Energy Tips

Energy Priorities for Congregations:

Monitor Energy Usage and Cost. The first step in reducing your energy costs is to know what you are now spending.  Continual monitoring can help to spot billing errors, provide feedback on your progress, and help determine if your actions are achieving results.  You should keep records on the cost, energy units (i.e. kWh, CCF, gallons of oil, etc.), and demand charges on your electric bill (kW).  Simply paying attention to your energy use and cost will usually result in lower bills.  

Turn things off because nothing beats off. It doesn’t matter how small or efficient a lamp, appliance, boiler, air conditioner or motor is – the greatest savings comes from turning it off and keeping it off. The more inefficient an appliance is, the greater the savings from keeping it off. Since religious buildings are used intermittently, keeping things off matters even more than in more heavily-used buildings.

Buy the least expensive energy.  There are many forms of energy – green electricity, brown electricity, natural gas, propane, fuel oil, gasoline, and so on. Once a congregation has chosen the type of energy they want, they should continually seek to purchase the least expensive energy. Factors continually change.  In the fall of 2000 we are facing much higher natural gas and fuel oil prices. Electric suppliers change their terms in a deregulated market. Each utility offers different types of rates;  for example, congregations generally save money with time-of-use electric rates. Congregations can purchase contracts of fixed-price fuel oil.  They can purchase transportation gas through marketers. Other factors are how energy costs are included in leasing space, whether or not a congregation needs to pay state sales tax or federal excise tax. Whatever choice they make in the type of energy purchased, they need to continually shop for better deals.

Tune systems to optimal performance.  Building operators should continually adjust water temperatures, air temperatures, dampers, the height of pilot light flames, and so on. Tune oil and gas burners with the help of a contractor.  Use natural ventilation instead of compressor air conditioning overnight and during appropriate days.

Purchase efficient replacements. Everything is crumbling into dust.  Congregations will replace eventually replace motors, air conditioners, heating systems, lamps, ballasts, appliances, office equipment and so on.  The premium cost of more efficient equipment is usually justified when purchasing replacement equipment.  Be very wary of cutting-edge technology without a track record of measured performance. Look for the EnergyStar logo that indicates more energy efficient products.

A single person should accept responsibility for controlling energy use.  Building a new building may require a committee, but a single person usually best controls the energy-using systems in existing buildings.  That person should be given a copy of every electric and fuel invoice so that he or she can keep records of changes in energy use.  Hundreds of congregations have followed this advice and have realized the estimated savings.

Most of these activities cost almost nothing yet are responsible for most of the reductions in energy cost.  They should serve as basic goals for your efforts to lower your energy costs.


Reasons for Congregations to Use Less Energy

  • Produce less atmospheric and water pollution
  • Set an example for others to follow
  • Strengthen families and communities
  • Using less of everything is spiritual – fasting, thrift, frugality, kindness, fairness
  • Lessen the expense and inconvenience of future generations who will have to live with the pollution and guard our nuclear waste resulting from our extravagance
  • Become more independent – freedom from dependence on electricity and gasoline
  • Slow chemical reactions on building structure and contents
  • Do what is right
  • Receive relatively high financial return on investments

How to create interest in energy?

Energy management is not something that we do once and for all.  Instead, these activities are a series of repeated rituals.  But how do you keep members of property committees and the congregation interested in energy?  We have several suggestions:

Keep records.  You can’t play any game without keeping score comparing energy use day to day, month to month or year to year. 
Read meters morning and evening.  By reading your electric, gas and water meters first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening, you can determine how much electricity, water and fuel is used overnight.  High water use may be due to leaks.  High electric use may be due to outside lighting, refrigeration, lights in vending machines and other controllable loads.  High gas use may be due to warmer than necessary interior temperatures.  Your clock thermostat may not be saving you as much money as it could.

Install data loggers.  iButtons from Dallas Semiconductor can record temperatures for up to a year inside your building.  HOBOS® from Onset Computers not only record temperatures, but light, relative humidity and amperage.  Data from these loggers can show you if you are using energy when the buildings are actually occupied.

Visit your building at 3 a.m.  Early morning visits, when no one is supposed to be in your building, can reveal many interesting ways to reduce energy use.  Space temperatures may be unnecessarily warm, or lights may have been left on by mistake.   Sounds, sights and smells can tell you how to reduce overnight energy use.

Publicly display utility invoices.  Sometimes, members of the congregation think that worship and education spaces use about the same amount of electricity, fuel and water as their homes.  If you post your utility bills each month on a public bulletin board, you can stimulate interest in reducing costs.

Visit other religious buildings.  If you know that a similar building uses less fuel and electricity than yours does, you can learn a lot by visiting with the people who operate it.  Such visits without utility data in hand, however, are not valuable.
Read energy management literature.  Corporations, government agencies, utilities, environmental groups and many other places have free or low-cost literature that can perk up interest in energy.

Go to expositions and conferences.  In the Philadelphia area, there are yearly expos and conferences specializing in commercial lighting, building maintenance and electric use.  There are home shows, too.  And occasionally, a national professional association holds their convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  Last year, the American Institute of Architects did this, and the expo was free and very informative.  Check the Convention Center’s web site

Log onto web sites.  We have listed many energy websites in past newsletters and on this website.  Check them out.
Hire an energy consultant.  If you can’t do the above, or just plan run out of energy to enliven your energy management programs ….

Call the Interfaith Coalition on Energy at 215-635-1122. 

We can help get you going again.

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