Fun with Less Kilowatts: The Sunlight & Color Experiment

By Brooke Drake, July 12, 2016, Family

Welcome to Fun with Less Kilowatts! We believe that science experiments at home can be a creative way to engage kids in learning while having fun. They can be educational AND great activities to keep your kids busy and away from the television. Each month, we’ll feature a new science experiment that can be a great resource for parents and teachers.

The Sunlight & Color Experiment

Fun with Less Kilowatts: The Sunlight & Color Experiment
Summers in Texas are HOT. For years now, I’ve always heard that when out in the hot Texas sun it’s important to wear light colored clothing in addition to staying hydrated and wearing sunblock. However, I never really bought into the light colored clothing theory. I mean in 90 to 100-degree weather, hot is hot no matter what you are wearing, right? So when I found this experiment to see which color absorbs more heat, I thought it would be perfect to test the theory out especially this time of year. Here is what we found.

The MaterialsFun with Less Kilowatts: The Sunlight & Color Experiment

  • 2 identical drinking glasses
  • White piece of construction paper
  • Black piece of construction paper
  • 2 rubber bands
  • Thermometer
  • Water

The Setting

The glasses will need to be set down outside in a location that stays directly in the sun for a few hours.

Fun with Less Kilowatts: The Sunlight & Color ExperimentThe Directions

  1. Wrap one piece of construction paper around the first glass and then slide the rubber band around to keep the paper in place.
  2. Repeat with the second glass and second piece of construction paper.
  3. Fill both glasses with the same amount of water.
  4. Place outside in the sun for a few hours.
  5. After a few hours place the thermometer in both glasses to read the temperature of the water in each glass.

The ResultsFun with Less Kilowatts: The Sunlight & Color Experiment
After about three hours in the sun, we measured the temperature of water in each of the glasses. The temperature of the water in the white glass measured at 100 degrees while the water in the black glass measured at 103 degrees. While there was a difference, I am somewhat surprised that there wasn’t a larger difference between the temperatures.

The Science
Just as I have been told, dark colors really do absorb more of the sun’s heat than lighter colors. According to an article from the University of California – Santa Barbara, when an object seems like a certain color for example a red apple, it means the object is reflecting red light and absorbing all of the other colors. So the more light an object absorbs, the more heat it absorbs since light is also considered energy in this situation. In regards to the color black, it reflects zero color, which means it absorbs ALL of the light (aka heat). On the flip side, the color white reflects all of the light and absorbs none making it the best color to wear in the heat.

Did you experience a great heat difference? Share with us in the comments section below and check back next month for another installment of Fun with Less Kilowatts!

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