Your Energy, Your Future February 2011

Low-cost measures help churches cut energy bills

Some simple steps involve changing the way congregants and staff use the building.
Low-cost measures help churches cut energy bills

Since most houses of worship rely on small or non-existent budgets for capital projects, low- or no-cost measures that reduce energy consumption generally produce the best results. Some simple steps involve changing the way congregants and staff use the building.

Big-ticket items, such as replacing heating and cooling systems with more energy-efficient units, may not be practical until existing equipment reaches the end of its useful life.
A comprehensive energy audit remains the best way to identify cost-effective efficiency improvements in a church. Below are some additional suggestions for reducing energy consumption:

Turn off the lights when not in use. While occupancy sensors can be cost-effective, posting reminders to ensure that the lights are turned off often does the trick. Timers are useful in lobbies, entries and vestibules to ensure that lights stay off during daylight hours.

Replace incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs).

Control “plug loads,” such as microwaves, computers and televisions that continue to draw power even when turned off. Unplug these appliances when finished using or before leaving the building.

Heat and cool during occupied hours only. Make sure that heating and cooling controls are set at minimum levels or are switched off during periods of no use.

Turn down water heater thermostats. Bathrooms and kitchens used primarily during worship services are good targets for lowering water temperatures.

Change filters. Filters should be changed on a monthly basis—more often if the congregation is located next to a highway or construction site.

Clean condenser coils. Condenser coils should be washed thoroughly at the beginning and end of the cooling season.

Check cabinet panels. Ensure that panels to rooftop air-conditioning units are attached with all screws in place, and make sure gaskets are intact to prevent air leaks. This check should be performed on a quarterly basis.

Direct airflow. Close registers in any unused rooms to direct air where it is needed. If some rooms overheat while others are too cool, call a qualified heating and cooling contractor.

Close vents. In place of air conditioning, many older buildings have natural ventilation systems to remove hot air in the summer. Be sure to close these vents in the winter.
Seal gaps. Use caulk and weather stripping to seal gaps around windows, doors, chimneys and other structural elements, including the foundation.
Insulate hot water pipes with pipe insulation. Fix leaky faucets, showerheads, pipes and toilets.

Landscaping

Churches can also help cut future energy costs with strategic landscaping. Buildings that are surrounded with grass can be 10 degrees cooler in the summer than buildings flanked by asphalt or concrete. In addition to making your church look more attractive, properly placed vegetation can help reduce your energy costs.
Deciduous trees, for example, can provide natural barriers to summer sun while allowing winter sunlight to warm the church. In addition, plants and shrubs can be helpful windbreaks.

—E Source, Energy Star, U.S. Dept. of Energy

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