How a Historic Church Slashed Energy Expenses

Aug. 24, 2015

Incentives help fund cost-cutting improvements.

Manhattan’s iconic Riverside Church has a long, storied history of good works, inviting such luminaries as Nelson Mandela and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King to speak to its interdenominational congregation. Church leaders strive to make life better for worshippers and their wider community – and a recent energy efficiency retrofit will help them achieve that mission.

The church welcomed a suite of new digital controls for its HVAC system and insulation on boilers and pipes to cut energy costs while improving comfort. These upgrades will save 131,000 therms and 204,000 kWh per year, and thanks to incentives, the church is on track for a payback under three years.

Con Ed, the church’s local utility, provided $217,000 toward the $541,000 cost of the controls, which are part of the new building management system. They replace the church’s original manual controls. Building managers can now pre-set the temperature in various zones of the church and can even operate the system remotely if needed.

The utility also contributed $68,500 toward the $178,000 cost of the insulation. By keeping heat from escaping from piping, ducts, boilers, tanks and steam traps, it ensures that more heat makes it through the pipes to warm the church. The insulation jackets on the boilers are custom-made and can be opened at the boiler door for inspections.

Riverside’s energy savings will prevent 837 tons of carbon emissions every year, and its total avoided greenhouse gas emissions are equivalent to removing 177 cars from the road annually or saving 1,945 barrels of oil. The money that once went to utility bills can now be redirected into ministry.

“This technology will help us save energy and provide a more pleasant space for our worshippers and staff,” says the Rev. Michael Livingston, Executive Minister at Riverside Church. “Caring for the planet’s resources and for everyone’s well-being is part of our stewardship of God’s creation.”

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