The Creation and Implementation of an Energy Audit Service Learning Project

Michael R. Gullo
Mt. Lebanon High School, USA


Environmental education, oftentimes, is carried out behind the walls of the classroom. As a result, students may not hone the skills needed to succeed in the ever-changing demands in the 21st century. Consequently, science educators, high school and those in higher education, may aim to pique student curiosity and promote science-related careers through community-school partnerships. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether or not service learning could be considered an alternative teaching method in an environmental science classroom. In particular, the results of this research concluded three major finds: that an energy audit service learning project 1) did have a positive, measureable effect on students’ personal actions/behaviors towards the environment, 2) increased student stewardship skills, and 3) had a positive influence, including financial gain, for the community partners.


Environmental education became a popular addition to school curricula in the 1970’s. According to Ozden (2008), it is vital in preventing global and local environmental problems by encouraging students to take more of an active role in sustainability efforts.   One of the most important environmental challenges facing the United States today is how to create inexpensive energy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions (Menyah & Wolde-Rufael, 2010). Not only is an energy-demanding lifestyle costly, it also accounts for 38% of all the carbon emissions released in the United States (Morgenstern, Meyer, Whitten, & Reuer, 2008). However, approximately $352 billion in energy costs could be saved annually by improving heating and air-conditioning systems (HVAC), electrical appliances, appliances that use natural gas, and infrastructure design (Soratana & Marriott, 2010).

One strategy that will lead to such annual savings is an energy audit service learning project that focuses around residential and commercial establishments. Conveniently enough, courses in environmental science, at the high school and college level, present the ideal opportunity for service learning project development since the encompass all four strands of science–physics, chemistry, biology, and earth science–as well as law, policy, and business. In fact, students at Colorado College enrolled in chemistry, physics, and environmental science were asked to participate in a service learning project that required them to evaluate energy consumption of local businesses. Students uncovered cheap, effective techniques that would increase the energy efficiency of the structure that could be implemented immediately. Over the last five years, 16 buildings have been audited by over 250 students who evaluated low cost items such as caulking, insulation, building air leaks, outlet insulators, high efficient light bulbs, and hot water insulators. The work of these students helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower energy bills dramatically (Morgenstern, Meyer, Whitten & Reuer, 2008).

Statement of the Problem

As a fundamental part of science education, students are often expected to engage in a variety of summative and formative assessments that evaluate scientific skill. However, some research suggests that students’ ability to apply, analyze, and synthesize information has decreased, especially their ability to evaluate scientific theory (Kim, Bland & Chandler, 2009).   In addition to the decrease in student’s ability to problem-solve, Foncault expresses a major “discontent aimed at the educational community from within the business sector” (p.164) because newly graduated students lack basic skills that include the ability to work with others, dependability, and leadership characteristics. Actually, a common criticism of public schools held by corporations is that students are not prepared to handle the responsibilities and demands of the work force. For these reasons, educators of all subjects and grade levels must be prepared to become the connection between students and the community.

Research Questions

In the United States, service learning is growing in popularity at the university level but failing to make a large impact in the high school curriculum. The following four research questions address the problem:

  1. To what extent does service learning at the high school level
    1. Promote student knowledge of environmental issues?
    2. Affect student personal actions and behaviors towards the environment?
    3. Influence student leadership, communication, and presentation skills?
    4. Impact the business sector?


Review of Literature

Advantages of Service Learning

Oftentimes, limitations affect teacher creativity when planning lessons, which in turn, negatively impacts student interest and achievement. And as a result, students may have difficulties understanding and considering real world application in STEM disciplines. As a way to increase interest in these careers and the scientific skill of students, service learning opportunities could encourage students to value hands-on learning, experience active participation, consider the significance of helping others, and teach students to improve their citizenship (Leege & Cawthorn, 2008; Pratte & Laposata, 2005). In addition, service learning provides students with opportunities to utilize the scientific method when encountering real-world problems. Solving such problems through service learning requires students to gather and analyze data and communicate their findings, while providing a service to the community.

Although there are many different definitions of service learning, a common theme among researchers is that service learning increases academic achievement, leadership, communication, and scientific skills. Students who participate in service learning projects tend to feel a sense of accomplishment, empowerment, and joy while providing others with a needed service (Freed, 2008).   Therefore, the ability to apply and incorporate knowledge only increases with time spent working in the community.   Haines (2010) defines service learning as “a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities” (p. 16). As such, service learning projects are worth exploring further since multiple stakeholders were shown to benefit.

