The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries
Audit Your Church
I want your church to be audited. That just cranked up your anxieties, didn't it?
"Audit" immediately brings to mind hard-hearted accountants from the Internal Revenue Service. They summon you to their office, and search your tax forms for mistakes so that they can hit you up with interest and penalties. In today's marketing lingo, the IRS owns the "audit" brand.
The kind of audit that I'm suggesting is entirely different from what the tax guys do. I want your church to have an energy audit -- to take a careful and structured look at your congregation's use of energy.
The point of an energy audit is to discover possibilities and to save you money. If the audit process highlights some things as mistakes or inefficiencies, that's just so that you can do things better. There's no blame and punishment involved.
It is time to start thinking about an audit as good news!
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When is a good time to have an energy audit?
An energy audit for your church can be quick, simple and cheap -- or it can be much more extensive, somewhat more costly, and immensely more detailed. (At the end of this Notes, there are lots of links to more information on audit options.)
A full-scale, professional audit will be a good investment in almost every church. But if nobody has taken close look at the building with an eye to saving energy in recent years, it might be helpful to start with a do-it-yourself sort of review.
Some of the easiest things to look for in an energy audit have no costs, and can save lots of energy (and money). Turn off lights, computers and coffee pots when not in use. Turn down thermostats. Set the water heater at the lowest reasonable temperature. Close doors and windows when it is cold. (See an old Notes for a case study about open doors.). Use blinds to reduce heating from summer sun, or heat loss in the winter.
There are lots and lots of things that can save energy at very little cost. A very attentive tour of the building will make them evident. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact florescents. Put outside lights on timers. Replace old "EXIT" signs with ones that use ultra-efficient LED lights (each old sign could be using $30 of electricity a year!) Electronic thermostats will make sure that the heat is set correctly for day and night, and for special Sunday hours. More insulation may be needed in the attic.
And your tour of the building may show some big-ticket areas where getting expert advice will be very important. If a refrigerator is more than 10 years old, it is probably wasting lots of electricity. A clunky old furnace wastes fuel and money -- and may not be doing a good job of heating the building anyway. New windows, or storm windows, can be big savers in the long run.
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An audit done by a trained professional will look at everything that you would do with volunteers, and they will do much more.
An energy auditor will have specialized gadgets that can give a good idea about the quality of insulation in your attic ceiling without setting up a ladder or poking holes. They can put a meter on your refrigerator or TV set to find out exactly how much power it uses. They'll know whether you'll burn out the light fixtures if you remove some florescent tubes -- and they will know why a T-5 tube is much better than a T-12. They'll be able to tell you things about the energy efficiency of your furnace that the average church member (or even the guy who services the furnace) won't know.
Just as important, a professional energy audit will give you specific recommendations about the actions that will be most energy-efficient, responsible and cost-effective in your situation. They'll guide you toward high priorities, and tell you about the dollars-and-cents on a range of choices. They'll explain how spending some money now will bring savings for years to come -- on things like refrigerators, furnaces and windows. They'll help you sort out if solar energy would be great for you -- environmentally, economically, and in community visibility -- or if it doesn't make sense on your building.
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I've seen several articles that say that a well-done audit (and following up on the findings, of course!) will usually save a church 20% to 30% on energy bills. When our good friends at GreenFaith do fairly detailed audits of churches in New Jersey, they charge $500 -- and they promise to refund that money if the church doesn't save at least that much in the first year.
An audit is fiscally prudent. If you haven't had a competent audit, your church is guaranteed to be wasting money and damaging God's creation through all of the impacts of generating the energy you use.
So get your church audited! You'll be glad you did.
Eco-Justice Ministries * 400 S Williams St, Denver, CO 80209 * 303.715.3873
Home Page: www.eco-justice.org * E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org