Paying for Energy Efficient Improvements

Expenditures on items to improve your energy efficiency should have a payback of five years or less. Most churches do not have ready cash to make major investments in their building to reduce energy consumption and financing arrangements often are self-defeating (the energy savings go to pay for the bank loan and by the time the loan is paid off, the equipment needs to be replaced). Here are some ideas to offset these expenses.

  1. On electrical work, always use a licensed electrician. Poor electrical work can lead to fires which won’t be covered by insurance if it wasn’t done properly. Your church may have a member who is a licensed who will do some of this work pro bono or at cost – take advantage of those skills (and thank them publicly!).
  2. Have a capital campaign or special offering for specific equipment. Ask interested members to give to a purpose which ignites their passion. You may be surprised at what some members will give and how much they’ll give. Younger members are especially attuned to environmental matters.
  3. If you need to pay from your budget, here are a couple of ideas
    1. Have the work done at the end of a fiscal year (December) and then pay the bill from two fiscal years (December and January). That will have less of an impact on your budget and your electrician still gets paid within 30 days.
    2. Do the work early in the fiscal year and pay for it out of two separate budget lines: the maintenance budget and the utilities budget. Since the utilities expense will be less for the rest of the year, it is reasonable for the utilities to absorb some of the maintenance cost in January and reap the savings over the rest of the year (and future years).
    3. Do both of the above paying out of two fiscal years and two budget lines. That spreads the expense even further.

Lead On!
Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

More Expensive but Beneficial Measures

Here are some savings on electricity which cost more, but which also have benefits beyond energy efficiency. Here are some ideas.

  1. Wooden windows need to be painted every 5 to 7 years. Instead of painting, use the money and replace them with double-pane windows. Vinyl windows are relatively cheap (about the cost of 2 or 3 paintings) and they are good for north, east, and west-facing sides of your building. South-facing windows take the brunt of the sun’s heat and UV rays and aluminum windows are recommended for that side. Aluminum windows won’t sag in the middle under the intense sun. Double pane windows also mean you can clean the windows easily from the inside.
  2. Wooden window frames can be replaced with the entire window but a cost-saving measure is to wrap the frames in aluminum. Aluminum comes in a variety of colors and it never needs repainting. Wrapping the wood eliminates forever the cost of painting.
  3. As your HVAC units die, replace them with higher SEER rated units. They will cost more but they’ll be more energy efficient. Get as high a SEER rating as you can afford each time.
  4. Older model gas boilers were 60% efficient. That means that 40% of the heat they generate goes up the chimney. New models are 97% efficient. They cost twice as much but over the 20-25 year lifespan of a boiler, it will pay for itself several times over is gas savings (and pollute less).
  5. Tankless or “on-demand” hot water systems are efficient ways to have unlimited hot water. A hot water tank holds 40 or 100 gallons and keeps that water hot all the time. A tankless system heats the water only when it is needed eliminating the constant use of electricity on a tank system. Tankless systems also use less space in the boiler room.

Lead On!

Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Natural Energy Efficiency Improvements

Nature itself can be used to help your utility bill. These methods are popular and they are quite effective.

  1. Green Roof. If you have a flat roof, install as much greenery as possible. Plants on a roof will absorb heat and rain water, which would otherwise land directly on the roof. Plants will also provide flowers and homes for bees and other insects. Do NOT put soil directly on your roof; instead, buy plastic kiddie pools and put them on your roof. If possible, the children and youth can help fill them with dirt and plant seeds – get them involved in caring for their church. You can even use some as a vegetable or flower garden.
  2. Renewable energy. Roofs can also be used to generate energy by installing windmills and/or solar panels. If you have good access to steady sunshine and/or wind, these can make a significant reduction in your electric bill and your electric company is required to buy any excess energy you generate.
  3. The initial cost is pretty high and the payback period is 5 years or so. You’ll need .  You might ask some members to specifically contribute toward these due to the high up-front costs.
  4. Be careful with salespeople’s promises. Call their former clients and even pay them a visit to see what was done. You don’t want work that will be aesthetically ugly to your building.

