
- Do shortened showers significantly reduce water bills?
- Several small clipboards with pencils attached. You will want one clipboard to place next to each of the most used light switches in your home as well as one for every shower. You can make simple inexpensive clipboards with pieces of cardboard and butterfly clips. Alternatively you can simply tape pieces of paper to the walls next to the light switches. Either way, you will want to be sure the pencils are attached so that they don’t “walk away.” Tracking must be fast and easy to encourage the participation of all members of the household.
- A clock for each shower in the home in order to time the length of showers.
- Electricity and water bills for 3 or more months.
NOTE: This experiment is more effective if conducted by several households. Try to recruit the families of friends to help out and participate in the project.
- Obtain a copy of your most recent utility bill. Note when billing cycles begin and end and begin this experiment at the start of the next full billing cycle.
- Set up a tracking system (clipboard or piece of paper) next to all frequently-used light switches and showers in your home.
- Instruct household members to switch off lights in a room whenever the room is not in use or the lights are not necessary and to make a tally mark on the tracking system whenever they do so.
- Instruct household members to time their showers and to note the length of each shower on the tracking system, reminding them that the goal is for showers to be short so as to conserve water.
- At the end of the billing cycle, calculate the total number of tally marks and start a new record for the next billing cycle. Likewise, start a new record of shower lengths for the new billing cycle.
- Continue this process for 2 or more cycles. Obtain the electricity and water bills for these cycles for use in your analysis.
- At the “end” of the experiment analyze your records. (Ideally any good habits the experiment encouraged won’t end.) Did the number of tally marks increase over time – that is, did the members of your household improve in the habit of switching off lights when not in use? Did the length of showers shorten?
- If the answers to either of the above questions was yes - lights were more often switched off and/or showers were shortened - then compare these results to the bills for the corresponding billing cycles. Did better electricity-conservation habits lead to lower electricity bills? Did better water-use habits lead to lower water bills?
Terms/Concepts: conservation, billing cycle