As relations between businesses and students in the classroom lead to an improvement in student attitudes and skills, the community benefits in ways that are not as evident. Businesses may value and appreciate newly developed relationships through financial gains, free advertising, a glimpse of future technological advances, and/or needed volunteer services. As demonstrated by Georgia Southern University’s (GSU) service learning project, the business sector was very well supported.   Strictly from a commerce stand-point, the service learning project saved GSU’s community about $18 per hour, which equates to $13,000 of complimentary labor (Leege & Cawthorn, 2008).

Also, an energy audit service learning project addresses several high-level learning components of Bloom’s Taxonomy.   For example, in the Colorado College service learning project, the cognitive domain of Bloom’s Taxonomy addressed student knowledge and comprehension during the introduction of thermodynamics via classroom lectures and activities.  Application and analysis occurred when students were able to audit a specific building and apply content knowledge learned in the classroom to real-life situations. And last, synthesis and evaluation happened when students returned to the classroom and researched and evaluated the energy audit that resulted in solutions and action plans to solve actual environmental problems.   Students, faculty, and building owners all benefited from this type of service learning project that are expected to continue in future years.

Shortcomings of Service Learning

Empirical evidence indicates that service learning can increase content knowledge, as well as leadership, presentation, and stewardship skills. However, these projects have three distinct disadvantages that educators must acknowledge before planning to embark on such ventures. First, Gandy, Pierce, and Smith (2009) claim that service learning could expose young students to cultural issues which they are not prepared to handle. And as a result, students may find themselves in situations that require a higher level of experience when responding to problems, and therefore, might not react properly. Furthermore, shy students may view service learning as threatening and could inadvertently shut down their learning process.

Secondly, Lickteig (2003) argues that “schools should advance with care when entering a partnership because the welfare of the nation’s young is at risk” (p. 44). These apprehensions stem from the thought that schools might develop relationships with community members without obtaining prior background and criminal checks. Most teachers, professors, and administrators do not have the ability to perform background or criminal checks, and as a result, could pose a major threat to defenseless students who enter the community.

And third, implementing a service learning project can be cumbersome. Researchers such as Sarkar and Frazier (2008); Leege and Cawthorn (2008); Gandy, Pierce, and Smith (2009); and James, Laatsch, Bosse, Rider, Lee, and Anderson (2006) agree with each of the following statements.

  • Teachers may view service learning projects as a burden if it were part of the curriculum permanently.
  • Collaborative success is not expected to be immediate due to the time it takes to build an authentic relationship between the school and the community.
  • Teachers may not be able manage a diverse group of students.
  • Teachers may not be able to fit a service learning project into their schedules.

In addition, Parece and Aspaas (2007) raise the concern that the results and student perceptions of the same service learning project may vary significantly from year to year. Therefore, teachers, administrators, and community members must annually revise requirements and rubrics to fit the needs of all stakeholders, consuming a tremendous amount of time.

Disadvantages such as those listed above create safety concerns and time management issues for any educator and must be addressed if a service project is to be successful.   With that being said, there are a few major differences and challenges one may face in the high school setting compared to those practicing in higher education.   For example, high school teachers tend to be restricted more by external bodies, such as national and state standards, the Advanced Placement College Board, and/or their school board’s approved curriculum scope and sequence. Though college and university professors also have a set curriculum guide, the freedom and flexibility that college students and educators have throughout the day allows for a more flexible schedule when planning and coordinating meeting times with business owners. High school students find themselves in the building from 8:00am-3:05pm, for example, which dramatically decreases the ability to organize times with business owners and their hours of operation. Funding for technology and equipment is a challenge at any level but seems to be more difficult to overcome for most high school teachers and students.   Small-scale energy audits can be performed without the need of technology, but can be greatly enhanced with expensive equipment such as infrared cameras and kill-a-watt devices. Not to mention districts may not approve field trips or outside projects due to budget constrictions.

Methods and Procedures

The current investigation was designed as a qualitative research study that consisted of bi-weekly journal prompts from three participating groups over a four week period. Eleventh grade students enrolled in Advanced Placement Environmental Geoscience, attending Mt. Lebanon High School – located in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, were randomly placed into three different groups taught by two different teachers. Below is a visual representation of the three groups.

Each participant, regardless of their group/treatment, studied the Energy Resources and Consumption Unit, received the same classroom lectures, viewed the same videos, participated in the same laboratory investigations, and took a common summative assessment. As seen in Table 1, the only difference was the supplemental activity. In addition, throughout the study, each group completed two sets of identical journal prompts throughout the four week unit.

