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the green congregations: solartoday.org/faithful
ally with high ceilings and large stained glass windows. Unfortunately, high
ceilings increase the volume of air that must be heated, and stained glass limits passive solar heating from the outside. Furthermore, many older stained
glass windows are single-pane and uninsulated. The sanctuary entrance door
can be a problem too. Its old wood and hardware may be warm and inviting,
but in all probability, the old door is difficult to weather strip.
Other meeting spaces in congregational buildings can also consume
inordinate amounts of energy. For example, a large and drafty meeting hall
may be open from early morning for a daycare program into the evening
hours for scouting or teen events. and for older facilities, it is a good bet that
the kitchen is full of inefficient appliances that drive up utility costs.
Identifying smart Choices for Congregations
RIChARD CRuME RIChARD CRuME
Most religious institutions are far from wealthy, and many struggle
to pay their monthly expenses. across the United States, congregations
spend $3 billion each year on utility costs, money that could be put
to better use if their buildings were
more energy efficient. yet, finding
the cash to make energy improvements is always difficult, and congregations must be smart about
identifying those improvements
that provide the greatest value for
each dollar spent.
a rooftop garden is among
efficiency upgrades at pullen
The specific energy upgrades a
congregation chooses will depend
on many factors, including the
availability of financing, tax credits,
rebates and other cost incentives.
an energy audit can help identify
low-cost steps to cut energy use,
and for new construction, many
contractors are now well-versed
in affordable green technologies.
Here are 10 simple, cost-effective
steps congregations can take to
start upgrading their existing facilities:
The green expansion at pullen baptist
features recycled siding.
➊ Start with low-cost improve-
ments like improving weather
stripping around exterior doors
and windows and replacing incan-
descent bulbs with compact fluores-
cent lights (CFLs). For worship and
meditation areas, select CFLs that provide lighting in warm colors. Consider
installing motion detector light switches that automatically turn lights off
when rooms are unoccupied, and use task lighting rather than ceiling lights in
the business office. Replace exit signs above doors with light-emitting diode
➋ Prevent unwanted heat gain from the summer sun by using interior
blinds or curtains and by installing exterior shades. Landscaping can also
provide effective window shading. Pay special attention to direct sunlight
exposure from the south and from the west later in the afternoon, as the
➌ Replace appliances more than 10 to 15 years old with energy-efficient
models. New Energy Star-rated refrigerators and dishwashers can save 10
to 30 percent in energy use, depending on the model.
➍ Adjust the operating temperatures of refrigerators and freezers to their
ideal settings. This is usually around 3°C ( 37°F) for refrigerators and 18°C
(0°F) for freezers. Water heaters can be cut back to about 54°C (130°F),
and check to ensure that the heater tank and pipes are insulated.
➎ Routinely clean or replace furnace and air conditioner filters. you
can also save energy by turning off gas pilot lights in the spring when fur-
naces or boilers are not in use.
➏ For sanctuaries and other rooms with high ceilings, install ceiling
fans. During the heating season, ceiling fans blowing in a reverse direc-
tion (upward) can help circulate warm air that has risen to the top of the
room. In the summer, ceiling fans blowing downward can provide a cooling
breeze, but be sure to decrease the air conditioning to save energy and turn
the fans off when rooms are unoccupied.
➐ Install programmable thermostats. These inexpensive devices can be
set to automatically cut back room heating and air conditioning during times
when facilities are not in use.
➑ Buy energy-efficient electronic devices and unplug them when not
in use. Instant-on TVs, video players and other electronic equipment draw
electric current even when switched off.
➒ Try to schedule congregational events and room cleanings over
consecutive hours and days. Doing so will allow some downtime in the
weekly schedule when heating and air conditioning can be reduced. also,
schedule events during daylight hours when possible to reduce artificial
➓ Teach congregational members about the importance of conserving
energy. Turn lights off when not in use, don’t needlessly run hot water in
the kitchen, keep exterior doors closed, and cut back room heating and air
conditioning when not needed. Help members understand that reducing
energy consumption fights climate change while freeing up cash for more
important priorities. Talk with the congregation about options for purchas-
ing renewable energy and carbon credits, and help them investigate green
cleaning products and pest management practices.
“We knew that [our green technologies] would pay off over the years if we put in that investment.
But we didn’t do it just because of the money. We did it because it was important to us, important
to us theologically, as people of faith. “ — Jack McKinney, pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church