Smart Solutions for a “Greener” Church

Smart Solutions for a “Greener” Church

A 2014 Christianity Today survey revealed that churches spend around 7 percent of their budgets on utility payments. Meanwhile, 30 percent of congregations surveyed indicated that they’d seen tithing and gifts decrease in the last year by 2 percent or more. Those figures may seem small but can impact a church that’s seeking long-term financial stability. The U.S. Department of Energy explains that houses of worship can cut energy expenses by up to 30 percent with a few strategic moves to reduce overall consumption. Implementing these steps can bring your house of worship better cost and energy efficiency.

Energy-Smart Lighting Tips

Lighting probably constitutes a large portion of your energy usage. You might already have a plan in place to ensure that lights and equipment aren’t running while the building’s not in use. However, you can fine-tune your consumption with some more smart moves. ENERGY STAR makes the commonly shared recommendation of swapping out incandescent bulbs with ENERGY STAR certified LED versions, but also proposes a few additional tips that might otherwise be overlooked:

  • Exchange T12-type fluorescent bulbs more energy-efficient T8 or T5 fluorescent versions.
  • Install vacancy sensors, which turn off lights when indoor spaces empty.
  • Daylight-responsive lighting controls turn off or dim lights according to the amount of available sunlight.

HVAC Basics and Useful Hacks

Heating and cooling your church also takes up a significant chunk of its utility expenses, so adopting more efficient practices and equipment leads to more cost savings. You needn’t replace your HVAC system unless it’s more than 10 to 15 years old. In fact, you can put a few wise hacks into practice to maximize your equipment’s climate control capabilities:

  • Use a programmable thermostat to bring your facilities to a comfortable temperature before staff and parishioners arrive.
  •  Make sure your HVAC professional verifies the accuracy of your thermostat as part of its yearly checkup.
  • Change and clean HVAC equipment filters quarterly, or monthly during peak usage seasons.
  • Periodically check and clean your system’s heating and cooling coils.
  • Remove any obstacles or clutter from vents, baseboards, and equipment.
  • Ceiling fans circulate air, allowing you to set your thermostat up to five degrees higher during warmer months.

What About Your Roof?

While thinking about lighting, climate control equipment, and even insulation, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the roof. Each type of material has a different lifespan, so it might be difficult to determine when your church roof needs to be replaced. While fiberglass and asphalt versions can last around 15 to 20 years, tile and metal editions can easily outpace them to last a half-century or more. If your house of worship has a flat roof, your choices are usually between modified bitumen and polyurethane foam.

Making your decision involves balancing several factors, including the costs of replacement and energy efficiency of each kind of roofing material. Tile shingles on sloped church roofs have the advantage of both longevity and better heat transfer, but their weight makes it the best choice for structures that can handle a heavier roof. On flat roofs, polyurethane foam offers the benefit of its insulative properties along with a lifetime of 50 years or greater.

Debates over ecological issues remains heated within the larger Christian community. While major denominations such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops cite scriptural justification for acting to help the environment, other denominations push back. Even if you’re not sure where you sit on these issues, your house of worship may have a more practical reason for going green: saving money on its energy bills. With that said, reducing your energy expenses can become part of a multi-pronged approached to stay solvent even in the face of dropping contributions.

 

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