Business Participants

Recent research suggests that “the process of locating an adequate business partner is normally initiated by the faculty involved far ahead of project implementation” (Morgenstern, Meyer, Whitten, & Reuer, 2008, p. 18). Therefore, months in advance, businesses located within walking distance of Mt. Lebanon High School were given top priority and contacted.   This technique was supported by existing literature, which suggests that the location of the business should be within walking distance to avoid transportation issues (Morgenstern, Meyer, Whitten, & Reuer, 2008). Second, to add variety, many different types of businesses were considered as opposed to just all of one type (i.e. restaurants, physical therapist, bakery, etc.). The six businesses that agreed to participate in this study were Mt. Lebanon Chiropractic, P.C., Potomac Bakery, a local motor supply company, Sunburst Sports Wear Screen Printing and Embroidery, Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy, and the Medicine Shoppe.

The Creation of the Service Learning Project and the Procedures

After evaluating the pros and cons of implementing a service learning project, educators must first obtain District or University approval and only then should one begin building relationships with community members, organizations, and businesses. Planning and implementing a successful service learning project should be systematic and well planned. As a result, confidentiality and meeting forms, energy audit data forms, and rubrics can be found in Appendix A that may serve as a framework for others wishing to build a service learning project at the high school level or in higher education.

Initially, according to Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock (2001), cooperative groups should be kept rather small in size; thus, small teams of three to four members seemed to be more effective than larger groups.   The findings of Mitchell, Reilly, and Bramwell (2004), suggest that allowing students freedom to choose their own groups “stemmed from the notion common in childhood and adolescence that one works well with friends” (p. 21). Since groups often met with one another outside of school, it was thought that students who worked with friends may be involved in the same extra-curricular activities and were better able to coordinate meeting times with their community partners.

Once each group established a community partner, group members were assigned one of four team roles: team leader, lead researcher, lead writer, or lead presenter (See Appendix A for a detailed description of each position). This idea is supported by research conducted by Borda, Kriz, Popejoy, Dickinson, and Olson (2009) who suggest that assigning team members a specific role encourages accountability and increases group productivity.

Next, prior to the first meeting, students were taught how to conduct a general, small-scale energy audit using very little technology and materials. Energy audits consist of evaluating potential air leaks around windows, doors, vents, outlets and duct work as well as replacing energy-draining appliances and outdated HVAC systems located throughout the building. During the first meeting, students conducted the on-site energy audit and completed all required attendance forms. To alleviate apprehension about others having access to their energy audit results and to ensure the security of personal data, the teacher, students, and the community partner signed a confidentiality form prior to the first meeting (See Appendix A).

After the audit, the data was then analyzed and evaluated in the classroom and during the subsequent weeks, specific cost-effective energy reduction methods were researched and formatted into a formal presentation. Then, during the second meeting, students delivered the formal presentation to the property owner that explained and summarized work performed during the energy audit, current carbon footprint, simple and cost effective ideas to reduce energy consumption, cost/benefit analysis, and expected energy and environmental savings that should result if their ideas were to be implemented. To keep ideas realistic and feasible, it was imperative that students communicated to the property owner exactly where to purchase their ideas and that each item/idea cost less than $100. When the presentation was complete, groups were required to leave a hard copy of the formal presentation with the business owner to allow them the opportunity to review student driven ideas and research for future reference. Finally, to show appreciation, students and the teacher sent each community partner a card thanking them for their participation and support.

The Traditional Learning Project Procedures

The traditional learning project was modeled after the work of researchers Nobtitt, Vance and DePoy Smith (2010), who performed a study at Eastern Kentucky University comparing two different teaching styles that measured student ability to communicate and think critically.   As described by these researchers, the traditional teaching technique used in this study was in the form of a paper and presentation. Consequently, the traditional learning project required the participants of the Traditional Groups 1 and 2 to research energy efficiency/conservation methods, write a three-page report, and present their findings to the class toward the end of the unit.

The Development of the Journal Prompts

The Energy Resources and Consumption Unit required four weeks of instruction in which the participants of the three groups were asked to journal twice throughout the study. Also, the journal prompts were scripted and linked to the research questions of this study and included personal reflections and recommendations. Lastly, to encourage participants to take journal entries seriously, points were assigned to both journal entries on a completion basis. It is important to credit Dunlap (2006), as this study’s journal prompts mirrored the research of this author.

Results of Journal Data Pertaining to Research Questions

Qualitative data from participant bi-weekly journals were collected and structurally coded which “applies a content-based or conceptual phrase representing a topic of inquiry to a segment of data that relates to a specific research question” (Saldana, 2009, p. 66). Implementing this technique allowed only data specific to the research questions to be analyzed.   Second, as stated by Saldana (2009), descriptive coding is especially useful when evaluating studies with a wide variety of data, such as journal data.   Thus, this stage of the coding process involved highlighting commonalities among the data pertaining to each research question. This allowed patterns to emerge from the highlighted commonalities and permitted for a more meaningful analysis (Saldana, 2009).

Finally, all business participants were questioned by phone to determine their perception of the energy audit service learning project. Data from the six short phone interviews was coded in the same fashion as the journal data.

