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Old Stone Church

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Jocar
Jocar Member Posts: 3
If we don't use the church during our eastern Canadian winter, do we still have to heat the interior to some extent to "protect it" in some fashion? Or can we just leave it unheated for the cold months and open it only for the summer--complete with its ceiling fans? Thanks for your guidance.

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  • ratio
    ratio Member Posts: 3,674
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    Is water present (pipes, etc.)? Beautiful old wood? Instruments (piano, pipe organ)?
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,710
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    I would be concerned with, wood, plaster, paint and building deterioration. Not to mention water lines, sinks, toilets and the heating system
  • Jocar
    Jocar Member Posts: 3
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    Thanks. No water, or toilets (adjacent building) but nice wood trim, pews etc. Old organ is kaput anyway. Small "Clavinova" is movable. The heating system is behind our question--old oil tank needs replacing now, with the old furnace not far behind: propane looks like a better heating option . . . if we even need heating.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,525
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    Pity about the organ -- they are relatively cheap to maintain, but if they are let go it can get really expensive, really fast.

    Oh well.

    The Clavinova isn't worth the powder to blow it up. I wouldn't worry about it.

    My general experience with caring for historic buildings is that you either heat them consistently -- or have no heat at all. Anything in between is asking for trouble.

    However. The wood trim and the pews will go the way of the organ, though not as fast. If you can manage two things, though, you should be OK -- one, allow the church to cool slowly and warm slowly. Make no attempt to heat it for some odd service when it is cold (like a funeral) -- the parishioners will just have to wear coats. Second, try to avoid using it at all when it is cold; humidity condensing on things is the real killer -- and people bring in humidity.

    Make sure the roof and windows are tight.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    kcoppttekushan_3
  • Jocar
    Jocar Member Posts: 3
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    Thanks for your help. Our small group appreciates the sharing of your expertise and experience.
  • mikeg2015
    mikeg2015 Member Posts: 1,194
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    The biggest concern is condensation. If the interior gets down ot 30F, then you get a warm moist day, humidity will condense and you’ll get mold growth unless you leave most of the windows open. That’s why it’s best to keep it above 45-50F. But Furnaces need it over 50F to prevent damaging the primary heat exchanger.

    Boilers, however, it’s not an issue. Big bonus why steam systems were still the best. You can heat a building to 40-50F without issue and on a 1 pipe system all the water is in the basement in the boiler.

    Honestly, a propane steam boiler with fin tube is a good way to go. Can heat up the space quickly. No blower or ductwork, just properly pitched copper piping will work fine. Do it as a 2 pipe system without traps. Just size radiators larger than the boiler, then bring all the tubing back to a header with a single air vent.
    ttekushan_3
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,932
    edited March 2019
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    mikeg2015 said:

    Honestly, a propane steam boiler with fin tube is a good way to go. Can heat up the space quickly. No blower or ductwork, just properly pitched copper piping will work fine. Do it as a 2 pipe system without traps. Just size radiators larger than the boiler, then bring all the tubing back to a header with a single air vent.

    With this setup you'll need orifices at the steam connections to the fin-tube units. You don't want to let the steam get to the dry returns or they'll bang. We've added on to Orifice convector systems using Slant/Fin Multi-Pak 80 baseboard with H-5x or H-6x element, and put the orifice in a union near the baseboard inlet. Works great as long as everything is pitched properly and the pressure doesn't get too high.

    Also consider a mini-tube system like the ones @gerry gill installs:

    https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/151994/new-steam-mini-tube-installation-in-ohio

    https://forum.heatinghelp.com/discussion/131555/new-steam-mini-tube-system-installed-in-my-own-house-iron-fireman-style
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
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    ttekushan_3
  • Paul Pollets
    Paul Pollets Member Posts: 3,657
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    I would keep the building at 55 at minimum and heat it with commercial fin tube on a propane condensing boiler. 11/4" steel fin tube is readily available.
  • pedmec
    pedmec Member Posts: 994
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    i would keep it on to about 55-60. i would be concerned with shrinkage of the wood interior.

    On another note if you are going to heat it but keep it unoccupied i would definitely get on an exterminator maintenance program. One critter gets in there and next thing you know they overrun the place.
    gyrfalcon
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,525
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    pedmec said:



    On another note if you are going to heat it but keep it unoccupied i would definitely get on an exterminator maintenance program. One critter gets in there and next thing you know they overrun the place.

    Isn't that the truth!

    In my view, however -- as I said earlier -- what temperature you keep it at is nowhere near as important as making any temperature changes slowly, and trying to keep the interior temperature such that the relative humidity stays in the 50% to 70% range. This will benefit any interior wood and, if you have any musical instruments in there, keep them in good to excellent condition. Dry air is far more of a hazard than cold air.

    And that recommendation isn't just my experience, by the way. That is the recommendation of Steinway on how to care for their pianos in closed houses, but it completely matches my experience with the three concert grand Steinways I care for.

