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The Twelve Priority Measures to Save Energy


To conserve energy at your religious institution, you need to focus on several areas: people, temperature, lighting, appliances, and water.

Below are the twelve priority measures to save energy which GreenFaith recommends.  These recommendations are based on research and our experience conducting energy audits at hundreds of religious institutions. Click here to download these tips.


1) People - Develop an institutional commitment to energy conservation

Public commitments create accountability and help individuals and institutions stay on track.

  • Get governing board commitment by passing a resolution.
  • Do in-house publicity of your energy conservation goals and successes, in your newsletter and on your website.

Energy conservation requires a leader, and a team to keep efforts moving ahead.

  • Appoint and support an Energy Steward who monitors energy usage and oversees conservation efforts.

Cost: No financial cost.
Payback: Immediate



2) Temperature - Install and Correctly Site Programmable Thermostats

Programmable thermostats help you to heat or cool your building when it is used – not when it’s empty.
  • Use 7-day programmable Energy Star rated thermostats.
  • Good models are available for under $70.
  • Install thermostats where they will get good measurements – e.g. not by a radiator - and program them to reflect building usage.

Cost: Assume $70/thermostat.  Good models available for $50 at most stores.
Payback: 6 months or less, on average.



3) Temperature - Increase Temperature Setbacks & Use Space Wisely


In winter/colder climates, houses of worship often overheat their space when not in use. Vice versa in summer/hotter climates.  Better temperature control is the best opportunity for energy savings for most houses of worship.

  • Increase temperature setbacks to 45 degrees in winter or in colder areas, 80 degrees in summer or hotter climates.  Make sure pipes are not in danger of freezing.

  • Program the thermostat to turn on the Furnace/AC further in advance, to ensure occupants are comfortable.

  • According to organ manufacturers, lower temperature do not harm, and may preserve organs. Note: an organ should be tuned at the temperature at which it will be played.  In addition, research has shown that lower or higher temperatures do not harm Torah scrolls, and can in fact help to preserve them if humidity is stable.

  • Be energy-smart in your space usage – schedule meetings in one zone to avoid heating/cooling multiple zones at once. Hold small meetings in small rooms to save on lighting.

Cost: $0.
Payback: Usually large (3% of total energy costs or higher).



4) Temperature - Conduct Regular Boiler/Furnace Maintenance

Like servicing a car, it’s important to maintain your boiler and furnace for optimal performance.
  • Instead of using an annual service and maintenance contract, we suggest you pay for annual maintenance to meet manufacturer specifications.
  • Keep interior heat exchange surfaces scale-free.
  • Aim for net stack temperature between 300-400 degrees, Carbon dioxide content between 10-13% and Chimney suction: -0.02” to -0.03”.
  • If your institution has an annual service contract, there should be no additional charge for this service.

Cost: Depends on size of facility and equipment.
Payback: 8 months or less, on average.



5) Temperature - Insulate and Weather-strip

Religious institutions often have drafty windows/doors which can be weather-stripped.

  • Indicators of drafty windows/doors: air-flow that can be felt, dust around door jams/window sills indicating air inflows/outflows.
  • Host a weather-stripping and insulation volunteer day with your members.

Cost: Depends on amount of weather-stripping.
Payback: 5 years, on average.



6) Lighting - Replace Incandescent bulbs with CFL’s

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFL’s) produce the same amount of light with ¼ of the energy, and last 7-10 times longer.

  • 15-watt CFL is equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent.  CFLs available in many forms, from candelabras to dimmables.
  • At 2010 energy prices, a 15-watt CFL will save over $40 in lifetime energy costs compared to a 60-watt incandescent.
  • Recycle spent CFLs at Home Depot, Ikea, or your local hazardous waste site.

Cost: Assume $3/bulb; possible to purchase on sale at lower cost.
Payback: 9 months, on average.



7) Lighting - Retrofit Tubular Fluorescent Lights from T-12’s to T-8’s

New tubular fluorescent bulbs (T-8’s) are 20-25% more efficient than their predecessors (T-12’s). Most older religious buildings have T-12 lighting.

  • To reduce costs, tubes and ballasts can be replaced without replacing fixtures.
  • New tubes should have a color rendering index of 85+ and a color temperature of 3500 Kelvin.
  • New ballasts should be electronic.
  • Outdoor floodlighting presents excellent opportunities for savings.

Cost: Depends on amount of replaced bulbs.
Payback: Rooms lit 15 hours/week or more will usually see a payback in 3 years or less.



8) Lighting - Retrofit/Replace Emergency Exit Signs with LED inserts

Exit signs, since they are used 24/7, offer a big opportunity for savings.

  • Older Emergency Exit signs use two 15-watt incandescents.
  • Replacement inserts use a 2-watt LED.

Cost: Inserts cost approximately $21. New LED Exit Signs (includes insert, case, and mount) cost approximately $60.
Payback: 1 year, on average.



9) Appliances - Turn off unused computers/equipment

It’s better to leave lights and equipment on because it takes extra energy to start them.

  • If you leave a room for over 15 minutes or a computer for an hour or more, turn off the power to save energy and preserve the life of the equipment.
  • Consolidate and turn off unnecessary refrigerators and freezers, leaving the doors of unplugged refrigerators ajar to prevent mold.
  • If your house of worship has a chronic problem with lights left on, consider motion sensor switches.

Cost: $0.
Payback: Can be substantial if lighting and appliances are routinely left on.



10) Appliances - Replace inefficient refrigerators/appliances

In January 1993, new Federal standards for refrigerators became effective.  Refrigerators older than 1993, particularly top-bottom models, can use up to 8 times more energy than newer models. These standards were further revised in 2001.

  • Replace refrigerators bought before 1993 with new, Energy Star rated models.

When purchasing office equipment or appliances, always buy Energy Star-rated equipment, which ensures that the item you purchase will be among the most efficient in its class.

  • Think Life-Cycle costs, not costs upon purchase! A small amount paid up front can save you a lot later.
Cost: approx. $450/fridge.
Payback: 5 years, on average.


11) Water - Install faucet flow restrictors and low-flow showerheads

Faucet flow restrictors, including reduced-flow showerheads, reduce water use, save energy, and conserve water all while maintaining water pressure.

  • Aim for Water Sense certified, rated at 2 gpm or less for a showerhead, and 1.5 gpm or less for faucet flow restrictors.
  • Install in religious-owned housing.
Cost: $10-$15/showerhead
Payback: 1 year, on average


12) Water - Reduce water heater temperature to 110 degrees

Water heaters in religious facilities are typically set at a higher temperature than is necessary to maintain hot water flow.
  • Water temperature for showers needs to be 110 degrees.
  • 95 degrees for hand washing.
  • Adjust water temperature weekly if your facility uses hot water only on weekends.  Turn heat to “Vacation” level when hot water is not needed for 2-4 days.
Cost: $0.
Payback: Depends on size of water heater, amount of reduction.


Related Content:

The Five Steps to Energy Conservation


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