Minor work on 115-year-old building saves $800 per year

STEVENS POINT — A little effort can go a long way when it comes to reducing energy use and costs, one Wisconsin church recently discovered.

Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church in Stevens Point is a striking 115-year-old building, with large stained glass windows and a distinctive bell tower. Understanding that the church’s multiple attic spaces, high ceilings and old brick walls posed energy problems, the building and grounds committee asked a local contractor to conduct an energy audit.

Cynthia Porter, a Frame Presbyterian member since the early 1970s, oversaw the energy audit and subsequent work. As the chair of the building and grounds committee, Porter appreciated that the audit report “identified the biggest drains” and described “different steps that we could take” to reduce drafts and energy bills.

One weak point identified by the energy audit came as a surprise.

“The ceiling of the sanctuary has a rosette design, in wood,” explained Porter. “You wouldn’t even be aware of it if you look up, but there are four flaps there that can be opened, with ropes and pulleys in the attic for ventilation.”

The old ventilation area had been covered and insulated, but church members opened it so that they could drop paper peace cranes down from the attic. After the cranes flew, the forgotten ventilation area was left uncovered, allowing warm air to leak into a drafty attic space. Replacing the insulation gave the church an inexpensive and easy way to reduce energy use and costs.

“Sometimes the easiest of fixes can save the most energy and money,” explained Diane Farsetta, Energy Efficiency Coordinator at Clean Wisconsin. “Energy efficiency is a great way for churches, schools, homes and businesses to save money while improving our environment.”

Frame Presbyterian staff worked in coordination with a local contractor to add insulation to storage and attic areas, seal air leaks and insulate recessed lights. To help cover the cost of the work, the church applied for and received a small grant from Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s largest energy efficiency and renewable energy program.

Due to these energy efficiency improvements Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church now saves more than $800 per year on its energy bills, roughly ten percent of its annual energy costs.

“I was thrilled with our final year-end expenses for gas and electric,” enthused Porter. “The costs are lower than any other year for which we have records.”

Frame Presbyterian’s pastor, the Reverend Susan Zencka, praised Porter for her leadership on the project. The energy efficiency work is part of the Church’s mission to honor “the environment, our relationship to it and God’s investment in it,” Zencka said.