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Efficiency – Squeezing Every Bit of Energy Out of What You Have


Refurbished radiators returned and installed with electric heating coil inside. Both images from St Paul’s United Magog. Images courtesy of St Paul’s.  

Refurbished radiators installed with electric heating coil inside. St Paul’s United Magog. 

In a previous blog post, I recommended switching your fossil fuel-burning appliances over to heat pumps to heat your building. That recommendation still stands for everyone who has mid and low energy efficiency furnaces and boilers and anyone whose heating appliance is older than 25 years. I recently spoke with a congregation whose heating system predates their building from 1962 (it was used and donated to them). Their heating contractor estimates that it is currently operating at 15% efficiency! So keep that in mind folks.

But what if you have a pretty new boiler, for example, and still want to maximize efficiency? Is there anything you can do? Yes, there is! When we look at radiator systems with all the various parts, there are numerous opportunities to improve efficiencies.

For one, would you say that you have effective thermal comfort in every room everywhere in your building? Based on my experience, the answer is probably no. Oftentimes, some rooms will be too hot, with people opening windows, while others will be too cold with space heaters under desks. So what can you do to improve comfort? There are valves on the individual radiators that can be adjusted, but they typically have 12 coats of paint and couldn’t be moved without a hammer and vice grips. Having all of the valves serviced, and operable, will allow minor adjustments to the temperatures within each of the rooms, ensuring heat is not blowing out the window, but delivered where you need it.

If you walk into the boiler room and find it sweltering hot in the winter, all of that heat is being wasted, as it is not going where you need it to go. Installing insulation around any or all of the pipes you can access between the boiler and the radiator can save you tremendous amounts of money on energy. 

Additionally, you can even have the radiators removed and restored with new valves, cleaned inside and out, so that the rust is gone. This can reduce clogging and inefficiencies, and restore the heritage value of your heating system to the 21st century! 

In addition to properly located programmable thermostats that can help improve efficiency, in large thermally massive buildings (like stone churches), keeping the temperature even may help to ensure better comfort. For example, ceiling fans in the sanctuary and in the halls are great, and can really help keep constant temperatures. 

Finally, having a competent heating contractor that truly understands radiant heat go through and commission the entire system (not just the boiler), will most definitely find efficiencies in the layout and delivery of the hot water or steam to guarantee energy and money savings for your congregation. 

Those who have a modern boiler in place, make sure that the system it is connected to is also operating at maximum efficiency to reduce the fossil fuels burned, and save energy. 

The more you can learn about your building, the more you can save energy, minimize maintenance costs, and maximize the usage of your amazing faith community building. You can utilize our professional knowledge with our virtual Green Audits that look at energy, air quality, food, water, waste, maintenance, rental agreements, heritage and much more. 

Faithful Footprints Program

The United Church of Canada (UCC) Faithful Footprints program offers grants, tools and inspiration to help its congregations reduce their carbon footprint. With UCC’s commitment to reducing its greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions 80% by 2050, this one of a kind program offers up to $30,000 in grants towards energy conservation and renewable energy projects (conditions apply).

Faith & the Common Good is the delivery partner for UCCs Faithful Footprints program.  To date, we have engaged over 200 UCC congregations, camps, and buildings across the country. Your participation in the program puts your faith into action and helps UCC reach its target. 

Stephen Collette is the Building Manager for Faith & the Common Good and can be reached at 705-930-1011 EDT, [email protected] 

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