Research Question 1a:

To what extent does service learning at the high school level promote student knowledge of environmental issues?

As shown in Table 2, 83% of all participants responded ‘yes’ to the journal question asking, “Do you feel that after participating in this study, your personal knowledge of environmental issues has increased?” This data clearly indicates that each group, regardless of the treatment, improved their environmental knowledge.

Research Question 1b:

To what extent does service learning at the high school level affect student personal actions and behaviors towards the environment?

Participants in each group were asked, “Do you feel that after participating in this study your personal actions/behavior towards the environment have improved?” Table 3 explicitly articulates that 95% of the participants of service learning group felt that the service learning project improved their actions/behaviors towards the environment. The two control groups combined showed that only 41.2% of the participants answered yes to this question, insinuating that their actions and behaviors towards the environment were not as strong, compared to the service learning group, after the study.

Of the 20 participants in the service learning group who responded ‘yes’ in Table 3, ten indicated that the reason why their personal behaviors towards the environment improved was due to the energy audit and how this activity made them aware of simple and cheap ideas that could be easily implemented around their own house. In fact, a participant is quoted as saying “Because of the energy audit, I had to really think about new, creative ways to be environmentally friendly, and this has opened my eyes to the benefits of being active in environmental conservation.”

On the contrary, participants in Traditional Groups 1 and 2 indicated that reasons why 45.45% and 62.5% respectfully answered ‘no’ in Table 3 include “Too large scale of a project” and “Changes are not applicable to my life.”

Research Question 1c:

To what extent does service learning at the high school level influence leadership, communication, and presentation skills?

This journal prompt was asked only to members of the service learning group. Table 4 displays the data collected from the journal question, “After participating in the service learning project, do you feel that you increased your communication, leadership, and presentation skills?” One hundred percent of the participants indicated that the service learning project increased their communication skills. In addition, 85.7% responded ‘yes’ because of the fact that they had to contact and communicate with a business owner who they did not know and had never personally met.

The data in Table 4 also explains that service learning increased leadership skills in 66.66% of the participants. These participants pointed out that the project forced them to accept new challenges and work together to plan meetings. Of the 23.8% who did not feel that their leadership skills increased, each indicated that this skill set was not increased due to the fact that they did not lead the group and held another role. And finally, 85.7% noted that their presentation skills increased due to the service learning project. Most felt this because they were asked to present in front of a stranger, and this forced them to think quickly in certain situations.

Research Question 1d:

To what extent does service learning at the high school level impact the business sector? To answer this research question, the owner of each business was contacted by phone and asked the following questions: 1). What did you like about the project? 2). What did you dislike or think should be changed for future service learning projects? 3). Were the students professional as they audited your establishment? 4). Were student driven ideas feasible and would/did you implement any of them? If so, where you able to save money?

With regards to question #1, four of the six (66%) businesses stated that they liked the fact that students were able to get out into the community and apply their knowledge to real-life situations. And the two remaining businesses agreed that the project was enjoyable because the students were well-prepared and suggested applicable ideas. When asked what they would change (question #2), five out of six business owners (83%) suggested that nothing should be changed concerning future service learning projects. The sixth business owner commented that the method of scheduling meeting times should be ironed out for the next service learning project.

According to 100% of the businesses, the students were professional and well-prepared and took the challenge seriously. This was affirmed by the ideas and research that students presented at the final presentation portion of the service learning project. Actually, when answering research question 1d, business owners thought the following ideas were feasible and that they would implement in the near future: installing a toilet tummy, recycling paper, LED lighting, compact florescent lighting, and recycling plastics and glass. In fact, below is a direct quote from the owner of Sunburst Sportswear, a business participant of this study:

“I thought it was great to see high school kids applying what they learned in the classroom to the real world. They were very inquisitive and really opened my eyes to possibilities. I had to conserve energy and money as well. They gave me ideas that I previously thought were trivial. In the end I saved about $300.00 a year applying their ideas to my business. Thanks again!”

Furthermore, according to the data, the six businesses enjoyed the project and are seriously contemplating implementing student ideas.

 Findings and Conclusions

This investigation, which paralleled current literature, intended to explore whether service learning would be a tool that educators could use to increase student knowledge of environmental issues, personal actions/behaviors towards the environment, and stewardship skills. When analyzing qualitative data collected from bi-weekly journals, 95% of the service learning group felt that the service learning project improved their actions/behaviors towards the environment; whereas only 41.2% of participants in the traditional groups indicated that the traditional teaching approach positively increased their personal actions and behaviors towards the environment.   This data clearly demonstrated that an energy audit service learning project is a technique that environmental educators should consider to positively influence students’ personal actions and behaviors towards the environment.

