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.)
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Electric Witness

September 1998 Green Cross magazine

Electric meters are as prominent in churches as pulpits — usually one per facility.  Understanding sermons, however, may be easier than understanding electric meters.  Pulpits are located in sacred space — well-cared-for rooms with colors and cleanliness.  Meters are usually located in profane space amid dirt, dust and dim light.

Electric meters are the cash registers for electric utilities.  Each month, the utility usually reads your electric meter, which belongs to them, and then sends you a bill.  Personally, I can’t wait for them to read my meter only once a month; I read it each morning keeping score of the amount of electricity, measured in kilowatthours, we used the day before.

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Energy and What Kids Like

Winter 1999

Do children have to be plugged into have fun?

Among her other duties, Linda Wigingttm, an energy consultant from Pittsburgh, teaches grade school students about energy. Linda wanted them to know that they don’t have to use a lot of electricity or fuel to be happy. To prove her point, she created a game in which each child lists their five favorite activities. Then, they put those activities in order of importance to them.

For example, a young lady named Alice may choose; play with my dog, play Nintendo, take walks with my Dad, jump rope, and visit Grandma.

When she puts them in order of importance it might look like this:

  • Play with my dog
  • Take walks with my Dad
  • Jump rope
  • Visit Grandma
  • Play Nintendo

In this example, Alice likes to be with her dog a lot, and Nintendo is toward the bottom of her favorite activities.

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EPA’s Energy Star Out of Reach in the Real World

Fall 1996
Like plastic slipcovers on a summer night, the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts are sometimes misguided. Following its questionable opinions on underground fuel tanks and asbestos, the EPA has now created a maximum energy intensity for a congregation to declare itself an “Energy Star”.

A congregation must decrease by 35% its total annual energy use per square foot (measured in British Thermal Units or BTUs). Alternatively, a building used for religious worship has to meet the following energy standard in total BTUs per square foot per year according to the region in which it is located: Northeast -22,800, Midwest – 22 ,400, South – 16,300, West – 15,900.

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From ICE enthusiasts

Excellent energy report!!!!  Our potential energy cost savings are substantial and the initial investment modest.


It really is win-win.  Thanks, you have done extremely well for our church!!!!
Roger Olson, Pine Street Church


Again many thanks for your very intensive and informative review.
Joseph Scott, Unionville Presbyterian Church


We hope you are OK and that this little check helps.
Shirley Perkins, Minnesota

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More Helpful websites   Up to date information on global climate change issues  Unitarian Universalist Slide Show on Congregation Green Activities
And from the Main Line Unitarian Church, a new bumper sticker….  


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How to create interest in energy?

Energy management is not something that we do once and for all.  Instead, these activities are a series of repeated rituals.  But how do you keep members of property committees and the congregation interested in energy?  We have several suggestions:

Keep records.  You can’t play any game without keeping score.  Energy management is a series of repeated rituals listed here.  You can provoke yourself to renew your interest in them by comparing energy use day to day, month to month or year to year.

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How to Survive for One Hour in an Un-air-conditioned Church

From the Lutheran Handbook, Pages 18 and 19.  This is from an enjoyable 240-page book from Augsburg Fortress Publishers (April 2005),  ISBN #0806651792, and $10 from  We recommend you buy the book.

“Getting trapped in an overheated sanctuary is a common churchgoing experience. The key is to minimize your heat gain and electrolyte loss.

Plan ahead.
When possible, scout out the sanctuary ahead of time to locate optimal seating near fans or open windows. Consider where the sun will be during the worship service and avoid sitting under direct sunlight. Bring a bottle of water for each person in your group.

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Lighting advice

What do you do with candelabra light sockets?
Candelabra sockets are small.  We find them in chandeliers, pendant fixtures, wall sconces.  We could buy a candelabra based, flame-shape compact fluorescent lamps, but the wattage is usually low and the light quality does not seem as good.  Pamela Bracey of Calvary Church, Germantown (and  Pleasantview Baptist Church) did some research to find that sells an adapter for $1.99 each that modifies a candelabra socket into a standard, medium-base socket that accepts the higher wattage, better color, compact fluorescents.  Their product number is S51.  Their minimum order is $19.95 (10 sockets), and their shipping charges for that are $7.90.   Thanks Pamela!   ICE

Low wattage LED Holiday Lights

Brookstone is selling light emitting diode (LED) holiday lights again this year.  They back their products with a good guarantee.  They say their new LED lights generate much more light than conventional LEDs.

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