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Heating makes up the bulk of energy costs for the majority of churches. Problems with inadequate heating, together with rising energy bills, make this a key issue for many church communities. See also our information on environmental sustainability.
See below for CTfC tips on
- energy suppliers
- getting the best from your current heating system
- new heating systems
- advice on energy efficiency
See also case studies of renewable heating and energy systems being trialled in churches.
Carlisle Diocese has guidance on the levels of lighting in churches.
English Heritage also has some guidance on lighting as does the Church of England's ChurchCare. You can read an article on low carbon lighting in cathedrals here.
It is a good idea to visit other churches to see if you like their lighting and find out who did it. Your church architect may be able to provide some ideas. Lighting is very effective in creating an atmosphere. Wreay Church near Carlisle has superb lighting which really highlights some of the building's interesting features. Our Trade & Professions directory has contacts for lighting specialists.
Changing your energy supplier: one of the simplest ways of reducing your energy bills is ensuring you are on the most competitive tariff. When choosing a “green” electricity supplier you should be aware that their credentials vary
- You may wish to limit your search to renewable electricity suppliers for environmental or ethical reasons. If you are unsure, you can check the C/E view .
- Faiths4Change has a deal with Ecotricity, a company investing in windturbines, who will provide a quote free of obligation.
- A number of businesses provide a price comparison service, for example Energy Choices. Remember to ask for business rather than domestic tariffs.
- Bulk buying to reduce costs. By organising one delivery of oil a month, residents of Plumbland, nr Cockermouth have saved 2p/litre. Each month residents tell the voluntary coordinator what they need. The coordinator (who managed to agree a favourable deal with a fuel supplier thanks to the guaranteed custom) submits an order and the fuel is delivered the next month on one day. This also reduces transport costs for the fuel supplier. People pay directly to the fuel supplier so that the job isn't onerous for the coordinator. A similar scheme has also set up in Great Salkeld nr Penrith. Action with Communities in Cumbria (ACT) has guidance on organizing community buying of oil and has a case study on an oil buying syndicate in the Northern Fells.
Improving performance of your existing heating system
- See SPAB's advice on servicing of heating systems to help optimise their performance.
- Heating systems also need to be controlled properly in order to maximise their efficiency. This may be a simple as knowing how many hours before an event you need to put the heating on (depending on the weather), and ensuring it is turned off again as soon as it is no longer needed.
- If your church is regularly used, or you have a background heating system, you will need more sophisticated heating controls. These should ideally be capable of turning the heating off automatically both when the church has reached the required temperature, and at times when heat is not required.
- Most churches are poor at retaining heat. Heat is lost into the walls and through the roof, and cold draughts add to discomfort. The importance of improving insulation and air tightness increases the more you heat your church. When a church is often used by a small group of people it is often worth exploring whether a small meeting room or chapel can be created within the body of the church that can be heated independently.
New heating systems
- When considering a new heating system, bear in mind the two main reasons for heating a church building: to keep the church dry and so protect the fabric of the building: and to provide comfort for the occupants.
- Historic churches not in daily use require a very different approach to to a private home, or a re-ordered church building which has been insulated and is used daily by the community. See a brief explanation about radiant heating.
- In winter it is not feasible to raise air and wall temperature of an historic church to a comfortable indoor temperature for weekly use. Instead, it will be necessary to use some form of instant heat for comfort and rely on background heat to keep the church dry.
- A useful checklist on installing a heating system is available from Churchcare CDI, alongside some details of different electric heating systems. Information on obtaining consent to install a heating system is specific to the Church of England, the rest is relevant to all places of worship.
- Within Carlisle Diocese there is no need to approach a Diocesan Heating Advisor prior to developing proposals, but contact the Diocesan Advisory Committee as soon as a proposed scheme is available.
- You can ask an installer to visit your church to help specify a heating system. However, many installers specialise in one type of heating, so seek independent advice first. Companies specialising in church heating can be found by entering “church heating” into an internet search engine such as Google.
- If you want a second opinion on advice you have received, you could use the AECB internet forum
Grants may be available for installing some renewable energy systems in places of worship and other community buildings. See our funding page.
See next page for energy efficiency and microgeneration