Encouraging positive behaviors and enhancing student perceptions of environmental problems and solutions are equally important as increasing stewardship skills. McDonald and Dominguez (2005) point out that “Service learning is a teaching and learning method that connects meaningful community service with academic learning, personal growth, and civic responsibility” (p. 19). Thus, a goal of this study was to examine if an energy audit service learning project increased presentation, leadership, and communications skills. According to Table 4, 100% of the participants indicated that the service learning project increased their communication skills because of communication with a business owner whom they never met. Likewise, 66.66% of the participants claim that the service learning project increased their leadership skills and 85.7% acknowledged that their presentation skills were also enhanced.

The data demonstrated that students who participated in a service learning project saw an increase in their leadership, communication, and presentation skills compared to students who were only exposed to traditional teaching methods.

Literature suggests that community-school relationships benefit all involved in many ways. For example, as a result of an energy audit service learning project, the six Mt. Lebanon businesses involved agreed that it was important that students were able to apply their knowledge to real-life situations. Furthermore, the businesses complimented the students who participated in the energy audit service learning project on their professionalism, knowledge, and preparedness. Clearly, the data from this study indicated that the business sector of the community benefited, and, one owner claimed to have saved $300 over the course of one year by implementing student eco-friendly suggestions that stemmed from their energy audit.


Several aspects of this experiment should be considered when generalizing the results. First, to no fault of the researcher or participants, only six business partners agreed to participate in the study, which may have lowered the overall generalization of the results from this experiment. It is thought that if a higher number of business partners agreed to participate, the results of this study may be more applicable to businesses outside of the local community.

And secondly, subjects and their business partners who participated in this study were from a wealthy suburban neighborhood, and as a result, duplicating this study in a lower socio-economic area may produce different results.


Stemming from the different challenges that higher education practitioners face compared to those of high school educators, researchers may expand this study and investigate why service learning has failed to make an impact at the high school level.   Perhaps investigating the benefit of college students working alongside of high school students during joint service learning projects and how this collaboration could reduce budget and time constraints and may help make younger high school students feel more confident.

Also, an energy audit service learning project may have been a better fit for residential homes; something that this study did not consider.   It’s thought that only six businesses agreed to participate in this study for numerous reasons. But, as a result of landlords paying utility bills, certain business owners were reluctant to participate. Similarly, a few business owners who agreed to be audited were reluctant or unwilling to implement ideas presented by the students for they would not have seen personal financial gain. Therefore, researchers studying the effect of an energy audit service learning project, at the high school or higher education level, should consider concentrating on the residential sector because student research and ideas may be more applicable to home owners rather than business owners.


Borda, E., Kriz, G., Popejoy, K., Dickinson, A., & Olson, A. (2009). Taking ownership of learning in a large class: Group projects and a mini-conference. Journal of College Science Teaching38(6), 35-41.

Dunlap, J.C. (2006). Using guided reflective journaling activities to capture students’ changing perceptions. Tech Trends 50(6), 20-26.

Foncault, P. (2002). Linking schools to businesses. The Clearing House75(3), 164-5.

Freed, A. (2008). Environmental service learning: The clean air zone service learning project.Science Scope32(4), 46-8.

Gandy, S., Pierce, J., & Smith, A. (2009). Collaboration with community partners: Engaging teacher candidates. The Social Studies (Washington, D.C.)100(1), 41-5.

Haines, S. (2010). Environmental education and service learning in the tropics: Making global connections. Journal of College Science Teaching39(3), 16-23.

James, L., Laatsch, S., Bosse, M., Rider, R., Lee, T., & Anderson, C. (2006). Science center partnership: Outreach to students and teachers. Rural Educator28(1), 33-38.

Kim, M., Bland, L., & Chandler, K. (2009). Reinventing the wheel. Science and Children47(3), 40-3.

Leege, L., & Cawthorn, M. (2008). Environmental service learning: Relevant, rewarding, and responsible. Journal of College Science Teaching37(6), 32-6.

Lickteig, M. (2003). Brand-name schools: The deceptive lure of corporate-school partnerships. The Educational Forum68(1), 44-51

Marzano, R.J., Pickering, D.J., & Pollock, J.E. (2001). Classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

McDonald, J., & Dominguez, L. (2005). Moving from content knowledge to engagement. Journal of College Science Teaching35(3), 18-22.

Menyah, K, & Wolde-Rufael, Y. (2010). Co2 emissions, nuclear energy, renewable energy and economic growth in the us. Energy Policy38(6), 2911-2915.

Mitchell, S., Reilly, R., & Bramwell, F. (2004). Friendship and choosing groupmates: Preferences for teacher-selected vs. student-selected groupings in high school science classes. Journal of Instructional Psychology31(1), 20-32.