    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ttekushan_3
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 1,218
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    Check in with Interfaith Coalition on Energy and the American Pipe Organ builders. The conclusions they came to are in line with how most old religous structures were heated previous. Hold at 45F when unoccupied to prevent plaster from freezing and to keep the relative humidity high enough to prevent drying out of natural materials. Keeping empty buildings warm with no occupants can drop the relative humidity below 20% and rapidly destroy instruments and other natural materials. If you do warm up spaces weekly, you want to allow enough time for the instruments to warm up properly and so the pews aren't cold. With a pipe organ, the swell shutters should be set up to stay open when the organ is not in use so it can stay at the same temperature as the space. This also helps prevent overheating of the organ chambers in the summer which can damage the instrument. The widespread belief that the church needs to be heated all the time "to protect the pipe organ" has lead to the destruction of countless instruments in the U.S. There is a reason why pipe organs in Europe are 600 years old and rarely need extensive rebuilding, while equal quality instruments in the U.S. fail in only 50 years..... the old cathedrals are not heated.

    Holding a high mass building at 45F all winter costs very little in areas with weather like my hometown of Chicago. During our Covid shutdown, we only used $900.00 of gas and $100.00 of electricity the whole winter to heat a 17,000 sq ft facility that includes a 270 seat sanctuary with ceiling around 35 to 40 feet at the peak. The building is mostly heated with steam and some 1950's hot water infloor. The building has been heated this way for about 45 years now and probably has saved the congregation nearly 1/2 million dollars in heating costs in todays dollars.
    k.
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  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,525
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    Nice summary, @The Steam Whisperer . Thank you! The only thing I might add is that not only does keeping a pipe organ in a dry environment (that is, heated to US standards!) ruin it in short order, but the other common treatment -- cold except Sunday morning, then hot for a few hours -- will not only ruin it, but through it out of tune within a matter of weeks. And tuning an organ is not cheap.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    ttekushan_3
  • EdTheHeaterMan
    EdTheHeaterMan Member Posts: 8,153
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    This reminds me of a story about a certain organ tuner. Seems this Church has just purchased a brand new organ and was very happy to use it on the first Sunday after the installation. The music was magnificent and everyone was so pleased until the recessional music was played. An awful, sower, out of tune note was devastating and everyone was aghast. It seems that there was one note on the organ that was not used until that last piece of music was played.

    The Pastor and Elders called the organ installers and complained. However the organ installers stated that they were only contracted to install the organ and tuning was not included. In fact they have no idea how to tune such an organ. So the pastor and elders looked in the phone book. (yea, it was that long ago). then found a piano and organ tuner in the same town, The Upperknockity Piano Tuning Company. Mr Upperknockity agreed to perform the tuning service and was there on Thursday

    The following Sunday everything was perfect, the music was glorious, the choir was in perfect pitch, the organ sounded wonderful, but again at the last hymn, that same sower note rang havoc throughout the Church. Again the Pastor and Elders were so discussed. They called the organ tuner and demanded that he return at once to correct the problem. Click the spoiler below to see his reply

    Sorry... UpperKNOCKity only TUNES once

    Edward Young Retired

    After you make that expensive repair and you still have the same problem, What will you check next?

    ttekushan_3
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 1,218
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    What I understand with pipe organs going out of tune when going through rapid temperature swings is that the pipes have not all warmed up evenly ( that's why leaving the shutters open is so important). This is especially the case for certain types of ranks.... I forgot which ones at the moment. Also, playing an organ when the air is not at the temperature it was tuned at will also throw off the pitch. IIRC, when practicing piano in our church sanctuary when it was 45F in there, everything goes sharp...probably due to the different density of air.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
    ttekushan_3
  • ttekushan_3
    ttekushan_3 Member Posts: 960
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    I second the notion of contacting Interfaith Coalition on Energy. Attended one of their seminars about 30 years ago- learned a lot!
    terry
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,525
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    It's worse than it seems, @The Steam Whisperer . (and yes, in one of my previous lives I was a church organist!). Some pipes are made of metal -- huge tin whistles. Some are made of wood (think large recorders) and some are reeds with resonators. Guess what? They all go out of tune in different directions when their temperatures change. Then you blow warm air through them and they change again... the worst a piano does (if it doesn't crack from the dry air) is go sharp as it gets colder. Though it won't all go sharp evenly...
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • The Steam Whisperer
    The Steam Whisperer Member Posts: 1,218
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    It was the reeds that were the worst, IIRC. I've also seen the problem where the blower is in a completely different space and that can't be good for tuning.
    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,932
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    This reminds me of a story about a certain organ tuner. Seems this Church has just purchased a brand new organ and was very happy to use it on the first Sunday after the installation. The music was magnificent and everyone was so pleased until the recessional music was played. An awful, sower, out of tune note was devastating and everyone was aghast. It seems that there was one note on the organ that was not used until that last piece of music was played.

    The Pastor and Elders called the organ installers and complained. However the organ installers stated that they were only contracted to install the organ and tuning was not included. In fact they have no idea how to tune such an organ. So the pastor and elders looked in the phone book. (yea, it was that long ago). then found a piano and organ tuner in the same town, The Upperknockity Piano Tuning Company. Mr Upperknockity agreed to perform the tuning service and was there on Thursday

    The following Sunday everything was perfect, the music was glorious, the choir was in perfect pitch, the organ sounded wonderful, but again at the last hymn, that same sower note rang havoc throughout the Church. Again the Pastor and Elders were so discussed. They called the organ tuner and demanded that he return at once to correct the problem. Click the spoiler below to see his reply


    Sorry... UpperKNOCKity only TUNES once

    (groan)
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
    EdTheHeaterMan