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Energy Efficiency Projects for Homes and Congregations


The information on this page is adapted from various existing handbooks and websites, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s publication EPA 480-B-00-003, “Putting Energy into Stewardship.” Not every item suggested is equally applicable to all areas of Texas; use common sense and check with your utility provider on which projects are most effective in your area.

There are many different steps your congregation could take to reduce air pollution. Some strategies save money right away, some represent new costs, and some require a signficant up-front expenditure but result in a substantial benefit over time.

Where should you start?

Most energy efficiency and clean air experts agree that you should start with the “low-hanging fruit”—the things you can do right away that will start saving you money. Then you can move on to more complex projects. Many congregations agree to use whatever savings they realize from “easy” efficiencies on future projects that may require capital outlays or professional installation.

You might want to have a professional energy audit conducted for your congregation. If so, the best place to start is with your electric utility provider. Your provider might offer energy audits to customers; if not, they can tell you how to find a contractor who can do the audit for you.



Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps

Convert exterior lighting to high-pressure sodium or metal halide lighting

Upgrade fluorescent fixtures with T-8 fluorescent lamps and electronic ballasts

Remove or disconnect unnecessary lights

Convert exit signs to LED

Lower light levels where appropriate, such as around computer monitors

Install occupancy sensors in areas, such as bathrooms, that are frequently unoccupied

Install timers or photocells on outside lights

Water Use And Water Heating

Install a water heater insulating blanket and wrap the first 3 to 6 feet of hot water supply

pipe with pipe insulation

Install faucet aerators and efficient showerheads

Select native or other low-water plants for landscaping

Find and fix leaks


Repair doors and seals so they close tightly

Make sure fans and equipment are not obstructed

Combine refrigerated goods and disconnect unneeded refrigerators


Install weather stripping, caulking, or seals on openings that create drafts

Add or repair insulation to create a continuous blanket around building

Heating And Cooling Systems

Clean and replace filters regularly

Set back your heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems when the

building is unoccupied. This includes setting the fans to “auto” rather than “on”

Repair leaks in system components such as pipes, steam traps, and couplings

Make sure radiators, convectors, air intakes, and air diffusers are not obstructed so that air can flow freely

Reduce your water heater settings to the minimum required temperature


Free: Things That Cost Nothing and Save Cash

Turn down water heater thermostat to 120°F.

Turn off lights when leaving a room.

Set thermostats to 68 to 70°F in winter when you’re home, and down to 62°F when you go to bed or when you’re away. Set thermostats to 76 to 78°F when home and 82°F when not home when running the air conditioner in the summer (Programmable thermostats do this automatically—see below).

Use energy-saving settings on washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, and refrigerators.

Don’t waste water, hot or cold, inside or outside your home.

Clean your refrigerator’s or freezer’s condenser coils once a year.

Air-dry your clothes outdoors.

Close heating vents in unused rooms.

Repair leaky faucets and toilets (5 percent of water “use” is leakage).

Close drapes (and windows) during sunny summer days and after sunset in the winter.

Remove underused appliances like garage refrigerators from service and have them recycled.

Remove halogen torchieres from service.

Simple and Inexpensive: Things That Will Pay for Themselves in Lower Energy Bills in Less Than a Year

Install a water-saving 2.5-gallon-per-minute showerhead ($15).

Install water-efficient faucet heads for your kitchen and bathroom sinks ($2 each).

Install a programmable thermostat ($26).

In the attic and basement, plug the air leaks a cat could crawl through, and replace and reputty broken window panes (about $20).

Clean or change the air filter on your warm-air heating system during winter and on air conditioning units in the summer ($2-$15).

Install an R-7 or R-11 water heater wrap ($12).

Insulate the first six feet of hot and inlet cold water pipes ($6).

Install a compact fluorescent light bulb in the fixture you use the most ($15).

Getting Serious: Measures That Collectively Will Cost Up to $500 and Have Paybacks of 1 to 3 Years

Get a comprehensive energy audit, including a blower door test, to identify sources of air infiltration.

Caulk and weatherize all leaks identified by the test. Start with the attic and basement first (especially around plumbing and electrical penetrations, and around the framing that rests on the foundation), then weatherize windows and doors.

Seal and insulate warm-air heating (or cooling) ducts.

Have heating and cooling systems tuned up every year or two.

Install additional faucet aerators, efficient showerheads, and programmable thermostats.

Make insulating shades for your windows, or add insulating storm windows (or, in a southern climate, shade sunny windows or add solar gain control films).

Insulate hot water pipes in unheated basements or crawlspaces.

Replace failed appliances with Energy Star models at little incremental cost.

Going All the Way: Save a Lot of Energy and Money, But Will Take 3 to 15 Years to Pay for Themselves

Foundation: insulate inside rim joist and down the foundation wall to below frostline to R-10. Remember to caulk the rim joist and sill areas first.

Basement: insulate the ceiling above crawlspaces or unheated basements to at least R-19 in cold climates. If your basement is heated, insulate the inside of basement walls to R-10 . Basement or foundation insulation is usually not needed in hot climates. You should install a ground vapor retarder if none is present.

Attic: increase attic insulation to R-38 .

Walls: adding wall insulation is more difficult and expensive, but may be cost-effective if your house is uncomfortable and if you have empty wall cavities. Installing insulation at high density will also greatly reduce air leakage.

Install more compact fluorescent bulbs. Put them in your most frequently used fixtures, including those outdoors. (2 or more hours of use per day)

Replace exterior incandescent lights with compact fluorescents and put them on a timer or motion sensor if they’re on more than a couple of hours a night.

Convert to solar water heating, and perhaps also supplementary solar space heating.

Upgrade your water heater, furnace, boiler, air conditioners, and refrigerator to more efficient models (refer to Energy Star). Newer units are far more efficient. Upgrading is often cost-effective, and definitely so if you need to replace failing units anyway. Also, if you’ve weatherized and insulated, you’ll be able to downsize the heating and cooling system. If the house is tight, use only seal combustion appliances. If the air handler will be used for ventilation or even when the furnace run time will be long, chose an ECM.

Upgrade to super insulating or at least low-emissivity windows in cold climates, or low solar transmittance windows in hot climates, if replacement is needed.

Replace high-flow toilets with modern water-efficient toilets that use 50–80 percent less water.

Install awnings or build removable trellises over windows that overheat your home in the summer.

Plant a tree to shade your largest west window in summer. You won’t save any money for years, but you’ll get an A+ for long-range vision.