Morgenstern, M., Meyer, S., Whitten, B., & Reuer, M. (2008). The Energy retrofit of a building: A journey through bloom’s learning domains. Journal of College Science Teaching37(5), 16-22.

Nobtitt, L., Vance, D.E., & DePoy Smith, M.L. (2010). A comparison of case study and traditional teaching methods for improvement of oral communication and critical-thinking skills Journal of College Science Teaching, 39(5), 26-32.

Ozden, M. (2008) Environmental awareness and attitudes of student teachers: An empirical research. International Research in Geographical & Environmental Education, 17(1) 40-55.

Parece, T., & Aspaas, H. (2007). Reedy creek cleanup: The evolution of a university geography service-learning project. Journal of Geography106(4), 153-61.

Pratte, J., & Laposata, M. (2005). The ESA21 project: A model for civic engagement. Journal of College Science Teaching35(3), 39-43.

Saldana, J. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc

Sarkar, S., & Frazier, R. (2008). Place-based investigations and authentic inquiry. The Science Teacher75(2), 29-33.

Soratana, K, & Marriott, J. (2010). Increasing innovation in home energy efficiency: monte carlo simulation of potential improvements. Energy and Buildings42(6), 828-833.

Appendix A

Service Learning Project Requirements

Service Learning Project

Group Members:

Owner’s Name:

Owner’s Address:

Owner’s Phone Number:

Service Learning Project

Group Member’s Contact Information

Group Member Group Member’s Signature Phone # Email Address

Please assign each group member a responsibility

Title Description Group Member
Project Manager He/She is the liaison between the property/business owner and the group; Makes phone calls, sets up meeting dates, etc. Oversees the group to ensure success; Controls meeting attendance forms.  
Lead Researcher He/She is responsible for assigning research tasks to other group members and investigate prices, etc at Home Depot, Lowes, or any other store for comparison.  
Lead Presenter He/She is responsible for leading the final presentation to the property/business owner. (This does not mean the he/she is the only one that has to speak.)  
Lead Writer/Editor He/She will be responsible for making sure the presentation is formatted in APA, citing scholarly sources in APA, and editing the PowerPoint.  

Service Learning Project

Confidentiality Form

By signing this form, I pledge that I will not share, with anyone, information regarding data from the energy audit, and/or any other personal information from the business/residence I am researching. In addition, pictures taken during the energy audit are acceptable; however, video taping of any sort is not permitted. I promise not to post any pictures that I take during the duration of our partnership to any social network site including, but not limited to, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Snapfish, and Instagram.

I also pledge that I will remove my shoes or, at the very least, wipe my shoes off before entering a place of business or a residential home. More importantly, I will not steal, break, or damage anything and will treat the home/business with respect and confidentiality.


Group Member Name Group Member’s Signature

Business/Property Owner’s Signature:_________________________________

Teacher’s Signature: _______________________________________

Service Learning Project

Time Line and Requirements

  1. Your group must develop and confirm the relationship with the property/business owner on or before
  1. Your group must have the energy audit completed by
  1. Use the energy audit form to guide this meeting.
  2. To receive full credit, all group members must be present at all scheduled meetings. All members, and the property/business owner, must sign the “meeting attendance form” upon completion the audit.
  3. All group members must be photographed at the place of residence to further prove attendance.
    1. Do not include the homeowner/business owner in your photo.
  1. Analyze the data from the energy audit during class (es) on
  1. Create the presentation you will be giving to the property/business owner during class (es) on
  1. Your group’s research must:
    1. Compare and contrast actual prices and how much money the property/business owner could save (i.e. light bulbs, motion sensors, hot water tank insulation, brick in toilet, etc).
    2. Use specific examples regarding where to buy your ideas, etc.
  • Keep each idea you would recommend to the owner ≈ $100.
  1. Your group must complete the final meeting – delivering the presentation to the property/business owner by
  1. To receive full credit, all group members must be present at all scheduled meetings. All members, and the property/business owner, must sign the “meeting attendance form” right before you deliver the presentation.
  2. All group members must be photographed at the place of residence to further prove attendance.
    1. Do not include the homeowner/business owner in your photo.

**See Rubric for detailed point values and expectations**

Service Learning Project

Meeting Attendance Forms

Date of First Meeting (Energy Audit): ______________________


Group Member Present (Print Name) Group Member’s Signature

Business/Property Owner’s Initial’s: _________________

(Please only initial this form if all group members were present for the audit)

Teacher’s Signature: ______________________________


Tape a picture of group members participating in the energy audit in this space. The picture does not have to be high quality.

