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Australian light bulb ban

  • GCSE
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Data work
Topic: Home appliances

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.

14-16 How Science Works:
• 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.

Published: 27th February 2007
Reviews & Comments: 13

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

Try the activity

You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

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 Energy and electricty - please see downloadable teachers notes for details of GCSE specifications

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.

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 bulbs.

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 light bulb Difference in price between energy saving bulb and standard bulb Average saving per week Pay-back time?
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.

News links

BBC news
The news story
The news story in more detail
How Stuff Works
This web link explains how light bulbs work
Idea Finder
The history of the invention of the light bulb

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?


Feb 16th, 2011

5 Star

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Reviewer: johnny pang

Australian light bulb ban review

Sep 7th, 2008

4 Star

Australian light bulb ban activity promoted lots of discussion and 'why don't we do that here'. Activity was well put together and easy to give to a cover supervisor to complete in my absence

Reviewer: Kelly Susan

australian light bulb

Jul 3rd, 2008

5 Star

I used this with gcse (AQA) pupils at P.R.U. The kids were very focused and the structure was very clear and easy to follow. They were able to undertake the task and the whole exercise will consolidate their skills for their Objective Tests and helps their understanding of How Science Works.

Nick Jones
Newbridge House P.R.U..

Reviewer: Nick Jones


Jul 2nd, 2008

3 Star

I used this, along with the light bulb danger lesson with a class of Y8.

The calcualtions seem to produce some funny results - some suggesting that they would save more than is currently spent.

Also - shame on you! No mention of Joseh Swan in the brief history of the light bulb!

The Swan Edison story itself merits an upd8 comparing the two men and their different approaches.

Reviewer: Stephen Brian

Australian light bulb ban

Feb 11th, 2008

4 Star

I used this activity with a Year 9 science class. It worked well and I felt the students appreciated the relevance to saving money in their own homes.

Reviewer: Helen Skulander

Physics; P1

Oct 1st, 2007

4 Star

A good independant learning task set to the more able members of my group.

The group fedback that the activity was a little on the easy side, but said they enjoyed the activity.

Reviewer: David Wilkins

Australian Light Bulb Ban

Jun 13th, 2007

3 Star

Tried this with a lowish ability year 10 group the day before they went on work experience, so timing perhaps not the best. Was certainly useful to get the students to appreciate that we can save money by changing to energy efficient light bulbs, however most didn't finish the activity. I'll certainly use this again with a few minor modifications, like giving them timings for the length of time the bulbs are left on.

Reviewer: Joanne Golding

light bulb activity

May 10th, 2007

4 Star

I used this resource with an S2 science class. They enjoyed the novelty. Whilst some struggled with the calculations the majority coped well.

Reviewer: marion macdonald

Australian Light Bulb Ban

May 7th, 2007

5 Star

An excellent resource that I wasable to use with my very bottom set year 10. It fits in perfectly with the Edexcel you're in charge/ producing and measuring electricity topics.

They coped really well with the calculations and the differentiation was excellent. The more able could work out the payback, while theless able could see for themselves the financial impacts.

A brilliant resource!

Reviewer: Sarah Magor

Australian Light bulb ban

Mar 23rd, 2007

4 Star

Yr 9 set level 4-5 borderline group really liked this one. This tied in with many who had become more aware of environmental issues. Surprisingly many did not know how a normal light bulb worked so use a lamp and dimmer switch with a clear bulb to show the hot wire filament. They could then compare contrast with the energy saver bulb. The calculation grid worked very well with this group though a few had real difficulty with working out how long their bulbs are on for! Solved by giving the weakest a grid with some hours already on. Many surprised by how much you can save compared to the price of a bulb, £1 each in the Pound shop!

Reviewer: w woodburn

Austarlian light bulb ban

Mar 16th, 2007

4 Star

I used this material is part of the OCR gateway P2 module. The attention grabbing headline about the 800,000 tonne reduction in carbon dioxide emissions stimulated some very interesting discussions.The students found the material very interesting and it sparked a very lively debate. Interestingly not all the students were in favour of the ban.

I used this material together with a demonstarion of the two types of bulb and a Joule meter.

Thank you for producing such an excellent resource I will be now using the material "Poo power or nuclear power" to raise their awareness of nuclear power as an energy source.

Chris Whale
Head of Science
Graveney school

Reviewer: Chris Whale

UPD8 resources

Mar 12th, 2007

5 Star

These resources are the best! For a busy HOD trying to write a scheme of work for the new courses before we teach them they are a blessing.

Reviewer: Anne Francis

light bulbs

Mar 8th, 2007

4 Star

Excellent resource, ties in well with a demo of both bulb types connected to a joule meter.

My year 9 class top set really got stuck into it without too much help from me, to save photocopying I only copied the the main grid and had the other pages on the computer network.

Led to some interesting discussions on C02, global warming and what we all can personally do.

With other sets I would be less ambitious and get them to complete the calculations with less of the rooms.

Reviewer: jeremy beckett