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Suggestions on ways to reduce cooling costs

by Andrew Rudin June 1990

Electric costs are rising.  The heat of the summer will make us want to turn on the air conditioning.  How can we control cooling costs?  Based on experience with congregations in Phoenix and Philadelphia, here are a few suggestions:

1. Make certain your building is on the most advantageous electric rate.

  • If your peak use of electricity (when most things are turned on) occurs during your electric utility's off-peak periods, request off-peak rates lower the cost of electricity.
  • Pre-cool each day before the higher on-peak rates take effect.  In Philadelphia, this is 8am weekday mornings; weekends and holidays are off-peak all day.


2. Move morning worship earlier in the morning.

3. Reduce the generation of heat inside the building.

  • Install lower wattage lighting.
  • Turn off all unnecessary inside lights.
  • Reduce lighting levels.
  • Insulate domestic water heaters and piping.
  • Turn off circulators that pump water to hot water taps.
  • Minimize appliance use inside air conditioned areas.
  • Turn off pilot lights in boilers and furnaces.
  • Do not run air hander fans when building is vacant.  (The fans add heat to the air.)


4. Reduce the generation of moisture inside the building.

  • Exhaust moisture from showers and clothes dryers.


5. Keep the heat from coming into the building.

  • Insulate and ventilate attic spaces.
  • Caulk and weather strip to keep warm air out.
  • Keep storm windows closed.
  • Install translucent shades under skylights.
  • When replacing windows, order "Low E" double glazing.


6. Improve condenser efficiency

  • Keep the coils clean.
  • Keep the condenser out of direct sunlight; install on shady side of building.
  • Make certain that the large freon pipe outside is insulated.
  • Have a technician check for proper charge of refrigerant.


7. Improve ventilation

  • Ventilate the buildings overnight.
  • Cool with outdoor air when possible.


8. Instead of cooling the air, move it with fans.

  • Open windows for cross ventilation.
  • Install ceiling fans for summer use only.
  • Use a small personal fan by your desk.


9. Improve chiller efficiency

  • When cooling loads are low, raise leaving chilled water temperature manually or automatically.
  • If you have more than one chiller, match the chillers to the load by using the proper sequence of operation. Install smaller lead chillers.
  • Maintain proper refrigerant charge.
  • Interconnect partially-loaded chilled water systems to more fully load them.


10. Improve cooling tower efficiency

  • Maintain water quality; remove bacterial slime and algae.


11. Improve cooling distribution efficiency

  • Keep filters and coils clean.
  • Check cooling ductwork for crimps and disconnected sections.
  • Do not obstruct the supply of cool air with furniture, draperies, etc.
  • Seal leaks in cooling ductwork.
  • Limit the outside air flowing into central air systems.
  • Open dampers to balance flow of air among various rooms.
  • Isolate cooled areas by closing doors to non-cooled areas.
  • Insulate cooling ducts running through areas that are not cooled.


12. Change personal habits

  • Raise the air temperature, if possible.
  • Do not air condition unoccupied areas.
  • Dress in light-weight clothing.
  • Rethink heavy clergy and choir robes.
  • Natural fabrics often feel cooler than synthetics.
  • Re-arrange working schedule to cooler times.
  • Turn off air conditioning  hour before leaving.
  • Open the shades and drapes at night to increase heat loss.
  • Perform active work during the cooler times of the day.


13. Cook with minimal heat.

  • Lower gas pilot lights to minimum heights.
  • Cook with the microwave, rather than the range or oven.
  • Cook on outside grilles.
  • Exhaust moisture from boiling water and cooking.
  • Drink and eat cool substances -- iced beverages and salads.
  • Avoid caffeinated, alcoholic and hot beverages.
  • Exhaust the heat from refrigeration condensing coils.
  • Cover pots on the stove to minimize cooking time and evaporation.
  • Cool dishes outside, or in areas that do not have air conditioning.
  • Thaw frozen foods inside the refrigerator or inside air conditioned spaces.
  • Bake or broil several items at a time.
  • Preheat ovens only as much as necessary.
  • Turn off the oven a few minutes before the required time.
  • Minimize the use of self-cleaning on hot days.


14. Buy efficient cooling equipment.

  • Get high EER for replacement window air units.
  • Install window units to cool occupied rooms within large, unoccupied zones served by central cooling systems.


For additional information on ways to reduce your energy costs, contact the Interfaith Coalition on Energy.