Date of Second Meeting (Presentation): ______________________


Group Member Present (Print Name) Group Member’s Signature

Business/Property Owner’s Initial’s: _________________

(Please only initial this form if all group members were present for the presentation)


Tape a picture of group members participating in the energy audit in this space. The picture does not have to be high quality.

Teacher’s Signature: ______________________________

Service Learning Project

Meeting 1: Energy Audit

Adapted from:

Important: Before this meeting, ask the owner for a monthly average of the following utility bills:

  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Water


What to bring with you to this meeting:

  • Flashlight
  • Ruler
  • Calculator
  • Tape measure
  • Camera (You are required to take at least three pictures to include in your presentation.)


Energy Audit Basic Information

Structural Data

Ask the property owner to estimate the information below.

Type of Structure Number of Stories Total area of heated and air conditioned space sq. ft. Average height of ceilings Average indoor winter temperature (oF) Average indoor summer temperature (oF)


Ask how much the property owner/business owner is spending on utilities per month:

Energy Source Utility Provider Cost / Month ($) Cost
Electricity     $________/kwh
Natural Gas     $________/therm
Water     $________/gal


Energy Audit Part I: Appliance Evaluation

Appliance Number W kW Hrs / Day kWh / Day Price / kWh Cost to Run / Day Cost to Run / Year Lbs of Coal / Year
Air Conditioning                  
Refrigerator/Freezer Combo                  
Stove (electric)                  
Clothes Washer                  
Clothes Drier (electric)                  
DVD Player                  
Desktop computer                  
Light bulbs (Incandescent)                  
Light bulbs (CFL)                  
Hair Dryer                  
Vacuum cleaner                  
Ceiling fan                  
Cell phone chargers                  
LED Light bulbs                  



  Total Amount of Energy (kWh) / Year Total Amount of Money Spent on Electricity / Year Total Amount of Lbs of Coal Used / Year Total Amount of Lbs of CO2 produced / Year


  1. Blank spaces are for you to add appliances found at the business/property that are not listed on this form.
  1. Research the power in watts (W) that is required to operate each appliance found in the structure. Using an energy meter like a “Kill-A-Watt” is more accurate and less time consuming.
  1. To calculate the energy required in kW, multiply the number column by the watt column and divide by 1000.
  1. Ask the property owner how often they use each appliance. To calculate the length of time that the property owner uses each appliance, you need to translate this to hours/day. For example, if the air conditioning unit is used for 8 hours per day but only in the summer months, calculate hrs/day by following this example:
  1. Use the following conversions when completing this table: 1000 W = 1 kW; 1 kWh = 0.8 lbs of coal; 1kWh produces 2.3 lbs CO2; the price for 1 kWh = $0.06.


Energy Audit Part II: The Walk Around

Locating Air Leaks:

First, make a list of obvious air leaks (drafts). The potential energy savings from reducing drafts may range from 5% to 30% per year. Check for indoor air leaks by dampening your hand to locate these leaks – any drafts will feel cool to your hand. Below is a list of problematic areas for you to check.

  • Electrical outlets
  • Edge of flooring
  • Junctures of walls and ceilings
  • Switch plates
  • Window frames
  • Baseboards
  • Weather stripping around doors
  • Wall- or window-mounted air conditioners.

List and describe all leaks below:



Heat loss through the ceiling and walls could be very large if the insulation levels are less than the recommended minimum. Given today’s energy prices (and future prices that will probably be higher), the level of insulation might be inadequate.

If the business/property has an attic or exposed insulation:

  • Measure the amount of insulation, and
  • If the attic hatch is located above a conditioned space, check to see if it is at least as heavily insulated as the attic, is weather stripped, and closes tightly. In the attic, determine whether openings for items such as pipes, ductwork, and chimneys are sealed.

List and describe all information about insulation below:

Heating/Cooling Equipment:


Do the following:

  • Have the owner show you the furnace and pull out the filter for you to see. Do not touch expensive appliances – ask the owner to perform this task.
  • Check ductwork for dirt streaks, especially near seams. These indicate air leaks, and they should be sealed with duct mastic.

List and describe all information about heating and cooling equipment below:












Energy for lighting could account for about 10% of an electric bill. Check the following:

  • Examine the wattage size of the light bulbs in the property/business.
  • Examine the type of light bulbs; compact fluorescent or incandescent, and
  • Count the number of bulbs.


List and describe all information about lighting below:



Check the following:

  • Does the property/business recycle? If so, what and how?
  • How much paper waste does the home/business generate?
  • How much waste, in general, does the home/business generate?


List and describe all information about waste below:

Service Learning Project

Presentation Requirements (In this exact order)

Your group will have the flexibility to develop the type of presentation that fits your needs and situation of the property/business (PowerPoint, Poster, etc.). This presentation should be printed out (6 slides per page) to give to the owner once you leave.

