First Lutheran, Decorah

604 W. Broadway St, Decorah, IA
View congregation website
Religious Affiliation: Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
Green Team Contact: Larry Grimstad,, 563-382-2840
Name of Green Team: Green Team, which is part of the property committee

Iowa IPL programs First Lutheran has take part in:
Hosted Cool Congregations program

First Lutheran has signed the Paris Pledge to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2050!

First Lutheran is not yet an Iowa IPL Covenant Congregation

Success Story:

First Lutheran, Decorah: Energy Efficiency First, Then Solar

First Lutheran in Decorah has quietly been going about caring for creation in a big way, cutting their energy bill in half! It’s not splashy, it’s not showy, in fact you can hardly even see the changes, but First Lutheran has been gradually reducing the amount of energy it takes to heat, cool and light their congregational building, as a way of caring for creation.

Since 2009 they have reduced their energy usage by an average of about 48% and their carbon emissions on average by about 45%. They are well on their way to meet their goal they have set for themselves by signing the Paris Pledge, a pledge by individuals and congregations to reduce carbon emissions 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

Over a period of several years they replaced all of their windows with energy efficient windows, followed by the doors, and then the incandescent lighting with more efficient fluorescent fixtures.

Then an energy audit found that the Church was losing 48% of its heat through the walls and 18% through attic areas due to lack of insulation. In addition, the audit found a significantly oversized all-or-none fired boiler, inefficient steam to hot water converter, and poor zoning.

Using the energy audit data, an energy efficiency and conservation block grant proposal was submitted through the City of Decorah to the Iowa Office of Energy Independence with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

New Boilers

The project was awarded $114,000 to be matched by the congregation. A new 96% efficient hot water condensing boiler system, computerized energy management system, new domestic hot water system, and insulation were installed and have dramatically reduced heating costs and related greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy costs declined 49% in the first year after those improvements. Since then First Lutheran

has invested in subsequent, smaller measures such as continuing to insulate new areas, adding the air conditioning to the energy management system, and adding motion sensors to lighting. They were able to reduce their energy use while increasing use of the church’s space for various ministries.

The congregation gave a very positive response to the capital campaign, being pleased with the improved comfort of their church building and the fact that the savings will benefit their free medical clinic and food pantry.

Recently the EPA certified First Lutheran as an Energy Star congregation with a rating of 97, and the ELCA invited them to be a part of the Energy Stewards Initiative.

Solar panels on the education wing

In August of 2014 First Lutheran installed an 8 kW solar array on the roof of the education building, saving an additional 23% of their electricity bill averaged out over the two years. They saved $2,100 the first year, and $1,700 the second year, the difference due to the number of sunny days.

Part of those savings are also due to the installation of new L.E.D. lights in areas of high usage.

The solar project was funded in a 3-prong way: two families donated one third of the total cost and then loaned the church about another third which is to be repaid with energy savings on an annual basis. The final third was covered by a rebate from their electric utility, Alliant. This rebate is no longer available.

Insulating walls

The Green Team at First Lutheran feels that there are still many steps they can take to reduce energy costs and carbon, and hope to continue their efforts. They are looking to change the bulbs in the historic fixtures in the sanctuary over to more efficient ones once they become available. They will also be investigating how to improve the insulation in the bell tower and replacing their old dishwasher when it expires with an energy efficient one.

The Green Team at First Lutheran recommends first pursuing energy efficiency, then finally looking at solar. Energy efficiency gives you the biggest bang for the buck, providing the savings you could then turn around and use for solar. Switching to L.E.D. lighting provided them with the fastest payback on investment in energy efficiency.

The Green Team also notes that education of the members and staff are key to conservation, which is the easiest measure to implement. Turning off lights when leaving the room and monitoring room temperatures make a difference.

Pastor Chad Huebner says, “We are committed to the care of God’s creation and are aware that the energy efficiency of our building is a testimony to our commitment to be good stewards of God’s gifts. We hope that the work we do on our church property will encourage others in our community to make the same leap of faith.”


Pastor Chad (see photo at left) in front of historic doors that are regularly maintained to keep out the air leaks. There are also storm windows installed over the stained glass windows to increase energy efficiency.

Read more on their website.

For more information contact Larry Grimstad at

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