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Educating for Sustainability


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UNIT: Green Building Context for Electric/Magnetic forces, Energy, Waves and Signals

LESSON: Light Bulb Efficiency

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Part of the lesson series “Green Building Context for Electric/Magnetic forces, Energy, Waves and Signals”. Designed for middle school physical science, students conduct an experiment to determine the most efficient lightbulb by measuring thermal energy output. Then, generalize the findings to the efficiency of all electronic devices.
LESSON: Light Bulb Efficiency

Lesson Specs

Suitable for Grades

8th Grade
7th Grade
6th Grade

Satisfies Academic Standards: 

MS-PS1-6 - Thermal Energy
MS-PS2-3 - Electric & Magnetic Forces
MS-PS3-3 - Thermal Energy Transfer

Sustainable System Focus:

Buildings and Urban Planning

Academic Subjects


Submitted by:

Jeffrey Burgard

Last Updated:

July 1, 2020 at 5:02:15 PM

Content Connection


-Resistance transforms electrical energy to thermal energy

-Efficiency is the ability to produce a desired result without waste



-Efficient electrical systems minimize or maximize the resistance–Depending on what is needed.

-Efficient devices and homes do what they are designed to do with little thermal energy waste

Community Relevance

Changing to more efficient light bulbs in one of the most accessible ways that individual homes can help the community meet its energy goals

Lesson Plan

Previous lessons on resistance in electrical systems is helpful but not required for this lesson



Powerpoint slides



Students (Each Lab Group - see slides)

Lab sheet (or use whatever fits your class)

1 Clamp lamp

2 Gloves

1 Thermometer

2 gloves

1 timer

1 sheet of what paper

1 Led light bulb (60 watt equivalent)

1 Incandescent light bulb (60 watt)

1 CFL light bulb (60 watt equivalent)


Time needed: 2-3 periods

1. Use the Powerpoint slides to show students that all light bulbs produce thermal energy and light, then conduct a discussion about which will produce the most thermal energy with the light: LED, Incandescent or CFL?

2. Use the Powerpoint slides to help students set up the lab sheet and lab

3. Have students follow procedure to complete the lab

4. Conduct a discussion analysing the data and defining efficiency

5. Show the video linked above about how light bulbs work (optional)


This lab can lead into another lesson in this series:”Making your home more efficient.”

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