Reducing energy costs for churches & church buildings in Sussex

Churches and church buildings are often hundreds of years old and can be challenging and expensive to heat. Making selective energy saving improvements can drive down energy costs and greatly enhance warmth and comfort for visitors.

Many church buildings throughout Sussex and Kent date back hundreds of years and can be very difficult places to keep warm during winter months.

Upgrading older heating systems and reducing draughts and heat loss can deliver valuable cost savings on monthly energy bills and make it much easier to maintain a comfortable temperature for congregations and event goers.

Furthermore, churches throughout the UK are being encouraged to engage with the global climate crisis, and taking action to reduce the environmental impact of church buildings will demonstrate foresight and leadership within the local community.

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The challenge of heating church buildings

Maintaining a comfortable temperature  of 18oC – 21oC can be extremely expensive, especially during cold winter months.

Church buildings are some of the oldest bulidings in the country and many have been around since before electricity was invented. They are also often very large buildings, and typically made up of high vaulted ceilings and thin stained-glass windows.

All of these factors add up to present a perculiarly difficult challenge when it comes to providing adequate levels of heat for worshippers, staff and event visitors.

man sitting church stained glass window sussex
The old age, high ceilings, building fabric, and stained windows of church properties make them especially challenging to heat. Photo: Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

An additional complexity with designing an effective heating solution for a church property is the inconsistent hours that the building is in use. A church property could experience a high volume of visitors on a Sunday or during religious holidays but may have low demand during the week.

There are also many church properties in the UK which have been converted into a performance venue, which will have a different consumption pattern and usage requirements to a church which is used exclusively for worship.

The first step therefore to effectively managing energy consumption and reducing costs is to gain a very good understanding of the energy profile of the property. This includes mapping energy demand peaks and troughs throughout the year and surveying the property to identify where heat and power could be better utilised.

Why churches around the UK are taking action on climate change

Faith groups and Diocese throughout the UK have committed to reducing their carbon footprint and environmental impact in an effort to play an important role in the ongoing climate crisis.

As awareness and concern of global heating grows, so too do expectations from local community stakeholders that church leaders must take action on climate change.

Many church buildings across the country, especially in rural areas, are reliant on fossil fuels for their heat supply – the same fossil fuels which are accelerating climate breakdown.

We recognise that decarbonising the heating of churches can seem like an overwhelming and highly technical challenge, but transitioning churches away from oil and gas is essential for the wellbeing of our shared natural environment.

Furthermore, we believe that action on climate change presents an opportunity for the Church to demonstrate leadership in the local community. By setting an example of good social responsibility the Church can become a source of inspiration for local residents to make improvements to the energy performance of their own properties.

Church buildings and rooftop solar power

It is a common sight around the UK to see church rooftops adorned with large arrays of solar panels, enabling them to generate their own clean renewable electricity.

As well as significantly reducing the environmental impact of church buildings, installing solar panels can deliver major cost savings on electricity bills. This is because the site can generate its own electricity for free instead of purchasing it from energy suppliers. When combined with battery storage technology and electric heating systems we can start to achieve true energy indepdence for church properties.

Churches make excellent candidates for solar PV because their roof is usually very large, (meaning you can fit a lot of solar panels in the space) and they are typically angled at approximately 45o, which is ideal for capturing the sun’s rays.

Additionally, churches are often much taller than surrounding buildings, meaning that solar panels installed on the roof will not be obscured by shadows from neighbouring properties.

energy costs - church buildings - st georges church - brighton - sussex
A 10kW rooftop solar PV array installed by Brighton Energy Co-op at St George's Church in Kemptown, East Brighton, which generates 10,500kWh of electricity annually. Photo: Brighton Energy Co-op

Identifying the most effective ways to reduce energy costs for your church

The best solution for improving energy performance will differ for each church depending on the physical characteristics of the property and the particular energy demand of the building.

To gain an insight into how heat and power are used by your church and to identify the most cost-effective recommendations, BHESCo’s Energy Saving Service will need to complete an on-site survey and an analysis of your energy bills.

We will produce a survey report detailing where heat and electricity are being wasted and recommending the best ways to fix this quickly. Our recommendations will take into consideration the importance of conserving the historic architecture and interiors of the church building.

Our report will look at a variety of potential solutions for your church, comparing the costs and benefits of different types of technologies. This includes a breakdown of the anticipated reduction in energy demand that we could expect from installing specific measures and the corresponding financial savings on future energy bills.

This allows you to make an informed decision about which technologies will deliver the best outcomes and which offer the best value for money. Our goal is to identify the solution which offers the best combination of comfort, conservation, affordability, and environmental sustainability.

"Those churches who invested early on in renewable energy and energy efficiency measures are now in a really strong position. You can't argue with the economics, but for many churches and congregations it is also a question of making a difference to future generations."
Martyn Goss
Environment officer for the
Diocese of Exeter

What typical upgrades can be made to improve the energy performance of church buildings?

From the main hall to the office and the church hall to the church grounds there are many opportunities for making improvements and reducing unnecessary energy costs for your church.

A quick win could be to address the lighting systems. This could be inside the building as well as external lighting used to illuminate the church at night, or in some cases could also include stage or spot-lighting.

Replacing your existing lighting system with energy efficient LEDs can bring immediate reductions in annual electricity costs of up to 80%. When upgrading your lighting system you may wish to install smart lighting controls which can be manipulated with an iPad or other monitoring device, such as BHESCo installed at Fabrica Art Gallery, a former church property in Brighton’s Lanes neighbourhood.

Or perhaps you could consider improving the thermal comfort of the church by installing an underfloor heating system powered by a heat pump – a solution particularly well suited to providing a consistent level of heat over a large surface area.

