Saving Energy from the Ground Up


Mimi Abraham shows off their repaired geothermal system

Berkeley’s Congregation Beth El installed one of the first geothermal systems as part of their efforts to protect the environment through reduced energy use. Geothermal heating and cooling systems take advantage of the stable temperature underground using a looped piping system. Water circulates in the loop to exchange heat between the building, the ground source heat pump, and the earth, providing geothermal heating, cooling, and hot water. Beth El’s utility costs had been increasing each year, and they sought help from CESC’s Your Energy Manager program to better understand and manage their complex energy systems.

Congregation Beth El was founded during the 1940’s as a Reform Jewish Congregation. Berkeley’s Jewish community expanded dramatically after World War II with an influx of European immigrants. The original Temple Beth El was built in 1951, and they moved to their current location in 2005.

Your Energy Manager (YEM) provides cost-benefit analysis on energy and water efficiency upgrades including incentives and financing options, a loading order of projects based on cost effectiveness, and operational modifications: all with the goal to drive utility costs as low as they can go. Additionally, the Energy Manager trains employees to further drive operational changes. Beth El staff worked with YEM program manager Henry McElvery to help the facility effectively control its energy use. “We were in the dark,” explained Mimi Abraham, Communications and Operations Manager. “Henry explained to us what repairs were crucial to saving energy.”

Henry identified several low-cost and no-cost items that significantly impacted the building’s energy use. He discovered that the geothermal system ground loop pump was operating at full speed continuously all day, every day; this constant cycle was wasting large amounts of energy. Henry negotiated on behalf of Beth El with the geothermal installation contractor to fix the issue and to perform other deferred maintenance at no additional cost. Additionally, Henry was able to repair a frozen HVAC unit that had been slated to be replaced, providing a savings of over $6,000.

All told, with repaired equipment, re-programmed thermostats, and other measures reducing energy usage throughout the facility, Congregation Beth El is saving about $1,000 per month on  energy bills.

“We feel indebted to Henry for everything he did for us,” says Mimi. “He really went above and beyond to help us understand and manage our system.” The YEM program took the time to explain what was being done and trained Beth El’s operations staff, enabling them to identify issues and keep their system working properly in order to continue saving energy.

The Beth El Operations Team ready to take on the next challenge in energy efficiency


Again, I can’t express enough my appreciation [of]…how incredibly valuable you and your program are to those of us out here who are otherwise at the mercy of vendors who clearly are not interested in either serving their customers OR saving energy.

— Jim, Interim Executive Director
Does your business need to reduce energy use, water use, and engage your employees? Do you have a sustainability plan but no one to implement it? Are you still developing a plan, or do you even know where to start? Your Energy Manager program can help. Give us a call!