Sometimes the savings are more than that. Beth Israel Synagogue in Media cut over 40% (more than $8,000) off its annual bill after pursuing a fuel switch (oil to natural gas) and a major equipment change-out inspired by suggestions from aFewSteps. While working with Swarthmore United Methodist Church (SUMC), Coleman spotted big increases in natural gas consumption, on the order of several hundred dollars per month, the winter before last and alerted the church. It turned out that the SUMC’s aging boiler had been malfunctioning. A quick fix created a short-term remedy and, more recently, the church replaced the boiler. “It’s kind of like forcing yourself to get on the scale every morning – sometimes just paying attention and monitoring is half the battle,” says Coleman.
“This summer we’d like to help a few more HOWs save money.” Coleman and aFewSteps summer intern, Alex Kirschner, a rising junior at Northwestern University, use ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager software to track the energy consumption of local houses of worship and compare that usage to peer facilities, adjusted for size, weather, hours of operation, etc. “We can usually get a pretty good idea of how much a facility could be saving if they made a few small changes,” says Coleman. “Our goal is to help church and synagogue administrators better understand their usage and how to go about achieving those savings.”
The Portfolio Manager software assigns buildings a percentile (1-100) score that provides a benchmark to comparable facilities, and, just as importantly, allows the house of worship to track its progress against itself over time (adjusted for changes in weather and any other relevant variables).
aFewSteps will create a Portfolio Manager account and enter the first few years’ worth of usage data for any house of worship in the WSSD footprint. Afterwards, Kirschner and Coleman will train one or more individuals designated by the HOW in how to maintain the tracking (it takes about two minutes per month). The only requirement to participate is to provide aFewSteps at least a year’s worth of the facility’s energy bills, grant access to the facility for roughly an hour (in order to measure the building and assess how heating and cooling are handled), and answer a few questions about typical operations (hours of use, etc.).
Houses of worship interested in reducing their energy use should visit aFewSteps’ website or contact Phil Coleman directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.