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West Newbury church blessed with efficiency

Journal Opinion of Bradford, Vermont

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WEST NEWBURY — It's not just the congregation that's had a role in helping a small local church. It's been a community-wide effort to put the West Newbury Congregational Church in a position to receive up to $3,000 in incentive reimbursements from the state of Vermont for the recent 'air sealing' of the church.

EnergyWright Builders in Chelsea was hired by the church to perform an energy audit in December 2014. This came after the church had considered installing solar panels to generate its own electricity or to become associated with a solar farm to gain credits toward their electric usage.

The church applied for a grant to pay for half of the cost of the solar panels, which was not approved.

"We did have considerable insulation in the attic, but not nearly enough and no insulation in the walls," said Tom Kidder, a West Newbury Congregational Church Trustee. "...The windows "do have storm windows on them, but they're not really that efficient. We were able to spot other places where a lot of cold air was leaking into the building, so as a result of the audit, we voted to spend some money to get the church insulated." "

The church opted to have spray foam and cellulose insulating done on the church and to have weather stripping applied. It was recommended that insulation be done along with replacement of windows, weather stripping, 'air sealing', an upgrade to the furnace, and the installation of a carbon monoxide alarm.

"[The] energy audit gave us all kinds of suggestions that we could do to make it more energy efficient," Kidder said. "... He will come back and test it when we are completed with the project and if we have improved our energy efficiency by certain percentages, the state of Vermont will reimburse us some of the cost... because the state is very interested in getting these kinds of things done."

Kidder reports that if the church is about to reduce the air leakage by 33 percent and comply with the recommendation of the audit report, the church will be eligible for a $3,000 reimbursement from the state.

"The cost of the total insulation and the energy audit and the weather stripping came to about $12,000 and we expect that just from the savings in fuel oil, that will probably pay for itself in five or 10 years," Kidder said.

The project is not yet completed. All that remains is to have the walls insulated in the attic said Kidder. Volunteers from the church community offered to do the carpentry work for the project to prepare the church for insulating.

"We had to prepare the walls, create access for the insulators...we had to make a lot of structural modifications in the attic and that was all done by volunteers," Kidder said. "Just with the insulation we' ve done thus far, we can tell a difference and there's more insulation to be done."

The church received the audit Dec. 30. The state of Vermont contributed $100 of the $500 cost of the audit.

John Nininger, an organizer of the project and member of the West Newbury Congregational Church, stated that the importance of energy efficiency has increased over time due to climate change. He highlighted the importance of reducing energy waste and minimizing our carbon footprint.

"We want to cut the energy use down [for the church]," Nininger said. "We should be able to cut it down significantly just by insulating the church... eventually we hope to have solar power and our ultimate goal is to make the church 'net zero'... which means we're reducing our waste so that the energy we consume is equal to the energy we produce."

Funding for the insulation of the church came from church funds and community donations.

"In West Newbury, a lot of people who aren't necessarily members of the church, will support the church for projects like this because they see the church as the center of the community, they like having it here...," Kidder said.

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Original Publication Date: March 11, 2015

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