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President's Message - October 2022

The Greening of The Park Church


In the past two years, we have taken steps towards living into our commitment to be a Climate Justice Church. This fall we have enjoyed a series of adult education programs about the topic. In addition your Council has moved forward with ways to make our late 19th century building as green as we can afford for the 21st century. We are taking advantage of new technologies and rebates with the goal to reduce our fossil fuel consumption in favor of renewable energy sources.


So that everyone is on the same page, I offer this recap:


Background: In 1992, twelve natural gas powered boilers were installed in the basement that heat water to be piped to various parts of our building. They are all labeled as to which send hot water to what location. Since they were almost 30 years old, Council decided in 2018 to initiate a schedule of upgrades to more energy efficient equipment; our goal was to modernize two boilers each year.


In 2018 the first two old units were replaced with a more efficient single unit by O’Connor’s Plumbing and Heating for a cost of $17,000. The replacing of others went no farther because:

  • we wanted to have a NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research & Development Authority) energy audit of our building and

  • the pastoral search process used up volunteer time and resources

  • COVID got in the way.

In the meantime, however, we received two unexpected bequests of a combined total of $800,000 that has been deposited into our endowment fund. This infusion of resources has allowed Council to consider undertaking some deferred maintenance building projects and still remain within our 4% withdraw cap that is recommended in order that our endowment fund not diminish over time. These funds are there to support our building needs into the future.


So we did the NYSERDA audit and following their recommendations have replaced all the light bulbs in our building with LED technology. The other major recommendation from NYSERDA was to look into heat pump technology to reduce our use of fossil fuels. So we did!


There are two types of heat-pump technology: either ground sourced (geothermal) or air sourced (condensers). Geothermal heat pump technology does not suit our property footprint, as we do not have land to dig up and install an in-ground, geothermal system. The next most energy-efficient system is air-condensers that run on electricity rather than natural gas. And a note about our electricity source - about six years ago we joined a NYSEG program to source our electricity from renewable sources – currently 100% of our electricity come from solar farms.


The important distinction between the heating system we are currently using and the proposed system is that heat pumps draw heat out of the air and move it into the building rather than burning fossil fuels to heat water to heat the building. Additionally heat pumps provide cooling and dehumidification in the warmer months from the same equipment providing the heat. Many members of Council have them in their homes and recommend them.


This summer we decided to get two quotes for installing heat-pump air-condensers in the Sanctuary and in Beecher Hall, our two most frequently used spaces. Isaac's HVAC and O’Connor’s were asked to bid. They came and measured the two spaces, looked at our current electric capacity and each presented a bid for the project that will use “mini-splits” as recommended by NYSERDA. These units are composed of two parts: wall-mounted indoor heat pump evaporators and outdoor heat pump condensers. Beecher Hall requires two units and the Sanctuary requires six units.


We chose the lower of the two quotes and are going with local contractor, O’Connor’s Plumbing & Heating (who also has the advantage of knowing our building). Their estimate is in two parts: $85,044 for the purchase and installation of the eight heat-pump units and $17,120 for an additionally-required electrical panel installation, permits, and labor — for a grand total of $102,164. O’Connor’s will also apply for NYSEG rebates which we estimate at this time to be between $4,000 and $10,000. The rebates are awarded to the contractor, who would then offer the church that amount as a credit.


I say “we” and I should identify the volunteers who have done the heavy lifting: Bill Knapp, especially, working closely with O’Connor’s, as well as Jim Wolcott and Doug Couchon and me, who got educated about heat pumps as a result of the NYSERDA audit and its staff’s recommendations. With the implementation of this new technology, we hope to be able to turn off half of our natural gas boilers, and hopefully reduce our gas bill by half, too! We will study our gas bills over the next full year to get a complete picture of energy savings. Our electric bill will go up, of course, but we feel good that it is coming from renewable sources and not from fossil fuels.


I hope this article presents our greening efforts in an easy-to-understand way. We will be drawing from the capital improvements line of our endowment fund for this expenditure, because that is exactly what it is – a capital improvement. Plus, we will have two spaces that will be much more usable year-round for both our congregation and for the myriad community groups who use our facilities.

Yours into a greener future, Jenny



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