Saving Energy: 5 Starting Points for Congregations

Where climate change is concerned, congregations can make a difference. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that if 300,00 houses of worship cut their energy use by 10%, they could:

  • Save 200% for other uses
  • Make available 5.4 kilowatt hours electricity without additional cost or pollution
  • Prevent 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to taking 400,000 cars off the road.

But where to start?

The Interfaith Coalition on Energy (ICE) offers these suggestions:

1. Monitor Energy Usage and Cost. Anyone who has ever tried to reduce weight knows the importance of monitoring what you eat. The same principle holds for worship facilities: know what you are spending. This means reading the utility bill. This can be intimidating! It almost feels like you need an advanced degree to understand the thing. Ask these questions:  How much is being spent? What are the units being consumed (kWh for electricity, CCF for natural gas, gallons for oil)? Continually monitoring provides crucial feedback on your progress. Added bonus: you might detect billing errors.

2. Turn things off. No matter how small the device—lamp, computer or air conditioner—
the greatest savings from turning it off and keeping it off. This is especially true for worship facilities, which are used intermittently. Maybe you should pay a visit sometime when the building is empty. You might be surprised to see what equipment is still running. Nothing beats off.

3.  Look for the least expensive energy. In many states now, energy deregulation has arrived. That means retail choice when it comes to which company supplies electricity and natural gas. (Google “energy deregulated states” to see if this applies to your state.) The utility remains committed to providing the transmission, but an independent supplier would provide the energy. In many cases it is possible to save money. Here’s a video that explains what energy regulation entails.

4.  Tune systems to optimal performance. It helps to have a single person controlling the energy system for the building. That person should learn to become a tinkerer, adjusting water temperatures, air temperatures, dampers, and pilot light flames, for example. Ask a contractor to help with tuning up your oil or gas burner.

5.  Purchase energy efficient upgrades. Fortunately, with each passing year, the equipment used in most worship facilities is becoming more energy efficient, including heating and air conditioning systems, computers, dish washers, light bulbs, and ballasts. Look for the Energy Star label.

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