The Swarthmore Presbyterian Church (SPC) was founded in 1894, with construction of the church beginning in 1896. The first expansion took place in the early 1900s with the addition of a children's Sunday school which now serves as the church office and pastor's study. Through the years, additions and improvements have been made. Today, a series of buildings is connected in a quadrangle, surrounding a central courtyard and totaling 28,000 square-feet. The heating system was upgraded in 1970 to a 100% steam generating system.
Another round of major heating and AC improvements were made in 1996 to add air-conditioning to the sanctuary-making it usable in the summer. The heating system was upgraded with a new steam boiler and two gas-fired hydronic boilers. Retrofitted radiators and hot-water coils were added to the new air handlers for the sanctuary. A sophisticated (for its time) electro-mechanical energy management control was included in this upgrade following the designs of an energy consultant.
Nearly 35% of today's physical plant is devoted to a full-time, non-denominational nursery day school with a staff of eight. A church staff of 12 serves the membership of approximately 900 with an average of 350 attending early morning and regular Sunday services.
The hiring of a new facilities manager in 2006 brought forward the vision to fully utilize the potential "outreach" of the facilities to the congregation and the community by making the spaces comfortable, inviting, and affordable to heat and cool. A focus on energy efficiency could make the building's resources more desirable, but also could reduce operating expenses significantly-freeing up financial resources for pastoral activities and outreach projects beyond the church community. Finally, successful implementation of energy management would set a tangible example to the congregation and community of what was possible.
"An energy audit had been performed by the Interfaith Coalition on Energy (ICE) from Philadelphia in 2002 and this became a starting point," says Jeff Darlin, facilities manager. "To this we added information from the ENERGY STAR Congregations Web site including the "Building Upgrade Manual' and 'Guidelines for Energy Management.' With these resources we were able to develop a phased strategy that began with the 'low hanging fruit.' Simply educating and reminding staff and volunteers to use the off switch and be more aware of energy usage was the beginning."
SPC previously had replaced tube fluorescents with new T-8 bulbs and ballasted fixtures and had used CFLs throughout the church where they were practical. As part of the energy plan, they replaced additional incandescent lights with ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs. Next came significant weatherstripping and sealing work around windows and doors. "Replacing aerators in all faucets using 0.5 gpm in the bathrooms and 2.0 gpm in other areas was an almost instant payback," Darlin said. "Then we invested a little bit more to add insulation with (R-30) fiberglass batts in uninsulated attic space and blown-in cellulose in walls and other above-ceiling spaces. Older toilets were replaced with 1.6 gallon low-flush toilets."
Once heat loads had been reduced, the heating systems were analyzed. The space with the most usage, most discomfort, and the highest Btu/square foot figures was the nursery day school — making it the target for conversion to a high-efficiency hydronic system. The steam boiler that had been installed in 1996, as well as the 1970's vintage back-up steam boiler, were removed along with 33 cast-iron radiators and all associated controls and piping. Two 395,000 Btu ENERGY STAR qualified Buderus condensing hydronic boilers with a 94% rating were installed with 31 radiant panels. The piping utilized six zones which were managed with ENERGY STAR qualified 7-day programmable thermostats located in the boiler room with a remote sensor in each zone. A sophisticated energy management system controls the firing rates (BTU output), water temperature; led/lag, and dual operation of the boilers. With the exception of very cold days, one boiler at 395,000 Btu's is sufficient to heat what previously required 1,040,000 Btu's. During the 2008/2009 heating season, overall natural gas consumption was reduced by 5529 Ccf's, or 34 percent. "In fact, that improvement could easily increase to 50 percent with further analysis by heating degree days and by isolating usage by area, using separate gas meters. We invested $80,000, including modifications for this installation, and we have a projected payback of 6.7 years," declares Darlin. "Side benefits were replacing one stand-alone water heater with an indirect storage tank and mixing valves off of one boiler. Because the boilers are wall hung we also gained 140 square feet of usable storage space in the boiler room, which no longer has to be isolated for fire code or external combustion ventilation reasons."
Darlin says that the heating project had the most significant impact on energy costs, but the replacement of five inefficient and noisy window- and wall-unit room air conditioners in the office area with a 5-ton split system central AC unit (16 SEER, ENERGY STAR qualified) had a major impact on comfort and efficiency.
Subsequent (summer 2009) zoning of the new central AC system is projected to improve efficiency an additional 30 percent as a result of matching cooling capacity to space usage. This also allows each 'zone' user to adjust their AC preferences with a dedicated remote programmable thermostat, which controls duct dampers located near the AC air handler unit.
SPC is continuing with improvements that can have an impact now, but also work as equipment replacement occurs. Zoning is being added to the new air conditioning system to better match space usage. This should create more cooling capacity with existing tonnage and improve efficiency an estimated 30%. With the goal of reducing total energy usage by an additional 10% in 2010, the church is zoning the older hydronic heating systems while designing and installing a new AC and ventilation system for two additional spaces. "We want to match energy usage of light, water, heat, cooling, and ventilation to each space as efficiently as possible," Darlin states. "We plan to use zoning, automated systems such as zoning setback thermostats, vacancy lighting controls and, of course, generation efficiency to achieve our energy management goals."
SPC is also looking further in the future by having an analysis done on solar PV systems and exploring possible financing options.
"We've been using ENERGY STAR planning and management tools," says Darlin, "but, since 2005 all new appliances have been ENERGY STAR qualified including commercial refrigerator and freezer units, a replacement refrigerator, the heating equipment, a mini-fridge and mini-fridge/microwave for staff use and others."
Weekly staff meetings and monthly congregational leadership meetings include information on energy plans and ongoing projects. Financial performance versus budgets broken down by energy components are part of these discussions. The congregation receives energy management reports and tips for home and office via a weekly newsletter.
In April 2009, in coordination with Earth Day, the church launched a new five-week series entitled "Green Christianity." With the help of guest speakers, the series looked at the biblical and theological foundations for stewardship of the earth, what the church was doing to reduce its carbon footprint, what future plans were needed, and what incentives and tools were available at the local, state, and national levels.
"There have been considerable increases in awareness from the staff and the congregation about energy and the bottom line," concludes Darlin. "The comfort level has significantly improved and we've reduced the energy budget from $50,000 in 2006 to $32,500 in 2009. We're devoting resources to the most productive areas and the impact of our commitment is clear. In addition to ENERGY STAR, we've had a lot of help on the project. We've had the expertise and cooperation of both Joe Scheib of Scheib Plumbing and Heating in Ridley Park, PA and Steve Ritter of Nu-Quality Heating and Air Conditioning in Folsom, PA. They went above and beyond our requirements to provide us timely, reliable, and cutting-edge results," adds Darlin.
Swarthmore Presbyterian estimates that they are saving more than $30,400 annually in energy costs for the operation of their house of worship. The savings of more than 86,500 kWh and almost 11,000 therms of natural gas per year represents a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the CO2 emissions from the electricity use of 19 homes.
Interfaith Coalition on Energy
Nu-Quality Heating and Air Conditioning
Scheib Plumbing and Heating