Energy Guidelines for the Renovation and Construction of Religious Buildings

December 2004 (revised July 2011)


About this publication

The Interfaith Coalition on Energy has examined thousands of buildings belonging to religious congregations.  Some of them are new or recently renovated, and from these, we have learned many helpful ideas for those beginning the construction or renovation process.  This publication has several parts:

  • Part A discusses planning ahead to avoid mistakes

  • Part B is a narrative of several specific aspects of energy systems

  • Part C is a checklist

  • Part D is a list of questions to ask design professionals

Our thanks to the now defunct Nonprofit Energy Savings Investment Program for some of the following information.  We also included some information from our article in the October 1988 issue of Construction Specifier magazine.


Part A. Planning ahead to avoid mistakes


Congregations that serve their communities can feel compromised by owning and operating facilities that demand high payments for electricity and fuel.  More dollars for energy mean fewer dollars for service.  

Read more: Energy Guidelines for the Renovation and Construction of Religious Buildings

Buying deregulated electricity or gas – What a Favorable Contract Could Be

Interfaith Coalition on Energy – November 9, 2013

When you buy electricity and/or natural gas from third party suppliers, you leave the protection of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.  The only “protection” you have is the contract written by the suppliers in their own best interest.  They are usually written in legal language in small print.

 Here are some guidelines that you could follow:

In choosing a supplier:

  • There are hundreds of third party suppliers because that business is profitable, often very profitable.
  • Do not rely on utility or Public Utility Commission advice.
  • Buying from a vendor has risks, but so does staying with your local utility.  One difference is that you have PUC protection with your local utility.
  • Vendors may refer to your local utility website’s estimates of future prices.  These estimates are likely false.  Utilities typically revise their prices quarterly.

Comparison of Conventional and Infrared Heating Systems

April 1987

The manufacturers of gas-fired, unvented, ceramic panel infrared  heaters advertise that fuel costs are 20% to 50% less with their systems in comparison with forced air heating systems.  Several churches in the Philadelphia area have installed these systems.

The manufacturers claim that their infrared heaters do not heat the air, as other heaters do, but rather they directly heat objects and people, similar to the sun's heating the earth.  They claim that the units provide equal comfort at lower thermostat settings, that there is less air movement and associated dust, and that there is less stratification of air in the heated space.

Energy comparison

We compared the heating energy consumption data from four church sanctuaries and one multi-purpose room to similar buildings in our database. The following are the BTU's per square foot per year for the five buildings heated with unvented, gas-fired heaters mounted high on the walls:

Read more: Comparison of Conventional and Infrared Heating Systems