Other examples of ways to bring down energy costs might include:

Making physical improvements to the fabric of your property will deliver immediate and tangible results for your warmth and wellbeing, but you can also make a big impact on your bills by using your energy more wisely.

This could include the use of power-down plugs for equipment which is not in use overnight, adding motion sensor detectors for lighting areas such as staircases and corridors, or installing Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) in order to regulate the temperature of individual heat zones.

Integrating remote monitoring and controls will enable facilities managers to continually gather and analyse data about a building’s energy use, adjusting heat and lighting settings in reaction to the information available, and creating a business case for the adoption of new measures where necessary.

Our detailed energy audit will dive deep into all areas of your organisation’s energy use, helping you to develop an ecologically minded culture that achieves financial and carbon emission savings across all areas of your organisation.

The cost of heating in the UK can be very expensive.

If you are losing heat through draughty windows and doors then your property will not only be uncomfortably cold but you will be wasting huge amounts of money as well.

Improving your windows and doors will make your property feel much warmer in the winter and much cooler in the summer.

Furthermore, as well as helping you cut down on energy bills, new windows and doors will reduce levels of noise pollution from outside.

Read more >>>

Any floor that is above an unheated space (like a garage or a basement) can easily lose a great deal of heat to the colder area beneath.

In some properties heat can be lost throught the ground floor as well, so it is important that floors are properly insulated wherever possible.

The type of floor in your property (concrete or suspended timber) will determine which solution is most appropriate.

For properties that have solar panels installed the addition of battery storage technology enables owners to store electricity for use at a time of their convenience.

Battery storage can also enable users to take advantage of ‘Time Of Use’ Tariffs, whereby a battery can be charged during times when energy prices are low and discharged at when prices are high. Alternatively, you may choose to sell any surplus electricity back to the electricity grid at times of high demand, creating a new revenue stream for your church.

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Chances are that your heating consumption makes up the lion’s share of your monthly energy bill.

Generating your heat more efficiently can greatly reduce your bills and dramatically improve comfort in your property..

Depending on the the type of building in question and the availability of space around the property you may consider installing an air source or ground source heat pump.

Read more >>>

The majority of heat loss occurs through the walls – in some cases heat loss though uninsulated walls can account for up to half of all heat loss in a property.

There are a variety of solutions for improving the energy efficiency of your walls which can depend on the age and the type of the property.

Possible solutions could include Cavity Wall Insulation, External Wall Insulation, or Internal Wall Insulation.

If neccessary our energy assessment can include a boroscope survey to identify the current state of the walls and what insulation there may or may not be already.

The importance of buy-in from staff and volunteers

In order to gain maximum benefit from any physical energy efficiency improvements that are made to the church premises, it is vital that church leaders have the support and co-operation of their staff and volunteers.

Educating staff on effective energy management and efficient behaviours will help to embed sustainability practice into your organisation. When staff have a good understanding of the financial and environmental impacts of the church they will be better placed and more emotionally invested in supporting efforts to reduce energy consumption.

As well as hopefully achieving valuable cost-savings, encouraging staff to reduce energy consumption demonstrates responsibility and leadership within the wider community.

Switch Your Energy Tariff

One of the simplest and easiest ways to reduce the cost of your monthly energy bills is by switching to a cheaper supplier or tariff.

BHESCo work with our trusted commercial energy broker to secure the best deals available on the market.

Check the details of your current tariff and give us a call.

Case Studies

Year: 2020

Technology Installed:

30kW rooftop solar PV

Lifetime Financial Saving: £30,592

Lifetime CO2 Saving: 160 tonnes

Fabrica Art Gallery

Year: 2016

Technology Installed:

50 x LED spotlight, 6 x LED lamps,

secondary window glazing, wall insulation

Lifetime Financial Saving: £15,000

Lifetime CO2 Saving: 49 tonnes

Funding Your Energy Saving Measures

At BHESCo we understand that the upfront cost of installing energy saving measures for your church can be expensive.

That’s why we make our innovative ‘Pay As You Save’ financing available to all of our customers.

We cover the upfront project cost on your behalf which is then paid back over time using a portion of the savings achieved on your monthly energy bills. Once our loan is repaid you become the owner of your energy saving measures and will enjoy 100% of the savings for the lifetime of the equipment.

If you are based in Sussex or Kent and are interested in taking action to reduce the energy costs and environmental impact of your church then request a BHESCo Energy Survey using the booking form link below.

Our Energy Saving Team will contact you within the next few working days to ask a few preliminary questions about your property and to arrange an on-site survey.

Frequently Asked Questions

We make our Energy Saving Service available to everyone in the community whether they are a member of BHESCo or not.

Many BHESCo customers go on to become members but this is not a prerequisite.

Recent regulations in the property rental market have greatly increased the importance of having an up-to-date and accurate Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).

From April 2023, all commercially rented properties must meet government issued Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) or they will be ineligible for new lettings.

An energy survey usually takes no more than 1-2 hours depending on the size of your property.
We aim to have your completed Energy Saving Report to you within five working days following the survey.

Your Energy Saving Report includes details of all the ways you are wasting heat and energy in your home in addition to our suggestions of how to address any issues with the most cost-effective solutions available.
Our suggested energy efficiency/ energy generation measures include details of typical upfront costs and anticipated payback time, as well as the expected financial and carbon reducing benefits.

Our report will include an analysis of your current gas and electric bills plus a recommendation of cheaper energy tariffs if applicable. Usually the savings made from switching tariff alone will cover the cost of the energy survey.

It is preferable that our energy surveyors are able to view each room of the property including the loft so some clearance may be required if neccessary.

It is also beneficial to have access to any meters, boilers, or hot water controls.

A copy of your most recent gas and electric bill is essential for helping us to understand yoru energy use and current costs.