Slay the energy vampires at your school by conducting an Energy Audit!
An energy vampire is a device that continues to use energy and drain power, even when it is turned off. Use this toolkit to discover where energy is being wasted and what can be done to help mitigate climate change and (bonus!) save money.
This toolkit address the following Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) within the Performance Expectations of NGSS for Grades: K-2 and 3-5
- Asking Questions and Defining a Problem
- Planning and Carrying out Investigations
- Analyzing and Interpreting Data
- Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
- Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
- Obtaining Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Why It’s Important
Overconsumption of energy harms our planet – it is a direct cause of the climate crisis. It is also a big waste of money, which is particularly important in schools where funds could be reallocated towards programs that benefit the students instead.
What You Will Accomplish
- Students will become more aware of where energy comes from and recognize methods to become more energy conscious in their immediate surroundings
- Students will be introduced to the idea of renewable vs non-renewable energy
- Students will recognize opportunities to save energy by monitoring appliances that do not need to be plugged in while not in use
Teacher Project Plan Step-by-Step
Step 1: Determine Participants
- Working with a small group of students (1-6 students)? Start with a single classroom audit
- Working with a larger club/class (6 – 24 students)? Split up into teams to audit different classrooms OR create a schedule to audit the same classroom on a weekly basis
- Is your whole school participating? Split up into teams by classroom or grade level and audit your entire campus
Step 2: Set Learning Objectives
- Students will analyze a classroom/school building(s) for energy use
- Count the number of outlets
- Analyze items that need to be plugged in at all times and those that don’t
Evaluation and Assessment
- Students will track and evaluate the information they have collected
- Evaluate outlets in each classroom
- Report on the energy consumption and how it can be reduced
Step 3: Educate Students on the Effects of their Energy Consumption
The resources provided can be shown as a slideshow or printed out as individual worksheets for students to learn.
Education Materials: Why Should you Reduce Your Energy Consumption?
Our Energy Comes from Fossil Fuels
Today, energy sources such as oil, coal, and gas make up 80% of our energy resource consumption. They are referred to as “fossil fuels,” and their extraction often releases chemicals and greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. This causes air pollution and increases global temperatures, which contributes to global warming. 
When an appliance is plugged in, it still uses energy, even if it’s not turned on. This kind of secret energy sucking is called vampire energy. Studies have found that vampire energy accounts for 5-10% of the total electricity in residential homes and accounts for about 1% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Appliances can range from anything to a lamp, fridge, or an electric pencil sharpener. Some of these appliances have to be plugged in and turned on at all times, but there are still others that do not have this requirement. 
Simple Habits Can Reduce Energy Consumption
It’s easy to save energy and thereby reduce pollution from fossil fuels. Some notable changes include:
- Unplugging appliances that are not in use
- Using power strips that can be turned off at night
- Replacing incandescent light bulbs with LED light bulbs
- Install motion activated light switches
Watch these two short videos to learn why it’s important to reduce energy consumption!
Why Energy is a Social Justice Issue
Using energy relates to environmental justice due to our reliance on fossil fuel consumption. The production, use, and extraction of fossil fuels have numerous consequences on the environment they occupy. Areas where fossil fuels are extracted and processed are called “sacrifice” zones because the health and well-being of the local people and the environment are sacrificed in order to access the fuel. The residents that occupy “sacrifice” zones are often people of color, and the decision to sacrifice the area is most often made by people who do not live in or near the area.
Step 4: Pre-Activity Reflection Questions
Reflection and Educator Observation Questions
Use the following questions to guide students and reflect on what they’ve learned. Provided questions can be accessed in slideshow or worksheet format.
- Can you name some appliances or things in your house/classroom that are plugged in even if they’re not being used?
- What do you think uses the most energy out of these appliances?
- What is the difference between renewable and non-renewable energy sources?Which has a more negative impact on the environment? A more positive impact?
- What answers did you hear from the reflection questions?
Step 5: Take Action – Energy Audit Lesson Plan
Lead students through the “Energy Audit” activity with guided instructions. Check out “Pro Tips” with each step for useful help:
1. Assign Roles
Determine who and how many students/staff are participating. Divide students into roles using the Energy Audit Team Organizer:
- Walk Through Lead: Student will lead the team throughout the room and note sources of energy use.
- Notetaker: Student(s) completing the Energy Audit Worksheet.
- Appliance Watch: Student(s) will keep track of any new appliances introduced throughout the week/month/ school year.
- Floater(s) (if teams need to be in groups of 4): Assists other roles and reviews Energy Audit Worksheet accuracy before weekly team transfers.
2. Prepare Your Materials
Gather the following materials and determine a safe place to store them when not in use:
- Energy Audit Worksheet
- Location to store materials
3. The Pre-Audit
Before you conduct your scheduled Energy Audits, you must first determine how energy is currently being used in your reviewed location. Using the Energy Pre-Project Analysis worksheet, make note of what appliances are being used in addition to how many plugs/outlets are utilized.
4. Make a Schedule
- How many audits will be held?
- Which team will conduct the audit (if you have more than one team)?
- When will the audits be held?
- What classroom(s) or building(s) will be audited?
Use the Energy Audit Monitoring Schedule to complete this task.
5. The Audit
Use the Energy Audit Worksheet to conduct your audit. The team will walk through the room and track the number of:
- Appliances plugged in and on
- Appliances plugged in and off
The team will then consult with the teacher about what appliances in the classroom can be unplugged when not in use. At the end of the audit, place the materials in the designated storage area in the classroom.
In addition to the audit, the following duties should be conducted to ensure a consistent workflow:
- Students on “Appliance Watch” will monitor any new appliances that come into the classroom and take note of them on the worksheet.
- The working team will then meet with the next team at the end of the weekly cycle to discuss any updates.
Creating team names is a fun way to get creative! Encourage energy-themed team names to challenge the energy vampires!
Step 6: Post-Activity Reflection Questions
Student Reflection and Real World Application Questions
Reflections take place after a team finishes their audit and/or at the end of the project/school year. Once each team has completed their Energy Audit, use the questions below to have students reflect on their Energy Audit Campaign.
- What surprised you the most about this audit?
- Now that you have identified energy vampires at school, can you think of appliances in your home that are using vampire energy and what can be unplugged when not in use?
- How do you think you could take the next audit up a notch?
Real World Application
What will change in your life now that you have completed this project?
Step 7: Report Students’ Impact
Compile all the data that your teams gathered and complete the Energy Audit Wrap Up Form.
- Energy Audit Sign-Up Sheet
- Energy Audit Team Organizer
- Energy Audit Pre-Project Analysis
- Energy Audit Monitoring Schedule
- Energy Audit Worksheet
- Energy Audit Slides
- Energy Audit Wrap Up Form
Congrats on completing the Energy Audit Eco-Toolkit!
Did you enjoy this toolkit? Find your next project here!