Our parish's monthly utility bills often total more than $4,000, as you can see by clicking on this graph of utility costs over the last two years. Winter heating bills and summer cooling bills always push up our utility costs. A less obvious expense is the cost of the electricity we use to run our pumps to keep the water out of the church basement. (Did you know that our church sits over an underground river, which has led to a flooded church basement more than once?) The cost of this pumping is probably a large contributor to our church electricity bill, which generally exceeds $2,000 per month.
For 10 of the last 12 months, our total utility costs have exceeded the total for the same month of the previous year. Last summer's very warm temperatures were part of the problem. A growing staff working at the parish office may also be a factor.
We have taken steps to reduce our utility costs--in part to save money and in part to avoid undue harm to God's creation. In January 2014 we used funds from the Capital Stewardship Campaign to replace a failed HVAC control system with a modern system that allows us to better control our heating and cooling in the basement and gathering space. (Controls for the sanctuary were replaced a few years before that.) At some point we will replace our church boiler, but we can't justify the large capital cost yet. Meanwhile, the boiler in the office died in November 2016, and the high-efficiency replacement has reduced the office's gas consumption.
We also have energy-efficient lights in many places, and in the summer and fall of 2015 we upgraded our outdoor lights. We have not switched to LED's in the sanctuary, because the sanctuary's high-intensity lights require technology that is not yet sufficiently developed. However, in the spring of 2018, we installed new lighting controls for the sanctuary, and this seems to have reduced the church's electrical usage a bit by allowing us to dim our lights when appropriate.
To see how much gas our church and office buildings have been consuming, click on Church and Office Gas Consumption. Notice that our gas consumption is highly dependent on the weather. One can see this by noticing the strikingly seasonal pattern of the consumption graphs or--in more detail--by comparing gas consumption to heating degrees/days. Gas consumption should track heating degree days closely, though other factors such as how much the building is used (and hence needs to be heated to a comfortable temperature) also influence consumption. A striking disparity is the January 2018 spike in gas consumption which cannot be explained by the change in heating-degree days. Could our extra gas consumption have been caused by the wild fluctuations in outdoor temperature?
To view electricity usage for the church and office buildings, click on Church and Office Electricity Usage. For the church, our electricity usage is less seasonal than one might expect. The primary explanation is most likely the energy required to run our pumps to displace water that would otherwise flood the basement. Nonetheless, the usage graph shows the effect of the hot weather we had over the summer of 2018.