Ruislip Synagogue has taken environmental protection seriously for several years and has implemented improvements wherever it was practical to do so.
We have been encouraging members to take care of the environment. When they prepare for an event, they use food that can be stored for the future if not used. They do not use disposables. They have been trained to adjust the heating timers to avoid heating an empty building. We have recently given guidance on adjusting the boiler controls to maximise efficiency.
Most of the energy use was in heating. Unfortunately, the building is a prefabricated structure built immediately after the War. It is poorly insulated, with little scope for simple improvements. Calculations indicated that much of the heat is lost through the flat roof, but insulation could not be added, in the absence of a loft. A new, lower ceiling was therefore installed, and the resulting void was filled with insulation. In addition, all windows were changed to double glazed units.
The original tungsten and fluorescent lights used a total of 3000 Watts. We changed all of them to LED lights, which reduced the power to about 750W. We then hit a problem, where the circuit breaker kept tripping despite the reduced current. We discovered the little publicised fact that LED lights use exceptionally high currents for a few milliseconds when switched on. This is aggravated in a synagogue, where the Shabbat timer switches on all lights simultaneously. The manufacturers knew the problem but were still working on a solution. Ruislip had to resolve this ourselves by trial and error, and it now has good, reliable lighting using a quarter of the energy.
The members were not happy with the use of disposable cups and plates for Kiddush and events, so it was agreed to revert to non-disposables, and purchase a dishwasher, which would be turned on after Shabbat. Most domestic dishwasher have racks which are not designed to accommodate a large number of items all of the same type – for example small Kiddush glasses. Eventually a Mielie machine was found, where the racks had the required versatility. Disposables are no longer in use at Ruislip
Finally, the original electric storage heaters were replaced by gas central heating with a condensing boiler, which is much more energy efficient. To reduce energy use further, it was necessary to ensure that the main hall is not heated during most of the week, when it is unoccupied. A two-zone system was therefore installed, each with a seven-day timer. This way each part is heated only when occupied. But if the main hall is left unheated for a few days, it could take 24 – 48 hours to re-heat it, using energy throughout this period. The system was therefore designed to have a surplus capacity of 25% even at -50 C outdoors. The hall can now be left unheated for a few days, and then reheated to comfort level within 2 – 3 hours.