Now that we have solar panels, what should People’s Church do next to reduce our carbon footprint?

Rule of thumb:  The best, cleanest, and cheapest source of new energy is conservation and efficiency. People’s Church had a golden opportunity last year to install our solar system at no up-front cost, but now it’s time to take a long hard look at reducing our consumption of energy, particularly that coming directly from fossil fuels.

So how do we go about conserving?  Some steps have already been taken:

  • the Building & Grounds committee has converted most of the church’s lighting to LEDs, and lighting occupancy sensors have been strategically installed;
  • the HVAC system in the addition is high efficiency, and the walls, roof, and windows are well insulated;
  • appliances have been replaced with Energy Star compliant models;
  • the old boiler was replaced when the addition was built, so it too is now high efficiency;

Going forward, the Net Zero Task Force is taking a close look at the building envelope (walls, windows, ceilings & roof, floors & foundation), and at the heating system, to determine where the most cost effective improvements can be made.  A few have already been identified and changed:

  • in the fall of 2019 the hot water distribution pipes were insulated;
  • last spring the electric pumps that circulate the hot water were changed out to new high efficiency ones;
  • and a few other energy leaks have been identified and plugged.

The task force is now looking closely at insulation options.  Taking advantage of the empty building during the pandemic, the identical rooms #8 and #10 on the east side of the building have been set up to be a controlled experiment.  A theoretical analysis of heat loss was performed, including determining exactly what materials are currently in place in the walls, ceilings, and windows. Room temperatures have been calibrated, and soon each of the elements of the building envelope will be temporarily insulated and monitored over a period of time as a real world comparison to the theoretical model. (spoiler alert: the analysis suggests that insulating the concrete block walls will give us the most bang for the buck).

Stay tuned for more updates, and in the meantime, spend some time this winter as an energy sleuth by inspecting your own home for places where energy could be leaking out due to air infiltration, radiation, or conduction.  For more information check the Wikipedia articles on Energy Conservation (Building Design section) and Weatherization. Or for more detailed information contact Tom Hackley, hackleyt@comcast.net, to arrange to borrow a copy of the book Residential Energy.

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