The United States (US) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created and manages the Energy Star program. You may know the brand when buying an appliance for your home, selecting the most efficient appliance possible. They also work with buildings, and specifically congregations! (As an aside, Natural Resources Canada created the EnerGuide program, which we sold to the US, and they rebranded it as Energy Star, and now we use both programs here in Canada). Although US- centric, their resources are really great tools to help Canadian congregations take on energy saving actions and activities.
One of the most beautiful experiences in religious services is the sound of a pipe organ filling a church, whether in a small wood framed, rural church, or a full size Casavant in a large Gothic, stone church. The sounds fill the building as well as one’s soul with joy.
What people may not know is that many pipe organs have leather and wood parts, specifically in the stops in the pipes. This is merely an interesting detail until you think about what happens to those materials when temperatures drop – that is, they change in shape and size. These changes can impact the sound of the organ.
When we think about the year 2050 and our climate goals of being carbon neutral in all of our activities, including operating our buildings, we often have this utopian vision of space age buildings. That vision is not what 2050 will look like; not even close.
As Canadians, when it comes to actions we can take to protect the climate, we automatically think about energy conservation. We head over to the local hardware store for some caulking, insulation, a new Energy Star window etc., to fix up our buildings that will in turn, help lower maintenance costs, save energy, and save the planet.
But that only works if you live in a city or close to a large hardware store. Have you thought about how difficult it is to get an energy audit for a fishing port village church on a remote coast of Newfoundland, with the nearest energy auditor over three hours away? Have you though about trying to fly in new windows and doors to a remote northern Manitoba reserve’s church without any being damaged?
A guest post by Doug Daley, Greening Initiatives Lead & Don Atkinson, Past Chair (St. Paul’s United Church, Orillia).
When Rev. Ted Reeve joined St. Paul’s United Church in 2014 as our new minister, the congregation was looking for opportunities to increase the use of the 150-year-old building.
With input from Rev. Bill Phipps, a very close collaborator of Rev. Reeve’s on numerous initiatives, a vision to “turn ourselves inside out for the benefit of the community” as the friends described it, was adopted.
Within our faith communities we all help out; that’s the ‘community’ in faith community. Some people take care of the building — often the most thankless job, because if they do a good job, no one notices anything. These dedicated people care about the building, but unfortunately don’t always understand how their building works, which is completely normal. In highschool, we were not taught how to maintain our homes let alone maintain and operate large, oftentimes massive places of worship. For example, the huge decorative ceiling grilles in many places of worship are, from my experience, 95% of the time open to the attic. One church I worked with had four 8-foot diameter ceiling vents and the congregation couldn’t worship in the space in the summer because the heat coming off the roof drove them out! How would people know this? They wouldn’t, since we don’t have anything comparable in our homes. So to the building maintenance teams reading this, don’t be hard on yourselves.
McClure United Church in Saskatoon is shining new light on its congregation.
“The choir in particular appreciates being able to see the music and words the way the composer intended,” chuckles Angie Bugg, when she tells me about the lighting improvements in the church sanctuary.
Photo credit: Angie Bugg
A board member of the property committee, and a mechanical engineer herself, Angie says that replacing their fussy lighting system (from the late 1980s) and transitioning to energy efficient LED lighting has made a big difference.
“LED lighting is so much more efficient than any of the other kinds of lighting that we have,” she says. “It’s worth upgrading the lighting of any space that is used even just a little bit to LED. You know you’ll get a good payback on it.”
New Energy Efficiency Grant Available for Faith Communities in Alberta
The Alberta government has released the Energy Savings for Businesses (ESB), a new energy savings grant program that includes nonprofits and cooperatives. The great news is that faith communities qualify for this funding opportunity.
The ESB grant allows each participant to access up to $250,000 per building. An à la carte menu of eligible items indicates what percentage of the costs per item the grant covers.
Some examples of items that can have 25% of the costs covered include qualifying LED fixtures, lighting controls, and solar photovoltaic installations.
Qualifying Energy Star boilers and furnaces, and air source heat pumps can have up to 50% of the costs paid for by the grant. As well, you can access 50% of the grant for the costs of increasing your insulation to meet the standard outlined, or for installing new Energy Star windows.
The Prince Edward Island (PEI) government has released a new grant program called Community Energy Solutions for small businesses and non-profit groups. The great news is that faith communities in the province qualify for this grant.
To start off, the grant includes a FREE energy audit, which will help you develop an appropriate plan that makes sense for your faith community from a financial as well as an energy efficiency perspective.
Once you get the report from your free energy audit, the Community Energy Solutions Program may cover 1x your annual energy savings, 50% of the cost of your energy efficiency project, or $25,000, whichever of the three is less. Applying for this grant does not impact your eligibility for other grants offered by efficiencyPEI. You remain eligible for the Business Energy Rebates and the Solar Electric Rebates.
Energy retrofits power renewed mission for faith communities
The jury is still out on the Canadian government’s recent climate accountability act but not everyone is waiting for a verdict.
The United Church of Canada has committed to reducing its greenhouse gases by 80 percent by 2050, and local congregations across the country are already responding, aided by more than $3 million in available grant money from the denomination.