Lead On!

Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Motion Sensor Equipment

For a multitude of reasons, people in churches don’t turn off lights. Fortunately there is motion sensor technology that can do this work for us. There are a variety of motion sensors that can save money while providing what we need.

  1. Motion sensor light switches turn off lights when no one is in the room. These cost $15 to $20 at a hardware store and are pretty easy to install. You’ll see immediate savings.
  2. Paper towel dispensers with motion sensors provide just enough for a person to use. Many times people will pull off lots more than they actually need but they don’t want to wait for a machine to dispense the towels.
  3. The same is true for soap dispensers and water faucets that are motion activated. Having these provide just enough will save money.
  4. Motion sensor flush valves in toilets ensure they are flushed after each use and are thus clean and ready for the next person.
  5. Motion sensor thermostats, even on commercial HVAC equipment, can save a lot of energy in churches. Ensuring rooms are heated or cooled when people are present is a challenge and all too frequently the AC or heat stays on long after people have left the room. A sensor in each room can turn on and off the HVAC unit serving that area. HVAC use is up to 30% of an electric bill so controlling this expense is vital.

Lead On!

Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Better Lighting Techniques

Many church buildings are not energy efficient – they were built when electricity and gas were cheap. Today, the utility bills of church buildings are a major budget item. Churches can reduce their energy bills by taking small steps every year which, over time, will have a significant impact. Here are ways to save on your electric bills.

  1. Meet with your electrician and ask him for ideas in their industry. Get them to be part of the solution, not just a repairman. While salespeople visit with all kinds of new gadgets, they leave after the work is done but your electrician has a vested interest in ensuring your building is up to code and working efficiently.
  2. Have a meeting with a representative from your electric company.
  3. Find out if you’re on the right billing rate
  4. Ask about rebate programs for installing energy efficient lighting
  5. Ask about deals for other energy efficient equipment for your church kitchen, hot water tank, exit signs, etc.
  6. Change your lighting to energy efficient lamps and bulbs. Many churches use 4 foot T-12 lamps. T-8 lamps are 30% more efficient and 30% brighter; they cost about $5 each. LEDs are the rage but they are still pretty expensive.
  7. Reduce the different types of lighting to two or three. Many churches have up to a dozen different types of lamps and bulbs. You may have to change some fixtures but in the long run, having only 2 or 3 types of lighting will save money. For instance, remove 2×2 fluorescent fixtures and replace them with T-8 2×4 lay-in fixtures. 2 ft U-shape lights are more expensive than long 4 ft tubes.
  8. Replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs (corkscrew bulbs). CFLs come in different types of light, from yellow to bright white so you can get whatever shade you want.
  9. Replace exit signs with LED exit signs which are more efficient and don’t use expensive bulbs. Many old style exit signs use incandescent bulbs which run hot and use up to 50 watts 24/7. New LEDs exit signs use 3 watts – that is immediate savings.

Lead On!

Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of

Nest Camera

A few months ago I bought a Nest Camera for $200. Nest Cams are linked with a smartphone. I bought it for one specific reason but I’ve come to see a multitude of additional benefits. The camera is located in my office window and is pointed to the parking lot.


I bought the camera for this benefit (and why I encourage you to get a Nest Cam):

  1. Bad weather: I live in Virginia and I wanted to see from the comfort of my house how much snow had fallen at the church and whether I needed to close for the day or postpone opening the building. I even got my facilities manager to create a snow gauge so I could see how many inches had fallen. (Here’s the irony, this first year of the camera we’ve had two snow events, each of less than an inch!).

