Watt’s Up Investigation Activity

Construction Context
watts-up-internet-enabled-electricity-meterThe electrical devices in your home are becoming more and more sophisticated.  One way to experience this evolution is to look around your house at night and see all the LED’s (light emitting diodes) as indicators for what a device is doing.  The cable box will have a light that indicates it is off but the clock still reads the time.  The dishwasher, clothes washer, and dryer each have an indicator light telling you what state each is in.  When you set it to work, the light changes color or switches to another light so that you can keep track of all the options.

The investigation shown in this video examines the power usage of a frost-free refrigerator and freezer.  By using the Watt’s Up meter, you can see that something odd is going on as this common device in your kitchen is operating.  Using a bit of thinking and studying the graph output of the Watt’s Up, you end up learning something interesting about this everyday device and how it works.

Activity description
Watch this video of an engineer at Vernier Software and Technology as he examines power usage and temperature variation over time in a freezer: http://www.vernier.com/innovate/innovativeuse118.html.

Science Concepts

Next Generation Science Standards
Scientific and Engineering Practices:
– Planning and carrying out investigations
– Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information

Crosscutting Concepts:
– Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are frost-free freezers worth the expense?  Provide reasons for and against buying a frost-free freezer.
  1. Search the Internet for the meaning of “phantom energy”. Where in your house is electrical energy being used that you were not aware of.  If you don’t have access to a Watt’s Up meter, how could you still conduct an investigation about energy use?
  1. Survey your house for the electrical devices that turn themselves on and off automatically.  What does each device have to detect in order to turn itself on?  To turn itself off?

(Download the activity in PDF, Word)