First of the year: Great time to put your church on an energy diet


      January, named after the mythical Roman god, Janus, is represented as a head with two faces, one that looks back and one forward. Pagan statuary aside, this is a great time to examine the energy costs of your church building and ask what your church utilities cost last year, and what can be done to reduce those in the future.
Energy-saving thermostats
For the average home, Consumer Reports suggests programmable thermostats can trim about $180 a year from an energy bill. This is accomplished by automatically adjusting temperatures in buildings and rooms to fit normal use schedules.
Energy-efficient light bulbs
According to the Department of Energy, "replacing 15 incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving bulbs can save $50 a year and more than $600 over the life of the bulbs." The newer bulbs cost a bit more, but over time the savings is significant. The new standards going into effect in 2014 require most screw-in bulbs to consume a minimum of 27 percent less energy. Last year the old 100-watt bulbs were phased out. This year the same will happen to the 75-watt bulbs.
Free energy audits
Ask your energy provider about this service, which most will provide for free. They will walk through your building and examine windows and doors, point out air leaks, draft issues, and furnace and cooling concerns. Even small, simple adjustments can mean big savings.
Protect your investment
The price of copper is high, and thieves are very aware of this. Primary targets are air conditioning units that are typically placed in hidden areas and are easily carted off. These units have copper coils that mean quick and untraceable cash at scrap yards. Reduce the chances of your church being struck. For starters, improve visibility around units by removing decorative bushes that were intended to hide the mechanicals but now provide cover for thieves. Then find inexpensive ways to make it harder for a thief to steal a unit. One church used a simple cage design with a padlock near the bottom. It's not a guarantee but certainly a significant deterrent. It is also a great time to consider higher-efficiency units, which can save hundreds of dollars each month.
Review insurance policies
    Insurance companies like repeat business and will generally work hard to provide good service. However, there isn't a great deal of incentive to save existing clients money by reviewing existing policies to lower costs. It is wise to rebid your policies now and again to see how the market responds. Many times you may find better riders, more appropriate arrangements, or weaknesses that should be covered now that weren't critical just a few years ago.
   While your policy renewal date may be late in the year, nothing prevents you from asking questions and seeking to save money without weakening coverage. Many times a significant savings can be had with little more than a phone call.
   There are many other inexpensive considerations, or modest improvements that over the months ahead can save money. Ask the Board of Trustees if now is a good time to look back and forward and make 2013 a more efficient and less costly year.
Mike Selleck is Director of Connectional Ministries for the North Georgia Conference. 

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