  1. Display the energy audit findings – include
    1. Lbs of coal and CO2 used from appliances
    2. Data from the walk around
  1. Identify strengths and weaknesses from energy audit findings
  1. Once weaknesses are identified, provide ideas regarding how to correct weaknesses
    1. Keep each idea you would recommend to the owner under $100
    2. Use specific examples regarding where to buy your ideas (i.e. exact prices, exactly which store carries the product, etc)
  1. Financial Savings: Compare and contrast actual prices and how much money the property/business owner could save with each idea
    1. How much they would have to invest as an upfront cost per idea
    2. How long it will take them to pay off their original investment
    3. How much money they will save after the initial investment is paid
  1. Environmental Savings: If the home/business owner were to implement your ideas, how would this benefit the environment?
    1. Reduction of CO2 emissions (and any other air pollutant)
    2. Reduce need for coal
    3. Decrease waste
    4. Decrease pollution (water or land)
  1. Your presentation (actual ppt) should
    1. Be grounded in research
    2. Have at least five sources
    3. Have in-text citations following APA format
    4. Cite all pictures used from the internet
    5. Include at least three pictures you took during the energy audit to emphasize strengths and/or weakness
    6. Must have a reference slide citing all sources in APA – alphabetical order, etc

Service Learning Project

Grading Rubrics

 Item  Advanced  Proficient (-20%)  Basic (-40%)  Below Basic (-60%)
First Meeting:Energy Audit(30 points) All group members were present and audit was complete; Signed form was turned in & picture was taken. One group member absent and audit was complete; Signed form was turned in & picture was taken. Two group members absent and audit was incomplete; Signed form was not turned in & picture was not taken. Did not meet or three members absent and audit was not done; Signed form was not turned in & picture was not taken.
Second Meeting:Presentation to Property / Business owner(10 points) All group members were present and presentation was complete; Signed form was turned in; Guidelines were followed; Picture was taken. One group member absent and presentation was complete; Signed form was turned in; Guidelines were followed; Picture was taken. Two group members absent and presentation was complete; Signed form was turned in; Not all of the guidelines were followed; Picture was not taken. Did not meet or three members absent and presentation was incomplete; Signed form was not turned in; None of the guidelines were followed; Picture was not taken.
Second Meeting: Technical aspects of the presentation given to Property / Business owner(35 points) See separate rubric. .    
Total Group Grade(75 points) / 75  
  Energy Audit Presentation Rubric Rating
1. Presentation Approval            
  Presentation was approved before delivery (worth 5 points)            
  1. Presentation – Must Contain the Five Sections Listed Below
  Section 1: Energy Audit Findings Worth 5 Points            
             Lbs of coal (2.5 points)            
             Walk around data (2.5 points)            
  Section 2: Strengths and weaknesses Worth 5 Points            
  Section 3: Correction of weaknesses Worth 5 Points            
             Ideas under $100 (2.5 points)            
             Where to buy product (2.5 points)            
  Section 4: Financial Savings Worth 7 Points            
             Up front investment costs (2 points)            
             Time to pay off initial costs (2 points)            
             Money saved after initial costs are covered (3 points)            
  Section 5: Environmental Savings Worth 8 Points            
             Decreased coal usage (2 points)            
             oal usagestial costs are covered.Decreased CO2 production (2 points)            
             Decreased waste production (2 points)            
             Decreased pollution (2 points)            
  Reference Slide in APA format (-2 if missing)            
  PowerPoint Slides printed out (6 slides per page to save paper) and given to the property owner (-5 if not done)            
 Total:           / 35 points 

About the author:

Michael R. Gullo

Michael Gullo has been member of the science department at Mt. Lebanon High School for twelve years where he teaches AP Environmental Geoscience. He has master’s degrees from Gannon University and California University of Pennsylvania and completed his doctoral work at Robert Morris University. Gullo’s research interests include service learning, green initiatives and architecture, STEM-related (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) disciplines, and the effectiveness of school planetariums. As a result of Mike’s NASA Educator Astronaut application in 2003, and then again in 2007, he was chosen to be a member of the elite Network of Educator Astronaut Teachers who share and collaborate regularly.

Community College National Center for Community Engagement (CCNCCE) sunsetted October 1, 2015. Mesa Community College hosts content from The Journal for Civic Commitment, published by the CCNCCE, to ensure it remains publicly available.

The important work of the CCNCCE was made possible through the financial support from many civic-minded foundations and organizations, including the Corporation for National and Community Service’s Learn and Serve America-Higher Education program, the Kettering Foundation, Campus Compact (through funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), Arizona Community Foundation, Arizona Foundation for Women, Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold Foundation, and The Teagle Foundation.