Cut Your Cooling Costs This Summer

By: Andrew Rudin

The time of year is quickly approaching when things start to go up–such as the temperature, your electric bill, and (possibly) your fiscal anxiety.

Dilemma: Everyone knows how expensive cooling systems are to install and operate, and electric costs are increasing. Yet you want a comfortable building, because a stuffy sanctuary may scare away visitors and put your own people to sleep.

Good news: There’s no need to lose your cool over cooling costs. Here are several ways to increase comfort while decreasing costs during hot weather, based on our experience with hundreds of congregations in Phoenix, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

Utilize Low, Off-Peak Rates

Cutting the electric bill may take a minimal amount of effort.


Ask your utility company if your church is eligible for off-peak rates. Note: You’ll get these lower rates if your peak use of electricity (when most things are turned on) occurs during the utility’s off-peak periods.

For weekday activities (such as weddings and funerals, pre-cool your building as much as possible before on-peak rates take effect. Example: In Philadelphia, on-peak rates start at 8 A.M.
weekday mornings; weekends and holidays are off-peak all day and night.

Generate Less Heat

Some heat generators inside our buildings may seem insignificant–a light bulb, a copier–but when taken together, they raise your building’s temperature.

Remember: Every step you take, no matter how minor, can save money. Here are some ideas:

Reduce heat from lights by using low-wattage bulbs, turning off unnecessary lights, and reducing lighting levels.

Minimize use of appliances and office machines in air-conditioned areas. Reason: Motors, fans, and electric coils add heat to the air.

Tend to heating and hot-water systems. Insulate water heaters and piping. Turn off boilers, and extinguish pilot lights in boilers and furnaces for the summer.

Shut off unnecessary fans. Air-handler fans and ceiling fans usually don’t need to be on when the building is vacant. Reason: Although fans circulate the air, they don’t cool it. Also: Their
motors actually add heat to the air.

Keep Heat Out of the Building

While you’re cutting down the heat generated in the building, you’ll want to protect those efforts by keeping outside temperatures out. Two areas of special concern:

The attic. Take these steps to seal off heat coming from your attic:

* Insulate attic spaces to an R-value of at least 19.

* Provide ventilation of 1 square inch per 100 square feet of attic floor area. Example: If your attic is 1,000 square feet, you should have a vent at least 2″ x 5″ (10 square inches).

* Caulk and weather-strip hatches and doors to the attic.

Windows. Windows may also allow heat to enter.


* Keep storm windows closed on windows not used for ventilation.
* Install translucent shades under skylights.
* Order Low E double glazing when replacing windows.

Improve Ventilation

Proper ventilation can sometimes lower temperatures in your building-or at least provide moving air, which feels cooler. Here are two ways to improve ventilation:

Use nighttime air. Ventilate the buildings overnight when the temperatures are down, exchanging warm interior air for cool night air.

Use fresh air. Whenever possible, open windows for cross ventilation rather than turn on an air conditioner.

Use fans. Reason: It’s cheaper to move the air than to cool it. Advice: Install ceiling fans for summer use only (their use with heating systems has proven ineffective).

* Place hand-held fans in the pews. This low-tech method worked in years past.

* Use a small fan by your desk, rather than air-condition your entire office.

Make Summers Different

You can change traditions during the warm summer months in two ways:

Dress cooler. It makes sense: Cooler clothing means more comfortable people, even at warmer room temperatures. Result: You won’t have to cool your building as much.


* Wear light-weight clothing. Heavy robes for clergy and choir may be shed for the summer. A more informal style will probably be more comfortable.

* Suggest wearing natural fabrics (such as cotton), which often feel cooler than synthetics.

Change your schedules. Examples: Consider having worship services earlier in the morning, or worshiping outside. Also: Shift church work hours to cooler times, and perform active work during more temperate hours.

It Makes Sense

Cutting the cooling bill is a mixture of common sense, attention to detail, and planning. With a little of each, you should be able to stabilize both your electric bill and your comfort during warmer months.

(The above material appeared in the March/April 1992 issue of Your Church.)

Christian Information Network