Here are the unexpected but very cool additional benefits:

  1. It uses the church’s Wi-Fi and electricity. When either the power or Wi-Fi goes out, I get an email stating the camera is offline. Wherever I am, I will know that something is wrong at the church and I need to address that problem.
  2. The camera is pointed at trailers in which we have a lot of expensive equipment for our multisite location. If someone steals the trailers, the camera will capture the vehicle that took our equipment and that will help the police. For a fee, Nest will store video from your camera. Currently (2017) I pay $10 per month for 10 days’ worth of recordings.
  3. My facilities director has access to view my camera, too. He’s getting one for the other side of building so we’ll have everything covered. Multiple people can have access to the same camera.
  4. The camera has a microphone and a speaker. It captures conversations inside my office (though the audio is very bad). Be careful with how you use captured conversations because there may be legal issues with that. The speaker on the camera can be fun – from my smartphone I can talk and whoever is in my office will hear my voice. I haven’t done that yet, but I could really scare someone!
  5. When the lights in my office are off at night, the camera easily captures everything going on outside in my lighted parking lot so I can see if there are any cars that shouldn’t be there in the evening.
  6. When the custodian comes into my office and turns on the light, the camera catches his reflection in the window pane. I also hear his conversations! This allows me to “spy” on my staff – as if I have time.
  7. Speaking of spying – some of my staff realized that my camera captures when they come to work and they believe (despite my instance to the contrary) that I monitor when they come and go. I could do that, but, I don’t have time and I really don’t care.
  8. Last month there was a violent storm. Using Nest Cam’s recording feature, I captured a seven minute video of the storm which I was able to show to my insurance company during the claim process. The video helped the insurance company understand why I was making the claims – and we’re getting a new roof!

 Lead On!




Churches should use cameras to protect their most valuable assets – people. Other businesses may use cameras to protect against theft and other crimes – churches can do that, too. But the most important reason churches should have cameras is to ensure the safety and security of everyone inside the church buildings.

There are several principles which churches should follow when installing cameras:

  1. Children’s areas are the priority. If you have a limited budget, then install cameras in children’s areas first. You don’t have to install cameras in each room but you should at least have them in the halls around the children’s rooms. The goal is that no one can get into or leave that area without being on camera.
  2. Exterior doors are critical. Every exterior door must have a camera covering who is leaving through those doors. That means that the camera should be above the door pointing into the building. Most security cameras capture images of people entering. But for churches, the critical issue is who is leaving the church and are they carrying someone (a child) or struggling with someone (child or adult). Cameras facing inward will also capture anyone taking something out of the building they shouldn’t (a TV or something else).
  3. Hallways and stairs are the final priority. Cameras should also capture “long throws” of halls and stairs. These images allow police to follow a person as they walk through the building and see what their path was.

Ensure you buy quality color cameras, not black & white. Camera systems include a CPU (computer) which records about 30 days of images before being copied over. The CPU must be in a cabinet which is locked. Some systems load their images to the cloud; access to that must be controlled so that no one can tamper with the recordings or camera settings.

These systems are increasingly sophisticated. Most systems are motion activated so they only record when there is activity (and not 24/7). Others can do facial recognition and track people from camera to camera creating a path the person walked. Cameras can also be linked to your smartphone so you can monitor and control the system from wherever you are. It is amazing what is available – but they can also come at an amazing price. Determine your priorities and your budget as you enter this project.

Lead On!




Dummy Plates on Outside Door Locks

2016 03-March 22 (7)

Every church wants to have a balance between the safety and security of the people inside the building (staff, guests, children in a daycare, etc.) while still being open and welcoming to first-timers and people needing assistance.


The best way is to control access by limiting the number of doors that people can come in. Use your signage to direct people what doors you want people to use to enter your facilities. Then, make those doors and the entrance area welcome and appealing. FYI, by law, all exterior doors must have push bars (aka, panic bars) so that people can leave without any trouble.


However, when exterior doors are installed, contractors typically install key locks on the doors. That means that anyone with an exterior key can unlock and open a door; they might even be able to leave the door unlocked for others to come in. There is a simple solution to this.


For all exterior doors which should not be used as entrances, change the lock plate and put on a dummy plate. That is a flat plate with no key hole which means there is no way to unlock and open the door from the outside. A dummy plate does not affect any of the exit mechanisms on the door. And a dummy plate won’t prevent someone on the inside from propping open a door, either.


Bottom line: control how people are coming into your building and remove the opportunity for people with keys to come in other doors.


Lead On!