Suggested Reading: Insulation

Activity 1: Measuring Heat Flow Through Different Types of Materials

Students will understand that not all materials have the same insulation abilities.

One class period

-Cups of various composition: foam, paper, glass, plastic, metal, or any other A lid with access for a thermometer provided for each container.
-Water of a given temperature (Hot or cold, hot water should not exceed 70OC).
-100 mL graduated cylinder
-Thermometer or Temperature Probe - one for each cup
-Clock or timer
-Measuring Heat Flow Through Different Types of Materials worksheet

1. Explain to students that some materials are insulators, and other materials are conductors. Insulators prevent or reduce the passage, transfer, or leakage of heat, electricity or sound. Conductors readily conduct heat, electricity, and sound. Today students will be investigating what materials make good insulators in regards to heat.
2. Pass out the Measuring Heat Flow Through Different Types of Materials worksheet. Students follow the procedure to conduct the investigation. Circulate around the room as needed.
3. Discuss the results with students at the conclusion of the investigation.

Activity 2: Insulation Investigation 2

To determine and compare the insulating properties of several materials. To gain an understanding of the value of insulation in saving energy in buildings.

One 45-minute class period.

-10 Radiation cans
-10 Lab thermometers Insulating materials for five centers
-5 Rolls of tape
-Source of hot water
-Timer Insulation Investigation worksheet

Set up five centers, each with 2 radiation cans of the same color, 2 lab thermometers, 1 type of insulating material, and 1 roll of tape. Divide the class into five groups.

1. Review the Insulation Investigation with the students. Have them write a hypothesis after reviewing the procedure.
2. Assign the groups to their centers.
3. Explain that the groups must insulate only the sides of one of their cans.
4. Provide the groups with hot water when all of the groups have completed insulating their cans.
5. Begin timing when all of the groups are ready and have recorded the beginning temperatures. Direct the groups to record the temperatures of the water in the cans at two-minute intervals.
6. After 20 minutes, have the students calculate the differences (∆) in temperatures for both cans from the beginning temperatures to the final temperatures.
7. Have the students complete the Results and Conclusion sections of the lab sheet.
8. Compare the insulating properties of the different insulating materials as a class, using the results of all of the groups.

Discuss the role and value of insulation in homes and schools.
Extension: Energy House Conduct NEED’s Energy House Activity, in which students buy materials and insulate a cardboard house.

Activity 3: Measuring Energy Flows Through Glass

Students will discover that some glasses let thermal energy pass through more readily than others.

One class period

You will need to collect glass samples. Go to your local window installer, or home improvement store and ask if they have sample pieces that they can give you.

-Small pane of clear glass (single pane)
-Small pane of UV coated glass
-Small pane of glass (double pane), either clear or UV coated
-Thermometers or temperature probes attached to cardboard
-Light meter
-Clip light with 75 watt incandescent bulb
-Meter stick or ruler

1. Have students examine the different pieces of glass. What do they notice?
2. Pass out the Measuring Energy Flows Through Glass worksheet. Review the procedure with students. Also review glass handling safety.
3. Have students work in small groups through the investigation. Discuss the results at the end of the class period. What did students learn?

Activity 4: Calculating Heat Loss Through Windows

Students will use mathematics to calculate the average thermal energy loss through windows in their classroom and home.

One class period, plus homework

-Tape Measure
-Calculating Thermal Energy Loss Through Windows

You can have students find the average seasonal temperature for your location using the National Weather Service web site, If preferred, you can find this information and have it available for students.

1. Review with students how to find the area of a surface in square meters.
2. Pass out the Calculating Thermal Energy Loss Through Windows worksheet.
3. Work through a sample calculation with your students using made up dimensions of a window.
3. Allow students to work in pairs to calculate the heat loss through windows in your classroom and common areas in your school.
4. Students should bring the results back and compare heat loss. Were thermal energy loss rates the same or different around the school?

Assign students to calculate thermal energy loss through their home windows as homework. Have a class discussion on students’ findings when they return to class. What are some ways students can reduce thermal energy loss through their windows at home?