Problems with the Energy Star Congregations Program

EnergyStar Congregations is a federal DOE/EPA program to help congregations reduce their energy use.  In 2002, the EPA gave ICE a national award saying, ICE is “one of the oldest, if not the oldest, operating interfaith energy-environmental organization on the national scene, and remains a leading national advocate for congregational energy conservation and improved energy efficiency.”

They granted ICE this award even though in 1996 we strongly criticized the EPA about their unrealistic standards for awarding EnergyStar ratings based on faulty data.  They suspended that program.  In that same article we criticized the EPA for unrealistic rules about asbestos and radon, which continue to this day.

Now, they are at it again with their “Energy Star Congregations” program.  To us, it seems that they have never spent much time actually analyzing houses of worship, whereas ICE has analyzed hundreds of them.

For example, here is part of their list of “Sure Energy Savers” with our comments in bold:

  • Use fans when a room/area is occupied. Moving air makes people feel cooler during the heating season.
  • “Tune-up” your heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system with an annual maintenance contract. We don’t like fixed-price service contracts because your congregation ends up betting against itself.
    Continue reading

How Religious Buildings Use Energy

When we survey your buildings, we gather lots of information and record it into a database.  The information is anonymous, keyed in by codes that only we understand. 

Among other information, the database contains the following about the most common type of building – one used for worship, with classrooms often used for child care, a fellowship hall and offices:Number of buildings in this category to date – 334

  • Average floor area of heated space – 20,750 square feet
  • Average number of kilowatthours of electricity – 2.88 per square foot per year
    Continue reading

Smithsonian scientists show museums and galleries spending too much on climate control

By Michael Kernan
Smithsonian magazine, March 1996
Taken from:

 Around the Mall & Beyond

Protecting museum treasures – paintings by the masters, antique furniture, the delicate wings of a tropical beetle – requires the strictest climate control, right? Maybe not, say these scientists


“We could save up to $400,000 on the electric bill for this building alone. Every year.” That’s what the man said.

I better get this right up top: I’m writing about some Smithsonian scientists who have shown that museums and galleries are spending far too much money on climate control. Photographs, old planes, bones, rare bugs and what have you are much tougher than we thought.

That’s the short version. It was not easy to come by. I had no trouble finding the Conservation Analytical Laboratory Research Group at the Smithsonian’s sprawling Museum Support Center at Suitland, Maryland, but the scientists themselves were another story. They spoke a language of numbers, acronyms, graphs and formulas that made me yearn for the simplicity of E=mc2. Slowly I began to make out what they were telling me.

Continue reading

Job Description: Property Manager, Sexton, Custodian, Maintenance Person

The following is a draft of a job description for a Property Manager for a religious congregation.  Each congregation who uses this document must fill in blanks, strike out phrases that do not apply and add phrases that do apply.  The goal of the final document is to be used by both the congregation and the Property Manager to improve communication and facilitate better facility management with fewer misunderstandings.

In addition to this copy on paper, this document is available on computer disk and by E-mail so that the editing can be done before the document is printed.  The Interfaith Coalition on Energy views this as a draft and eagerly seeks input from any and all who use it.

Continue reading

Energy Activities for Faithful Youth

May 1998 (Revised November 2012)
Often, a congregation’s interest in reducing energy costs does not extend to its young members or those in religious schools.  The purpose of this ICE publication is to suggest ways to include the youth in a congregation by providing a variety of ideas for specific activities concerning energy.


Continue reading

Energy Costs Are Not a Burden to Bear

Boiler modulator with timer.

By Andrew Rudin
Taken from : Common Bond Vol. 24, No. 1 Special Online Edition
Green Theology, Energy Efficiency and Historic Sacred Sites

“This article will explain how to lower energy costs for your congregation.”

Contributors: Andrew Rudin

Since 1976, Andrew Rudin has studied changes in energy use in more than 3,000 buildings belonging to congregations in Philadelphia, New York, Phoenix, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Houston and other cities. He has also worked extensively with other non-profit community service agencies, such as YMCAs and day care centers, to reduce their energy costs.

For the past twenty-seven years, Rudin has been the project coordinator for the Interfaith Coalition on Energy (ICE) in Philadelphia whose mission is to inspire congregations to reduce the costs of operating their facilities. He has presented more than 300 energy management workshops and has written over 140 articles about energy for national periodicals. He has also published one hundred and three newsletters, called Comfort and Light, for the Interfaith Coalition on Energy.

This article is a summary of Rudin’s methodology as he and ICE staff conduct energy audits for religious building throughout the U.S.

This article will explain how to lower energy costs for your congregation.

To do that, I want to start with three distinctions:

First, houses of worship are not houses ….

Continue reading

Guide to Greening Church Operations

Download the Guide by clicking on it, Opens in a new window

For Clergy, Maintenance, Property, Office Boards and events personnel who purchase and use products for places of worship.

This 15 page pamphlet provides information for places of worship to help them reduce the environmental and resource impacts of the supplies they typically purchase and use. The activities covered in this pamphlet encompass both internal and external care and supplies for the place of worship. Resource information is provided as guidance. Consideration and environmental goals, cost, and convenience must be weighed in making the right choice.

Continue reading

Design for the Future by Looking at the Past

Parishioners gather for rededication of St. Mary of the Angels in Chicago.

A study of energy use in worship centers is presented along with recommendations for designing new buildings and improving existing buildings.
By Lawrence G. Spielvogel, P.E.  and Andrew Rudin
Taken from : HPAC Heating/Piping/AirConditioning November 1997

This article describes experience with energy use in houses of worship. It presents metered energy data from 302 churches,  synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship in and around Philadelphia. The buildings average 16,700 sq ft. Each building has its own utility meters and does not share fuel storage tanks with any other building. The average energy budget is 64,400 Btu and $0.7 per sq ft per yr.


The Interfaith Coalition on Energy (ICE) was started in 1980 by the religious community in Philadelphia, with financial support from foundations and corporations. During the past few years, ICE has continued its work with support from local religious denominations and from fees for service, mostly on-site surveys of the buildings and their energy systems. Data from each separately metered building are entered into a database. This article is based on those data. An earlier summary was published in February 1988 To date, ICE has conducted onsite energy surveys for over 460 congregations with over 1100 buildings. It has published more than 60 newsletters and conducted over 200 energy management workshops.

Continue reading

ASHRAE Journal January 1984

Religious building energy use

Analysis of consumption in the Philadelphia area shows wide variations in the amount of energy consumed and indicates the possibility of large reductions.

By Lawrence G. Spielvogel, P.E. (Member ASHRAE) and Andrew Rudin (Member ASHRAE)
Taken from : American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers Journal January 1984

The non-profit Interfaith Coalition on Energy (ICE) was formed in 1980 by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Board of Rabbis, the Philadelphia Chapter of American Jewish Committee and the Philadelphia Metropolitan Christian Council of Churches. In a pilot program in 1980, walk-through energy audits were conducted in three religious complexes. During the following year measured reductions in energy use of 14 to 19 percent were achieved.

Subsequently, the Pew Memorial Trust, a private foundation in Philadelphia, funded ICE to:
(1) accomplish energy audits in religious buildings,
(2) publish newsletters, and
(3) conduct seminars on energy conservation for the religious community.

Religious buildings have not been a target for government or private conservation programs.

Continue reading