Emmaus United Church of Christ, Vienna, VA
A group of dedicated volunteer Green Team members have worked for years to gradually improve the campus buildings at Emmaus United Church of Christ in Vienna, Virginia and their efforts have paid off with at least a 60% reduction in carbon emissions and a savings of about $3,000 a year in utility costs. Emmaus is now a Certified Cool Congregation!
In the words of Jean Fox who submitted the application:
“Our Congregation is deeply concerned for the environmental impacts of consumption and the global impacts from energy consumption in particular.”
“Our project involved all three buildings on our campus: the sanctuary building, the education building, and the Fellowship building. We replaced our aging sanctuary HVAC system and converted nearly all the lights in the three buildings to LED bulbs and tubes. Replacing the lights was difficult because we have many types of fixtures and spaces presenting differing challenges for light. In addition, because this project was large and depended on volunteers, it took several years to complete.
For the Sanctuary HVAC: Originally two large capacity (15 ton) heat pumps (from about 1991) served the sanctuary space. They both used the now-banned hydrochlorofluorocarbon refrigerant. They became trouble prone and one leaked its entire charge of refrigerant recently. Recharging it was expensive, to say nothing of the impact of the leak on climate and ozone. As first generation heat pumps, the units were inefficient and depended on backup electric resistance heat. The fresh air intake was fixed and thus was set for maximum capacity at all times, meaning that whenever the units were cycled on by the thermostat, it heated or cooled the amount of fresh air required at full occupancy.
Based on an engineering study obtained by our church, we replaced the two 15-ton units with two ultra-high efficiency, IEER 21, variable refrigerant flow (VRF) 12-ton heat pumps that do not incorporate the use of resistance heaters. We added variable fresh air intake, meaning the fresh air that is required is determined by carbon dioxide sensors that serve as a proxy for the occupancy. A smart thermostat is also part of the new system.
The LED transition improved the lighting throughout our buildings. In addition, there is more light, it is better dispersed, and the color rendition is improved. The parking lot lighting now directs the light towards the ground, greatly reducing light pollution. Since completing the conversion to LED lighting, we have not spent one more volunteer minute replacing burned out incandescent bulbs and florescent tubes. For the warmth of the color of the lighting we chose 3,500 Kelvin for offices, 5,000 Kelvin for worship areas and hallways, 4,100 Kelvin for classrooms, 3,000 Kelvin for outside applications. For the LED tubes, we obtained the direct-wired type, installed after the florescent ballasts were removed for recycling. These tubes offer higher efficiency ratings, up to 150 lumens per watt.
We deposited the old fluorescents and questionable ballasts at the Fairfax County hazardous waste facility. It cost $3 for non-residential facilities (including houses of worship and private schools) to dispose of each 4-foot fluorescent tube as hazardous waste. We estimate that annually at least 20 fluorescent tubes burned out incurring a $60 disposal fee. Other materials such as electronic ballasts and cast aluminum parts of the original parking lot lanterns were taken for metal recycling.
Our experience demonstrates that houses of worship and non-profits should not wait for incandescent and florescent tubes and bulbs to burn out before transitioning to LEDs. LEDs provide better light distribution and choices. Their energy savings and long fixture life provide orders of magnitude in benefits when viewed from economic and efficacy perspectives. Continued use of 19th and 20th Century lighting technology especially working incandescent bulbs and florescent tubes, cannot be justified environmentally.
The one drawback for LEDs is that when they do fail, because they include internal circuits with soldered connections, they should be treated as hazardous and disposed of accordingly so the metals can be extracted through recycling programs.
The Meekins Preschool uses the education and Fellowship buildings during the week. With their daily use, the conversion to LEDs reduced the electrical requirements significantly. About 8 years ago, Emmaus installed Energy Star compliant heating and air conditioning units in the education building, upgraded the attic insulation, and installed thermal windows. Those steps reduced our annual utility bills for the education building by more than $1,000.
The Emmaus volunteer Green Team members who accomplished these tasks include an electrical engineer and others seeking ways to reduce the campus electrical usage and its associated carbon dioxide emissions. Some of this group of volunteers are retirees.”
Rev. Kristen McBrayer who leads Emmaus United Church of Christ says,
“In our tradition we believe God created the world and all that is in it and made humanity in God’s image to protect and care for this world. We often fall short, but strive to do better. Our Green Initiative to reduce the carbon footprint of our church is a small part of our striving to do better.
Our faith also calls us to do justice and live with compassion for all God’s people. The consequences of Climate Change fall most heavily on the poor and vulnerable in our world. If we are going to love the ‘widow and the orphans’ it means changing our consumption of energy, water and other resources so that others might live and thrive.”