Q. Does it hurt our church piano to turn the heat down during the winter and the air conditioning temp up in the summer when the building is not in use?
MAINTAINING PROPER TEMPERATURES AND HUMIDITY
With soaring gas prices this winter, many churches will be trying to save heating costs by turning down the thermostat while their building is not in use. While this over all might seem like a good idea, one must be careful that the heat in the building does not drop too low. If you allow the temperature to drop too low, the savings you receive in lower utility bills will be nothing compared to the costs you will incur repairing the damage the low temperatures have caused.
It is well known that if your church has a piano, the changes in temperatures and humidity levels will affect the tuning of the instrument. The flux in temperatures and/or humidity can cause the soundboard to expand and contract, thereby stretching the strings and affecting the tuning of the instrument. Likewise, cold temperatures are much harder on organs, keyboards and some other delicate equipment.
The damage doesn't stop there, however. For instance, a wide swing in temperatures and humidity levels can cause movement throughout the structure of a building. Most experts agree that the interior temperature of a building should not vary by more than a few degrees. There are several reasons for this. The most obvious is the shrinkage that can be caused as surfaces contract in colder temperatures. Not long ago I was called on to inspect a sanctuary with severe cracking in the joints of the drywall. The drywall had been properly installed with control joints but had still cracked between the control joints, something that seldom happens. Upon investigation, I learned that the pastor, in an attempt to save money, was turning the thermostat down to 55 degrees during the week and then cranking it up to 72 degrees on Saturday evening so it would be nice and toasty for Sunday morning services. The big change in temperature was the culprit causing the cracked drywall joints.
Just as the above-mentioned pastor tried to turn down the thermostat to save money in the winter, many churches will turn off the air conditioner during the summer. This also is a bad practice that can cause substantial damage. Air conditioning not only cools the air, it also removes humidity. High levels of humidity can cause damage to sound equipment and can also accelerate the growth of microorganisms such as mold and dust mites.
To control damage caused by temperature changes and humidity levels, the air needs to be conditioned at all times, including unoccupied hours.