Bright Program: LED Upgrades Increase Efficiency, Lower Parish Energy Costs

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Before new LED lighting was installed in St. Peter’s Church on Barclay Street in lower Manhattan, five frescoes on the ceiling and rear wall were difficult to see. Now, the artwork stands out.

“It’s made a huge difference,” said Father Jarlath Quinn, the pastor of St. Peter and Our Lady of the Rosary parish, of the lighting upgrade, which took place last summer.

Parishioners have expressed their happiness about the change, and the pastor said he is also anticipating energy savings a bit down the road. “It’s a good improvement,” he said.

“I would definitely encourage other parishes to do it,” Father Quinn said.

St. Peter’s is one of 75 parishes in the archdiocese to take advantage of the LED upgrade program.

Another 70 parishes have taken the lighting survey that is an initial step in the process. The survey catalogues existing lights and fixtures and develops a proposal for the lights to be upgraded, costs of labor and materials, estimated annual savings and resulting payback period, among other things.

Martin Susz, the director of energy management in the archdiocese, told CNY he would like to see every one of the archdiocese’s 290 parishes undertake the project, and timing is essential because it’s not certain how long the incentives to do so will last.

In the program, offered in cooperation with four participating utility companies serving the archdiocese—Con Edison, Central Hudson, Orange & Rockland and New York State Electric & Gas—parishes pick up about 40 percent of the cost of the upgrade while utilities pay about 60 percent.

“It’s a great way for a parish to get on the energy-efficiency train,” Susz said.

Father Michael Kerrigan, the pastor of St. John-Visitation parish in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, signed up to be one of pilot parishes in the spring of 2017.

The LED upgrades, the bulk of which were completed in a couple of days, were done to a number of parish buildings, including interior lighting in the upper and lower church, inside and outside the rectory, and outside the parish center.

One of the biggest and most noticeable improvements, the pastor said, was exterior lighting of the church building. The church steps and perimeter benefited from the upgrade.

“The outdoor lights are significantly improved,” Father Kerrigan said. “It’s good for safety and illumination. It’s noticeably different.”

Father Kerrigan said the parish has seen an increase in energy efficiency as well, with a 30 percent decrease in its utility bill. “It was a worthwhile expenditure,” he said.

The pastor also noted that more efficient lighting falls within Pope Francis’ message to “go green and be energy efficient.”

While exterior illumination and safety were selling points, Father Kerrigan said better lighting inside the church also helped to improve the worship experience, as parishioners now can read more easily during evening liturgies.

Father Kerrigan had good things to say about the work done by the archdiocese’s energy management office. “They’re good, and very helpful,” he said.

Susz said his office works directly with contractors, alleviating headaches for pastors.

“It’s turnkey for the pastor,” he said. “We supervise the whole thing.”

Individual parish results may vary, but the program’s payback is reached in about 15 months. “It’s a smart investment,” Susz said, noting that parishes on average save $16,400 per year.

The longer lifespan of LED lighting means less costly maintenance involving renting expensive scaffolding and lifts.

Ryan McCabe, the associate director of energy management for the archdiocese, plays a leading role in the LED upgrade program.

Parishes that have made the lighting upgrades have experienced lower energy costs, improved lighting in their facilities and a sense they are doing their part as good stewards of the environment, McCabe told CNY. A total of 163 parish buildings have already been upgraded.

“In the end, we haven’t had any pastor be less than happy,” he said. “I make sure the project isn’t closed out until the pastor is happy with the outcome.”

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