With a vast church building to heat and cool, Lakeside Presbyterian Church Pastor Heather Shoup says utilities are one of the largest expenditures in the congregation's budget.
"We're trying to teach stewardship," says Shoup. "It's not just something individuals and families need to be practicing but churches as well."
The church recently decided to develop a geothermal heating and cooling system to cut expenses, fuel use and to encourage others to go green. "The church wanted to be responsible and thought it could be a model to the community," Shoup says. The church is also looking beyond the walls of the building and looking into how they can rebuild some of their programming to better meet the needs of the congregation and the neighbors in the community too.
Pastor Shoup says they learned that at least three or four families in their congregation had gone to geothermal units for their homes. "That's kind of what started the conversation," she says. Committees began investigating the possibility over the summer, and it didn't take long to make the decision. "We didn't want to wait another winter," she says.
Geothermal energy literally borrows the Earth's natural warmth. Drilling for the project was started last week by Bresnahan Well Service, based out of Battle Creek. Ron Bresnahan says the 20-ton geothermal unit is a water-based system. The crew is in the process of drilling 20 holes that are each 205 feet deep. The three quarter inch plastic tubing transfers the heat which is pumped from the ground into the building, he says.
Shoup says they hope to complete installation by November, and project to save between $7,000 to $9,000 per year. "We're excited - it's about a seven to ten year payback," she says.
For now the Geothermal system will heat and cool the upper and lower circle rooms, office space, sanctuary, kitchen and dining room.
Shoup said the system will be a step up because they didn't have air conditioning in the kitchen and dining area before, and needed to keep the sanctuary at more consistent temperatures. Shoup says they'll look at possibly upgrading the Education wing, which operates on a separate heating system, at a later time.
Shoup says Property, Usage and Maintenance Commission Co-Chairpersons and congregation members Dennis Cook and Chuck Rauch helped spearhead the information gathering and getting the project underway. The Special Gifts program is funding this project. The church applied for a Mid American Energy rebate for the project, Shoup says. Projects can receive back anywhere from between $6,000 to $12,000.
Read more of this story in the September 29 Pilot Tribune.