Pupils monitor whether outside doors and windows are closed during cold weather

5 Investigating energy usage KS1, KS2

Getting the temperature right in the classroom is important; too hot and everyone falls asleep and doesn’t learn, too cold and we shiver, and must put extra jumpers on.  Sometimes teachers open windows or doors when the  classroom gets too warm and stuffy during  the winter months. Instead we should try to turn down the heating to reduce energy use and save the school money. Opening windows or doors means we are letting all the heat out of the building, and wasting money.

The temperature in a classroom is normally controlled by a thermostat on the wall where you can set the temperature of the classroom, or by thermostatic radiator valves which are connected to each radiator. Look around the room you are in and see if you can spot how the temperature in a classroom is controlled – is there a dial for the temperature on the wall, or is the temperature controlled by each radiator? 

The best temperatures for schools are: 
  • The best temperatures for schools are: 
    • Normal classrooms: 18°C
    • Corridors: 15°C
    • Areas with high levels of activity (e.g. sports halls): 15°C
    • Areas with low levels of activity: 21°C
    • Special needs schools or areas with very young children: 21°C
Ask your teacher for a thermometer and measure the temperature in your classroom. Is it too hot or too cold, or about right? If it is too hot or too cold, ask your teacher if you can adjust the temperature. If you have a dial on the wall (thermostat) turn it up if the room is too cold and down if it is too hot. You may have to wait for up to an hour for the temperature to change. 

If the radiator valves control the temperature, the valve is normally numbered, a bigger number means a higher temperature, a smaller number a lower temperature. Sometimes these valves become stuck, so if you can’t turn them easily then ask your teacher to help. Sometimes they are broken and stop controlling the temperature – it’s a good idea to ask the caretaker to check all the valves are working correctly in the school.

Once you have worked out how to control the temperature in your classroom without opening doors and windows, you could plan to do this for the whole school. You could start by recording how many windows and doors have been opened by the afternoon. You could use this monitoring sheet to help you record your results. If many windows and doors are open, you probably need to look at the heating thermostats for the whole school. Don't forget to share the results of your detective work with the rest of the school, focusing on the positives as well as highlighting the potential for saving more energy. You'll find 'Well done class 5 for turning down the heating instead of opening the windows! If they can do it, we can all do it!' is more motivating than naming and shaming those who have forgotten. 

An afternoon spot check on the numbers of open windows and doors  is an activity that can be repeated regularly - don't forget to enter it as a new activity and earn more Energy Sparks points each time you carry one out! Keep a record of what you find on each spot check, so that you can see if things are improving. And how about creating charts using your spot check data as part of maths lessons?
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