*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.
Has your house (or one of your friend's houses) been remodeled recently? Were any improvements made for energy efficiency (solar systems, better insulation, passive solar heating, better lighting)? Compare your family's energy costs for a similar time period before and after the remodeling (remember that energy usage often varies seasonally). Monthly bills often have a bar graph showing energy usage for the previous 12 months. You may also be able to get information on past energy usage through your electric company's website. Ask your parents for help to access the online records. Did the improvements save you money? Analyze the cost of the remodeling work that was specific to energy efficiency (for example, if your house got a new roof, and insulation was added, find out what was the extra cost for the insulation, don't use the entire cost of the roof). Calculate how long it will take for the energy savings to pay for the improvements.
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If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:
How much energy do you think all the houses and buildings in the United States consume? It turns out they eat up 40% of all the energy that the U.S. uses in a year. The figure is high because all those houses and buildings need to be heated, cooled, lit, ventilated, and supplied with heated water and electricity to run all sorts of electrical devices, appliances, and computers. Energy efficiency engineers help reduce the energy that houses and buildings use. This saves families and businesses money, and lowers the emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
Every country has resources—people, land, raw materials, capital, and machinery—and economists study how those resources are distributed to create the goods that people buy, and the services people need or want. In their studies, economists monitor economic trends and collect data on things like energy costs, inflation, interest rates, exchange rates, business cycles, taxes, and employment levels. Based on their analysis of this data, they develop forecasts of economic activity so that businesses and governments can better plan for the future.
You can find this page online at: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/EnvEng_p017.shtml
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