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Ascension Lutheran Church Energy Efficiency Project is Huge Success

 
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Photo credit: Sam Swanson and Pastor Nancy Wright

Source: Sam Swanson, Energy Project Coordinator

Community overview

Ascension Lutheran Church, with 225 members, is located in South Burlington, VT.   As an organizing member of Vermont Interfaith Power & Light (VTIPL), an organization formed by members of diverse communities of faith in Vermont, Ascension Lutheran Church is “dedicated to helping faith communities and their individual members to be better stewards of Creation by using energy wisely, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Overviews and Outcomes

In 2004, Ascension established a goal of reducing energy use in the church buildings by 50% by 2013, and 80% by 2020.  In 2005 the church used 51,080 kWh of electricity and 5,481 CCF (hundred cubic feet) of natural gas to operate the approximate 5,700 sq. ft. church—a building that includes the worship space, offices,  a kitchen,  and a wing that provides a multi-purpose space for congregation education programs, the offices for Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, and community functions.  

Ascension’s  first  step  was to  request  and  obtain  the  Energy Efficiency Assessment that Vermont Interfaith Power & Light offers to any faith community that requests this assistance. This provided an initial roadmap for beginning what became a sustained energy efficiency program for their energy-concerned congregation.

With the guidance of the energy assessment, the Ascension Lutheran Church took a variety of measures to meet their goals.  With assistance from Efficiency Vermont (EVT) they undertook the following work:

  • Replaced incandescent lights first with compact fluorescent light bulbs and later with LED bulbs in over 120 existing fixtures throughout the building.
  • Replaced two 30 year-old refrigerators and removed two small dorm-room style refrigerators.
  • Replaced incandescent exit lights with new LED fixtures

In 2011, Ascension successfully competed for a $11,100 Vermont Community Climate Change Grant from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.  With that in hand Ascension committed $16,000 of their own funds and obtained another $2,750 in incentives from Vermont Gas and EVT to renovate the inefficient existing gas heating system. This work included:

  • Replacing the 40-year-old boiler system with a high efficiency condensing boiler system.
  • Replacing 40-year-old air handler motors with efficient variable speed drive motors.
  • Reconfiguring the ductwork to increase the efficiency of the air distribution system.
  • Installing automated heating and ventilation system controls.

After replacing the gas boiler, Ascension confronted a persisting problem: keeping some sections of the church wing warm on cold winter days.  In 2012, Vermont Gas provided a blower door test and found poorly installed ceiling insulation in the large church wing.  Ascension invested $9,000 in ceiling insulation and weather sealing improvements in the multi-purpose wing.

The cumulative results of actions over the last ten years have been a 78% reduction of its 2005 annual electricity use and 41% reduction in annual natural gas use.    

Ascension now spends $5,000 less for electricity and gas than it did ten years ago. They estimate that the cumulative bill savings from these energy efficiency investments over ten years now amount to more than $30 thousand, resources the congregation has committed to other pressing needs, including the continued effort to achieve their goal to reduce their energy use and associated carbon footprint by 80 percent by 2020.

KEYS TO SUCCESS:

  1. Reach out to an energy assessment group for expert advice.  The initial Energy Assessment from Vermont Interfaith Power & Light offered inspiration and guidance needed to get this sustained commitment started. Vermont Gas and Building Energy, Inc provided additional advice as work continued and new issues surfaced. 
  2. Keep looking for energy savings opportunities.    A sustained commitment to saving energy has enabled Ascension to take advantage of new technologies, declining cost of energy saving devices, and new funding programs that reduce their cost of saving energy.
  3. Look into different funding and grants available.  Most of what was accomplished would not have been undertaken without the financial assistance from Efficiency Vermont and the Vermont Climate Change Grant.   Grants and incentives from many different sources, including the Climate Change Grant, the EVT, Vermont Gas, and VTIPL’s Katy Gerke Memorial Program, have reduced Ascension’s costs to levels that enabled the congregation to afford the changes.
  4. Get the support of those who the project will benefit.  The success achieved in reducing electric and gas utility bills with the attendant environmental benefits have won strong support from the Congregation for continuing these efforts.  Their energy saving program has earned sustained support by tracking and reporting the costs and many benefits of their efforts.
  5. Be conscious of potential risks involved.  At one point the Ascension Daycare managers were concerned about installing scores of CFL light bulbs, which contain mercury, in the daycare area because of potential exposure to children from lamp breakage. So, they found a solution by using LED light fixtures instead.

If you have any specific questions, you can contact Pastor Nancy Wright at 802-862-8866 or Sam Swanson, Energy Project Coordinator by email at samswanson@aol.com.