Congregation Or Shalom began its journey toward energy efficiency like most congregations — with a desire to improve energy efficiency and reduce operating expenses. It continued with the involvement of many of the 350 member families, including the Loewenthals, whose 12-year old son Jared's interest in energy conservation and the Rabbi's dream inspired his Bar Mitzvah project. Jared redesigned the synagogue's eternal light to be powered by solar energy and use 52 light-emitting diode (LED) lights to replace flood lights. He was assisted by his father, Michael, who is an engineer. Previously the eternal light, known in Hebrew as the Ner Tamid, consumed 87 watts of electricity per hour and was always on. The light now uses less than 2.0 watts of electricity and saves over 760 kWh annually or $142 per year.
Although the eternal light project is one of the most interesting aspects, it is just a small part of the efforts by Congregation Or Shalom, whose name means Light of Peace. In 2007, Rabbi Alvin Wainhaus and his Board of Directors turned to Roy Itzler, who oversaw the facilities operation, for a plan. The congregation began with the simplest steps, such as turning off lights and setting thermostats for more efficient operation. Mr. Itzler worked with a consultant from the Small Business Energy Advantage (SBEA) program to gain an expert's insight. The resulting report created the plan for further energy-efficient measures.
The congregation chose to work with the facilities staff, the existing facilities budget, and member volunteers to implement the plan and make it affordable. It meant goals could be met quickly while the congregation and community were energized. Installation of compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and lighting controls were steps toward major savings. Conversion of 45 light bulbs in the sanctuary to ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs was the first change implemented. Just switching bulbs generated an estimated saving of 2,543 kWh or $473 annually. In the social hall, dimmer switches were converted to standard switches and 28 incandescent bulbs were replaced with ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs for annual savings of 1,019 kWh or $189.
Parking lot lights were the next area of focus. An Intermatic Astronomic timer was used because it avoided the cost of an electrical system upgrade, which a photocell would require. The new timer automatically switches between standard and daylight savings time and tracks the incremental movement of minutes between dawn and dusk, thus saving minutes and hours of electricity without human intervention. Another 1,800 kWh and $340 are saved annually with this improvement.
Other energy saving improvements include: the replacement of five office computers and the copier with ENERGY STAR qualified equipment; reminder notices on thermostats in public areas to turn them off when not occupied; and a maintenance program for regular service on the heating and air conditioning systems to facilitate peak performance.
"The energy strategy implemented is synergistic with Jewish law and tradition, which emphasizes respect and taking care of our environment and resources," says Rabbi Wainhaus. "The visual energy savings efforts at the temple created a pride and enthusiasm with the congregation and the community at large."
In addition to including energy conservation in sermons and community activities, Rabbi Wainhaus led a temple-sponsored energy awareness day featuring presentations by a local company and the sale of CFLs to members and the community at cost.
"Although there are many more energy plans in Or Shalom's future," Rabbi Wainhaus continues, "we have already reaped substantial benefits from making a few simple changes. Many of the ENERGY STAR qualified products we purchased reduced energy usage by three to four times from the products they replaced. We are currently seeing approximately a 10% saving in energy."
All of the upgrades have added up to real cost savings. The Congregation Or Shalom is saving over $1,400 annually, based on a reduction of 6,122 kWh of electricity consumption yearly. In total, this represents a reduction in annual greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) of over nearly 52 tons, the equivalent of the CO2 emissions from the electricity use of over 6 homes.
Alvin Wainhaus, Rabbi
205 Old Grassy Hill Road
Orange, CT 06477
Phone: (203) 799-2341