Energy Efficiency and Places of Worship

There are several things that you can do to reduce your energy bills and the starting point is to make sure you keep your building well maintained so that it is dry and not damp.

Saving Energy

Always start with the simplest, least expensive and most obvious options as they can make a huge difference without damaging the building or needing major capital funds:

  • Work out where, why and when energy you use energy
  • Think about basics to reduce heat loss, such as door closers, curtains and repairing cracked windows
  • Consider how to warm the people and not the space
  • Explore whether you can control lighting more effectively or use low energy bulbs.

Places of worship use energy primarily to heat, and for lighting. You may also have sound systems or use energy for catering (whether this is just boiling a kettle for tea, or preparing meals in kitchens).

Reducing heat loss

Reducing heat loss will go a long way to bringing down energy used for heating. You can start by finding and eliminating any draughts. This can be as easy as ensuring you close porch doors or think about installing thick door curtains.

Good maintenance will also ensure the building is dry as wet materials transfer heat more easily.

Reducing energy used for heating

People often feel cold in older places of worship, not necessarily because of draughts or low air temperatures, but because they are losing heat from their body into the walls and floor. In older places of worship, this ‘radiant heat loss’ was traditionally reduced with wooden wainscoting (panelling) and pew platforms. If these no longer exist you may want to consult your professional advisor about suitable alternatives.

As the purpose of heating is to prevent users of a building feeling uncomfortable, heating systems should heat the people not the air. It is important that you use specialist heating engineers familiar with the complex needs of a historic building and design a system that is effective and cost efficient.

See also the presentations from the Future of Carbon Conference 2022, set out on our page about low carbon technologies.

Reducing the energy used for lighting

As with heating, the steps to a good low-energy lighting system are an understanding of what your needs really are, and working with an experienced engineer. Simple steps such as ensuring lights are turned off when not needed will help reduce your bills.

Reducing energy used for other purposes

We recommend that you consider the most efficient models when planning for new electrical or gas equipment. It may be helpful to purchase a simple energy meter, which will help you understand which equipment is drawing the most power.

Please see our page on heating places of worship for more information.

Local generation of power

If you have already reduced your energy use, you may wish to look at ways of generating your own energy. For more information read our page on renewable energy generation.

What about solar panels on historic places of worship?

Solar panels are an increasingly popular way for historic places of worship to produce their own electrical energy, and some have successfully sold excess energy back to the National Grid.

The installation of solar panels can have a strong impact on the fabric and on the building's significance therefore appropriate permissions must be obtained before they can be fitted. We provide a guidance note for decision-making bodies assessing proposals for solar panels, which sets out our approach when advising those bodies.