Choosing a heating system for a new build can take place during the design stages, but the same cannot be said for historic buildings such as churches. Great care must be taken to ensure that the look, feel and fabric of the church is not altered by a new heating system. Steven Evans, Potterton Commercial’s Sales Director, explains how modern heating technology can help overcome these challenges to create a comfortable environment for worshippers.

nergy efficiency continues to be a major consideration for building managers, with growing pressure to reduce carbon emissions and save energy costs. This is particularly relevant for historic churches, many of which can become very cold in the winter and take a long time to warm up. However, the need to conserve their aesthetics often means that they cannot implement some of the energy-saving measures that are available to more modern buildings.

Not only does the heating system in a church need to provide an optimum environment for its users, but also for the valuable objects contained within it. It is also important to bear in mind that although most Church of England churches are listed, they are exempt from listed building control, except in certain unusual circumstances. Alteration and change is instead regulated by the faculty jurisdiction, and obtaining a faculty – a licence to carry out works, including installation of new heating systems – involves working closely with the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC).

These were the challenges that Potterton Commercial and Christopher Dunphy Ecclesiastical (CDE) Limited faced when they were asked to fit a new heating system in Thaxted Church in Dunstow, a Grade One listed building dating to the 14th century. Unfortunately, the church’s congregation had started to dwindle due to its ineffective heating system which created an ambient temperature of only 8°C in summer and as low as 4-6°C in winter. The main challenge for installers, CDE Limited, was to design a system that provided effective heating without having an adverse impact on the interior or fabric of the period building.

The original boiler room at the church was underground, meaning an 80m gas line was required to effectively create a new boiler room above ground, in the main church. Understandably, to preserve the character of the listed building, the church did not want the boilers to be visible. The project team specified three Potterton Commercial 110kW Sirius WH boilers – a market leading range with a modulation rate of 9:1. Sirius boilers feature a stainless steel heat exchanger designed for maximum combustion performance and energy efficiency. Both Potterton Commercial and CDE Limited worked closely with the local diocese architect to ensure the system was carefully planned and approved.

As Potterton Commercial’s Sirius boilers are so compact, the team could locate them in the Vestry in the centre of the church where they could be completely concealed by using WH (wall hung) cascade frames. Despite being inside the church, the quietness of the Sirius boilers meant that they did not disturb services in the church whilst in operation. In addition to the boilers, the team specified 30 new radiators, which were strategically placed around the building to keep them discreet, and additional under-pew heaters for extra comfort and warmth. A ‘Spirotech’ controller was also installed to allow centralised control. Particular care was taken to ensure the temperature around the organ was kept at an optimum level because it is one of only two of its kind in the country – with the other in Westminster Abbey. To help preserve its condition, several TRVs were added for extra control in this area.

The project was completed in only six weeks from the first site visit, whilst remaining sensitive to the needs of a living, working church which also hosts community groups in its hall. Like Thaxted church, Left Bank multi-disciplinary arts venue in Leeds, based in the former St Margaret of Antioch church building in Headingly, is also a key feature of the local community. However, the church was closed for worship in the mid-1990s as congregation numbers dwindled and the abandoned building fell into disrepair. It was bought by a Christian group in 2001 who wanted to breathe new life into the Victorian building and make it a focus once again for local residents.

In 2016, Christopher Dunphy Ecclesiastical Limited was approached about installing an energy efficient heating solution in the former church. A complete heating system was installed, including two Potterton Sirius Two WH110 kW boilers which provided heat to 51 flat panel radiators. These were painted to match the walls for a more discreet finish. Because use of the rooms at the arts venue does not follow the normal 9-5 pattern of a normal commercial building, its owners needed boilers which could meet fluctuating heat demands. The Sirius Two boilers were specified due to their ability to work in cascade and exceptional modulation ratio of 9:1, offering the arts centre the flexibility required and the ability to save money on their bills.

The boilers came with full frames, which together with their reduced weight, further contributed to protecting the fabric of the building once installed.

To provide the customer with remote access to the heating system from their smart phones via an approved app, a Wi-Fi control system was set up.

Although most historic churches were not designed to be heated to the level of comfort required by today’s standards, modern heating systems can now provide a range of solutions to keep church visitors warm without impacting on the buildings’ aesthetics. These in turn can help churches to retain and attract visitors, and ensure that their impressive structures remain in use for their local communities.

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HEAVENLY HEATING INSTALLATIONS The challenge of heating church buildings

uTwo Potterton Sirius Two WH1 10kw boilers have been installed in Thaxted Church.

The original boiler room at the church was underground, meaning an 80m gas line was required to effectively create a new boiler room above ground, in the main church. Understandably, to preserve the character of the listed building, the church did not want the boilers to be visible.

uThe challenge was to design a heating system that did not have an impact on the interior or fabric of the church.


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