Temperature and the Pipe Organ

In these days of high energy costs , many churches wonder if they can turn their heat down during the week in winter, and also shut off the air conditioning in summer.

The answer is YES! However, there must be sufficient time for the temperature of the organ to adjust before using it in worship, if it is to sound in tune.

Keyboard warming device, patent ca. 1900

Temperature changes usually do not affect the mechanisms of a pipe organ, but they do affect pitch. A 2′ organ pipe (middle c) will experience a 2¢ (2/100ths of a semi-tone) decrease in pitch for each degree Fahrenheit the temperature falls, and a similar increase when the temperature rises. Since different types of pipes are affected slightly differently, a significant temperature change will make the organ sound out of tune.

But the change isn’t permanent! Once the temperature rises again, the organ will return to its original pitch. For this to happen, however, the wood and metal materials in the organ, as well as the air around the pipes, must have enough time to normalize.

We recommend allowing one hour for every degree of change. So, if the heat is backed down to 60 degrees, it should be raised again at least 10 hours before the organ is to be used in public. This rule varies in different churches. In most cases, we recommend turning th

e heat or air conditioning to Sunday morning levels on Saturday afternoon or evening. Allow longer when the temperature shifts are more extreme.

Always be sure the temperature has been adjusted at least 12 hours before a scheduled tuning.

If this is not done, your tuning will take much longer, cost you much more, and probably not be as accurate. In extreme cases, we may be unable to tune your organ, and will have to charge for a fruitless call.