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Where does your energy come from? Analyzing your energy bill

Mary Savina, Faculty Career Enhancement Project at ACM Associated Colleges of the Midwest

In this activity students trace the sources of their electricity, heating and cooling, and other components of their energy use though the use of their family's utility bills and information from utility and government websites.

Activity is done mainly out of class, so assigned project time can vary.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Energy Literacy

This Activity builds on the following concepts of Energy Literacy.

Click a topic below for supporting information, teaching ideas, and sample activities.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations
Other materials addressing:
G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:A) Human/environment interactions
Other materials addressing:
A) Human/environment interactions.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:C) Resources
Other materials addressing:
C) Resources.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:D) Technology
Other materials addressing:
D) Technology.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:E) Environmental Issues
Other materials addressing:
E) Environmental Issues.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:A) Identifying and investigating issues
Other materials addressing:
A) Identifying and investigating issues.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Students must contact their families to get a copy of a recent energy bill. Since this could take several weeks, it is best that this task gets assigned at the beginning of the semester, far in advance of doing this activity.
  • As an alternative, students may be able to access energy consumption from their school through facilities management.
  • A common source of confusion comes from the variety of energy sources used for electricity, heating and cooling. Some students will come from households where climate control - as well as lights, etc. - is all electric. Others will have energy bills that are split between electric units (such as kWH) and thermal units (such as BTU). Ask students to convert everything into kWh.

About the Content

  • Data on energy sources from different states and countries (represented by where students are from) form the basis for discussions about energy sources, including their environmental, societal and economic advantages and disadvantages.
  • For undergraduate students who do not have access to their family's energy bills, analysis of their college's or university's energy consumption in aggregate or per building may be accessible.
  • Confronts the misconceptions that electricity generation and cost across the US and world is "the same."
  • Comments from expert scientist: Instructor provides good explanations re what is expected of students taking this class.

About the Pedagogy

  • Personalized to each student, this activity engages them in using quantitative skills and research to explore energy consumption.
  • Can be used as a stand-alone assignment for a unit or be used as part of a final exam for a course.
  • As written, this is a college level activity; however, using local data and not requiring energy unit conversions, this activity could be adapted for middle and high school students.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Necessary documents are available and could be easily modified and edited to meet your specific course needs.
  • Instructor must compile class data that can be shared among all students for analysis - instructions for this are provided.
Entered the Collection: April 2015 Last Reviewed: April 2015

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