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Australian light bulb ban

In a move to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Australia is banning incandescent light

bulbs. In so doing, it follows the lead of Cuba, Venezuela and Belize. By 2010
Australian shops will sell only energy saving fluorescent light bulbs. In this activity,
students look at the differences between traditional light bulbs and energy saving
bulbs, calculate the cost savings for an average house, and work out the pay-back
time for bulbs of different wattages.

Curriculum links
11 - 14 Energy and electricity (KS3 QCA module 9I)
• In energy transfers, energy may go to waste
• Energy is transmitted via electricity to an appliance
• To identify the power rating of common household electrical devices
• Some appliances transfer more energy than others in a given time

14 - 16 How science works: applications and implications of science

• 4a: The use of contemporary scientific and technological developments
and their benefits, drawbacks and risks.
• 4b: To consider how and why decisions about science and technology are made,
including those that raise ethical issues, and about the social, economic and
environmental effects of such decisions.

GCSE specifications

AQA Core Unit P1a 13.2 – energy and electricity

To describe the intended energy transfers/transformations and the main energy
wastages that occur with a range of devices.

Edexcel GCSE Science Unit P1a Topic 10: You’re in charge

• Use the equation to calculate the cost of electricity:
cost = power × time × cost of 1kWh
where power is measured in kilowatts and time is measured in hours
• plan a way to test whether an energy efficiency measure, such as insulating a
home, is cost effective

Gateway Module P1a: Energy for the home

Interpret data and calculate cost savings of different energy saving strategies.
Gateway Module P2c: Living for the Future
Survey the efficiency rating of fridges, freezers and light bulbs.

Twenty first century science: Additional module P5 – electric circuits

• Explain that when electric change flows through a component, energy is
transferred to the component
• Use the following equation to calculate energy transfer: energy transferred =
power x time
• Calculate the cost of electrical energy
Learning objectives
Students will:
• understand the difference between incandescent light bulbs and energy
efficient fluorescent light bulbs
• be able to calculate the cost savings for an average house using energy
saving light bulbs
• calculate the pay-back time for energy saving light bulbs

Running the activity

Starter: ask the students if they have energy-saving light bulbs at home. Discuss
whether they notice any difference between standard light bulbs and energy saving

Page 1 sets the context with a news story about the Australian government’s plans to
ban the sale of standard light bulbs.

Page 2 explains how light bulbs work and the differences between incandescent light
bulbs and energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs. You could support this activity with
a demonstration of both types of light bulb. Point out the difference in temperature
between the bulbs. As an extension, students could find out more about the history
of the light bulb.

Display page 3. This sets the task and shows an average house with standard light
bulbs in each room. Give each student a copy of page 4. They also need
calculators. Ask them to finishing filling in columns A and B using the picture on page
3 and the information given already in these columns. Then complete column C.
Next, students discuss and decide how many hours each light is turned on for every
week and write this in column D. They can now calculate how many kilowatt hours of
electricity are saved every week (column E) and the cost of this saving (column F) –
assuming one unit costs 8p. Overall, the money saved each week is not huge but
significant – for example, if all the lights were only turned on for only 1 hour a day, the
money saved from energy saving light bulbs would be 18p per week.

Students then calculate the totals for columns E and F and use these values to
answer the questions on page 3.

Page 5 is an extension activity where students work out the pay-back time for each
type of energy saving light bulb. The answers are in the table below:

Energy saving Difference in Average saving Pay-back time?

light bulb price between per week
energy saving
bulb and
standard bulb
9W £2.45 5.2p 53 weeks
11W £2.49 8.2p 30 weeks
20W £2.71 13.4p 20 weeks

The phosphor that coats the inside of energy-saving light bulbs is not phosphorus,
but a substance that fluoresces when illuminated by ultraviolet light.
Web links
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/6378161.stm: the BBC news story
http://environment.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,,2017431,00.html the story
as reported in the Guardian
http://home.howstuffworks.com/question236.htm: explains how light bulbs work
http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/lightbulb.htm: the history of the
light bulb

Science upd8 is a joint initiative from ASE and the Centre for Science Education,
Sheffield Hallam University. We are grateful for core support from NESTA.

Copyright rests jointly with the Association for Science Education (ASE) and the
Centre for Science Education, Sheffield Hallam University (CSE). Teachers and
others who have signed up may download and use UPD8 materials freely within their
school, but other usage, or any other organization wishing to use the materials,
should consult the joint ‘owners’ of the material (ASE and CSE) through