“As I’ve been asked to make some personal reflections on the energy audit at St. Thomas More Parish sponsored by NCIPL, let me offer these few comments. We had a major building project in 2007-2010 during which we had incorporated several energy-saving features. However, we did not have sufficient capital to do all that we wished during construction. When NCIPL contacted us about a free energy audit, we were approaching Advent, 2011 and the start of our liturgical year of energy reduction that we in the Environmental Stewardship Ministry sponsor. We said “yes” because we figured that we’d hear some items we knew and some that we didn’t.
Mr. John Seymour, an NCIPL volunteer auditor from the NC Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach) performed our audit. John was very professional, skilled in his field and personable. I especially appreciated that before we ever looked at a building, he walked us through the zero-cost behavior changes that could lead to savings. With a very large congregation and with visitors using our facilities, and with a large faculty and student population we don’t easily manage behaviors. Sometimes you have to put in central control of a thermostat so it’s not changed by each user! We did find some suggestions that staff and faculty could implement, so that’s the easiest fruit to harvest.
Since not all buildings could be covered in the time available, we looked at the new Parish Center and the Sanctuary. Afterwards we prioritized our list of items based on affordability and pay-back. The only cost for our first item was the labor of the maintenance staff. The air flow from the sanctuary HV/AC was re-directed away from the windows and into the sanctuary so that heat or cooling loss from the glass was minimized. We had no way to estimate cost savings from this item. The next change was more substantial, the replacement of halogen lights in the entrance hall ceiling with LED lights. A total of 152 halogen lights were replaced with LED lights for a monthly cost savings of $170.87, based on an estimated average usage of just six hours per day. Our $3000 initial investment will be paid off in 18 months and from then on we’ll be benefitting from that $171/month savings. And the need to replace the bulbs is years away!
I think we’re allowed to celebrate successes, and the energy reduction already achieved from the audit is a success. One dimension is the money saved, which can be directed to fulfilling the mission of the parish. Secondly, there is the reduction in electricity usage, which in North Carolina means burning less coal and generating less carbon dioxide. Finally, this is just one way we are participating in the larger mission of the Environmental Stewardship Ministry, to “Care for Creation and the Poor.” Our list is still long, there’s always more to do!”
-Bob Weickert, Co-Chair of the Environmental Stewardship Ministry at St. Thomas More, Chapel Hill
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