Someone asked me the other day if I still did energy audits. Unfortunately, I do not have the time to do them, and also, after holding an energy auditor license for more than 20 years, the state wanted me to go back to school for two days and take an open-book test to maintain it.
I declined the offer since I did not want to waste two days in a classroom. Probably would’ve been fun, but since I do not perform audits anyway, I get to save the 20 or so dollars a year. It does make the past 20 years of maintaining a license seem rather moot, though.
Anyway, the audit that I was questioned about was for a church. I have consulted on a number of existing and new churches in the area. Churches have some distinctive issues and novel possible solutions to high-energy costs.
Of course, No. 1 with a bullet — call it the First Commandment— is “Thou shalt insulate thy church.” Many churches are full of gaping holes and at best spotty insulation. This is because they are so big and people do not live there all the time.
Churches, in a time when every penny counts, need to have an energy audit right away. Period, end of sermon.
Most churches have intermittent use. Some are used only on Sunday mornings.
The big meeting space or sanctuary is an especially challenging problem. Almost all of them have high ceilings and antiquated heating systems. The warm air that comes off convectors, radiators or baseboards rises to the ceiling and only then starts to work its way down to the occupants.
Many years ago, I consulted on a church that was to be solar-heated. We struggled with the best fit for the system. What we came up with was this: Radiant heating in the pews, where the worshippers sit, helps keep their feet warm and the heat radiates up only about 6 feet from the floor.
The heat on worship day came from solar heat that had been stored up during the week, and any shortage was made up with a small gas backup boiler. Since the heat was turned up only a few hours before the services, the sanctuary was comfortable by the time of the service. And for the rest of the time when the church was not used, the temperature was set back, way back, perhaps as low as 45 degrees Fahrenheit. This allowed the solar system to contribute as much as 100 percent of the heat much of the time and the backup was there to keep the building from freezing.
This particular project worked extremely well. It was a newer building, with a modest-sized sanctuary and had conventional insulation. More insulation makes these things simpler, and this is not one size fits all.
But the radiant heating under the pews, although it is an expensive retrofit, is a great way to keep people coming to church in the winter and to help keep operational costs down.
Questions for Tom Gocze should be mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329. A library of reference material and a home-project blog are at www.bangordailynews.com/thehomepage.html.