Holy Spirit Goes Green To Cut Energy Costs


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Five colors define the calendar of the Episcopal church: black, purple, white, red and green. But for the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Verona, the most important color going forward just might be green.

The church, which is located across the street from the H.B. Whitehorne field, took advantage of a New Jersey state program that helped it install energy-efficient lighting throughout the church, and upgrade its thermostats and boiler controls. The state program took care of 70% of the cost of the work, and Holy Spirit will have the rest paid off in about 18 months. Its monthly electricity bill will be lower for a long time to come.

“We feel that it is important that part of our mission is taking care of the environment,” says Christine Liaukus, a member of the vestry at Holy Spirit. “We’re being better stewards of the environment by not wasting energy.”

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New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program is a statewide program that offers financial incentives, programs and services for New Jersey residents, business owners and local governments to help them save energy, money and the environment. Verona’s municipal government is now applying to it, and Verona residents can take advantage of it too.

Clean Energy staffers start each project by doing an energy assessment of the property at hand. They did a walk-through at the church, putting data on its lighting, equipment and energy controls into a model that suggested appropriate energy efficiency measures. The agency’s report included both the costs for implementing the proposed measures and what the church could expect to save by doing so. “You decide what you want to implement,” says Liaukus, an architect who focuses on sustainability who is also a member of Sustainable Verona, a municipal committee that works to improve the environment here. “They try to made your cost and what you are saving less than what you are now spending each month.”

The church still had a few incandescent bulbs in use and those were immediately flagged for change. Incandescents are much less energy efficient than newer kinds of bulbs, and they have to be replaced more often. Clean Energy also suggested that Holy Spirit upgrade its fluorescent fixtures with LED tube lights. The state workers helped the church to identify new bulbs that would produce the same warm “temperature” of light color that it had been used to. “They want you to be happy with it esthetically,” Liaukus says.

New bulbs generate a warm light and no one will need to climb a very tall ladder to change them for a long time.

At the recommendation of Clean Energy, Holy Spirit also updated one its thermostats from mechanical to digital, switched an exterior light fixture, put insulation on the water lines for its boiler and had an outdoor reset control installed on the boiler, which will allow it to be more efficient.

The proposed cost of all the changes wasn’t cheap: $11,011.69 to be exact. But the 70% incentive from the Clean Energy program cut the cost to Holy Spirit to $3,303.51, which, Liaukus notes, it will be able to pay back in 1.52 years, thanks in part to the the Episcopal Diocese of Newark’s new Green Revolving Fund loan program. “In a little over 18 months we’ll be getting $200 a month in energy savings,” says Liaukus. “That’s just gravy.”

Liaukus has also done a Clean Energy makeover of her Verona residence. Its “Home Performance with ENERGY STAR” program for residences offers rebates up to $4,000 and a 0% interest loan, with a promise of saving up to 30% on energy costs. Liaukus spent about $15,000 on efficiency measures like putting dense-pack cellulose in her walls, installing an energy-efficient water heater, and doingextensive air sealing. “Because we were able to show savings in the range of 25% we got a $5,000 rebate,” she says. The zero percent financing means that her repayment cost on the loan is less than $90 a month. “We have definitely saved more than $90 on our utility bill,” Liaukus adds, “so it’s definitely a no-brainer.”

Verona non-profits looking to follow Holy Spirit’s lead should start here to get energy savings. The program for business owners is here and homeowners should use this link.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]


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