Why have we Turned Off the Air Conditioner?
In order to reduce the possible spread of COVID 19 during our worship services, we have determined it to be the safest to turn off the air conditioning system. There are many factors that went into this decision, but the following are the main reasons.
The air conditioning system at St. Paul is 100% return air. This means that all air in the space gets returned back into that space. The system does not introduce any fresh air from outside into the building.
When the air conditioner or fans are running, they blow in a continuous pattern that does not vary. If, for example, you are sitting to the right of someone who may have COVID 19, you will be continually exposed to their droplets as it continues flowing in the same pattern. This continuous exposure greatly increases your chances of contracting the virus.
But the big box stores, grocery stores, etc. haven’t shut off their A/C!
While this is true, there are fundamental differences between the airflow, operation, and usage of these spaces that does not equate to our church sanctuary. In one of these locations you are constantly moving and interacting with different airflow and people. While this increases the number of possible infectious people you meet, your contact with them is relatively short and the transfer of the virus is limited. In our sanctuary, you are sitting in one location for approximately one hour. If someone near you or upstream in your airflow is contagious, you have a much higher chance of contracting the virus, as the concentration of the virus in your vicinity is much greater.
Additionally, these large stores generally pull air from high above anyone and push air down and away. In our sanctuary, the air flows from below and just above members, spreading horizontally across the space. The store systems also provide fresh outside air to change all the air in the space over a relatively short period of time. Our system does not provide any fresh air.
What are we doing about it?
There are air cleaning systems that can reduce the possibility of spreading the virus (and other contaminants) through the sanctuary. This UV-C system has been approved by the Board of Trustees and funded by a donor. We are waiting for the equipment to arrive in approximately 3-5 weeks. Once it is received and installed, we can then turn the air conditioning system back on.
In the meantime, we are “cold soaking” the building to 62-65*F before each service, and shutting it down just before people are allowed to enter the building. This has kept the building cool for the duration of the service.
But what if I’m not concerned about contracting the virus?
We need to remember that in Christian love for our neighbors there will be conveniences we need to give up, and additional protections required to keep everyone safe. Turning off the air conditioner does not prevent you from worshiping with your church family.