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Saving Energy in the House of the Lord

By Joe Laur |
Next time you're in the pew or on the prayer rug, as you look up toward heaven think of all the energy that spacious building is consuming and likely wasting.

Next time you are in the pew or on the prayer rug, as you look up toward heaven think of all the energy that spacious building is consuming and likely wasting.



When we walk into a house of worship: our local mosque, temple, synagogue or church, we’re usually focused on connecting with the Divine. Or wondering what time services get out so we can catch the Big Game. But the next time you are in the pew or on the prayer rug, as you look up toward heaven think of all the energy that spacious building is consuming and likely wasting.

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Those high cathedral ceilings let all that warm air rise to the rafters while the furnace in the basement roars like the fires of hell.  The lights that illuminate the building are making the electric bill rise faster than an angel on  Jacob’s ladder.  And the building likely radiates not only devout prayer, but leaks heat through every window, door and crack in the building. Can we save energy and costs while we save our souls?

The STEM or “Savings Through Energy Management” program was originally designed for students to empower them to save big bucks while reducing energy costs at school. It challenged the students to apply math and science skills to cutting energy use at schools. Merrimack and Steven High Schools in New Hampshire, for example, saved $39,149 and $76,000 respectively in just the first year. IN an era of shrinking budgets, that’s real money. Turns out The House of The Lord could stand to save a little coin of the earthy realm as well.

STEM for this Old House of Worship is an energy management program specifically for faith communities. Skilled instructors assist communities in finding ways to save energy and money. This program is intergenerational and ecumenical. I went through the program with a number of Christians of different stripes, a few Jews, a Muslim, and a Buddhist. We all shared the same 2 goals: getting to God, and doing it with as little energy costs as possible.

Participants in the This Old House of Worship program can be any age and do not need a technical background. The 15 hour program can be scheduled in three five-hour sessions on weekends or five three-hour sessions on weeknights. Program participants examine all aspects of energy use: heating, lighting, air conditioning, water heating, ventilation, controls and the building envelope itself. Each session focuses on a different energy system. When the program includes more than one faith community, each session is held in a different house of worship.

Each faith community’s team completes a detailed study of their building, calculates the potential savings and prepares a report to its congregation. The reports include Information on rebates and funding sources to implement recommendations. This is a wonderful opportunity for people of faith to be in fellowship together as they seek to be good stewards of the earth.

The fee for the program is around $3000. If 10 faith communities participate, that boils down to $300 per church, synagogue, mosque or temple. With many thousands of dollars in savings waiting on the other side of the pearly gates, this is almost as good an investment as daily prayer. Save your soul, save the planet. Now there’s a stairway to heaven.




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  • David S. 2 years ago
    This is important for us to be good stewarts.
  • Elaine F. 4 years ago
    Thanks for the info.
  • Catherine D. 4 years ago
    This is interesting to think about but many houses of worship do practice energy saving ways to save money. i.e. lights turn off when no one is there, the heat turned down when the building is not in use.
  • Brenda E. 4 years ago
    My church doesn 't have super high ceilings.