Norcross First United Methodist Church is going green. They were recently able to make substantial upgrades to their building’s insulation, estimated to save them tens of thousands of dollars annually on energy costs, with the help of the non-profit Georgia Interfaith Power and Light (GIPL).
GIPL awarded them a $12,150 grant, matching the money they put up for the improvements, and has the funding to help other Norcross congregations of every religion analyze their energy use and give grants to make their own improvements.
Thanks to GIPL’s innovative program called Power Wise, $600,000 is available to run and fund the project statewide. There are about 80 congregations enrolled to date.
“They were easy to work with, it’s an easy process to go through,” said Terri Hoye of First United Methodist. “Actually, I saw on 11Alive News one night this segment about GIPL. We contacted them and that set up the initial conversation. And then after I sent in all the information to do the (energy) audit, they had someone out there in two weeks.”
During the energy audit, they named the top three ways First United could receive the most savings and helped them prioritize the list. They decided the first project they would tackle would be re-insulating the chapel, fellowship hall and old wing of the church. First United is estimated to save $11,000 annually just from the chapel alone.
“We anticipate that it will be a huge savings because, you know, the fellowship hall was built in like 58 and the chapel was in 74, so it was really not up to code as far as insulation,” Hoye explained.
The Power Wise program has a monthly bill tracking system. First United simply sends GIPL their utility bills and they monitors how much the church is saving in energy costs. Then over the next three years, the church will give back 30 percent of their savings to GIPL so that they can continue helping other churches.
“Every congregation we have ever worked with is spending too much on gas and electricity,” stated Alexis Chase, executive director of GIPL.
The matching grant from GIPL meant that First United was able to do other energy saving upgrades around the church. “We changed out some of the light bulbs and things like that they had recommended,” Hoye said.
Hoye also learned a thing or two from the energy audit that she took home with her. One thing she learned about was windows. She always thought widows were the first thing you should replace in your home. “But it should actually be the last thing,” she explained. “You don’t save as much as you think that you will. Your return is a lot longer. I think it was like a 15 or 20 year return on your savings.”
That was one of the improvements First United had already started working on before contacting GIPL. They had actually replaced one whole side of their old wing with new windows, but then when they did the energy audit, it wasn't even on the priority list.
Hoye said the Power Wise program gave her a new perspective and that she would tell other congregations that the program is definitely worth their time. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone," she said.