Cut your costs and help the climate

How small changes to your building can save money and help the environment

25th February 2019

For the last 18 months, Catherine Ross has been managing a project for grant funder, Cloudesley, aimed at making the church buildings in Islington more energy efficient. In this blog, she shares her top tips for churches to go green and save money on their bills.

Here at Cloudesley, we’ve been working in close partnership with the Diocese of London, the Islington Deanery, and the 24 local Church of England churches to make changes to their buildings which will cut their utility bills and help the environment. We were delighted when Allchurches joined the partnership, with a strategic match-funding grant which meant we could help our churches do even more.

So what have we learned?

If you want to save money, look up. Often, the three most effective changes to consider are above your head; the lights, solar panels on the roof, and loft insulation.

If you want to tackle your church’s energy use, one key way is changing all your church lighting to energy efficient LEDs. Of the 24 churches in our project, 18 of them are changing at least some of their lighting, and many are renewing it all. Efficient lighting is often the fastest way to get a “pay back”, both environmentally and financially. Perhaps you just need to replace bulbs; perhaps you need a whole new lighting system? You can find out by getting a lighting company to visit. Use a firm suggested by your local Diocese or by a neighbouring church and have a look at the LED lighting on the Parish Buying website.

Do consider using the power of the sun! Churches often have the perfect roofs for solar panels; south facing, sloping, and higher than anything around them. If your church is listed, don’t despair! Perhaps you can tuck a row of panels discretely behind a parapet, or in a valley roof? Do you have a section of flat roof on the church hall? Solar installers will give you a free estimate, which will give you an idea of potential costs and benefits. Ask your diocese if they can suggest a provider. Be ready for some upfront fees, though, which can be £3 to £5k, sometimes more for a listed church. You are likely to need an architect for the planning application, you’ll need to pay planning fees, and the Diocese may well ask for a structural survey. See if you can find a local grant funder to help.

If your church has an existing roof void, consider insulating it (it won’t be economical if you don’t have a void). You can even retain storage as boards can sit above the insulation on ‘legs’. It’s a good idea to speak to your Diocese to see if there are any concerns about ventilation and condensation.

There’s no doubt these projects take time and energy in planning and delivery but there can be real benefits. The changes we are funding will cut the “carbon footprint” of the Islington churches by around 15% and save them – collectively - £30,000 per year.

St James Church, Clerkenwell


Don’t have the time and money for a big project? Then there are lots of little things you can do, which will add up, including:

  • Turn things off when they aren’t being used: lights, computers, heating systems. Check the hours your exterior lights are on and consider if they can be reduced.
  • Stop heat escaping: lag pipes, put jackets on hot water tanks, install window and door draught insulation
  • Control your heating: Make sure the heating zones in the building are correct. It might cost a few hundred pounds to fix the zoning, but if it means you can control which rooms are warm and when, it will pay back. On most radiators, you can fit TRVs to control each one individually. “Smart TRVs” can even be controlled from your phone or tablet.
  • Maintain your heating system: Service your boiler regularly and dust your heaters! Dust reduces the efficiency of heaters.

Finally, talk about why it matters and gather ideas from your community and congregation. Talk at your PCC, in your church services, and in your newsletters about the fact your church wants to help the environment and save money by cutting waste. Ask for ideas and engage people. You could even think about registering to become an Eco Church and, don’t forget, most Dioceses have a Diocesan Environmental Officer who can help you. You can find their contact details here so why not get the ball rolling on your green dream today?