Work is underway to fit St Giles’ new form state-of-the-art, eco-friendly, cost effective heating system to keep its congregation cosy and give a warm welcome to visitors on even the chilliest of days – and all donations towards what the PCC is light-heartedly referring to as its ‘rosy cheeks’ appeal it will be warmly appreciated (excuse the pun!)
The move comes as the current oil-powered central heating system nears the end of its viability – an old boiler burning fossil fuels that is costly to run and not particularly effective. After exhaustive studies, Pew Heating has been selected as the church’s new source of warmth. This new system works by fitting each seating area with padded cushions that have electric elements within them, a bit like heated seats in cars, or electric blankets – as shown here, at another church that has already fitted them. Heat is released from a cushion only when someone sits on it, maximising efficiency (see foot of page). Additional electric panels can be installed in selected other areas where heating through seating is not the solution.
Churchwarden Ginny Barrett said: “Advice from the diocese and all other experts is that the best approach going forward for rural churches like ours is to provide heating for people rather than the entire building. We are also being encouraged to become carbon neutral as soon as possible. “So, after looking very carefully at all options, pew heating is the first step in a new approach to warming our church – and potentially it will be the complete answer to our needs. Once it is in place and fully tried and tested, we can then assess whether additional forms of warmth are necessary.”
The approach being adopted should also reduce condensation, which can harm the fabric of the building and which occurs more readily in buildings that are infrequently heated and then left cold.
As part of the research process, several PCC members visited other churches that had installed this pew heating system – and people at all of them spoke well of it. It has also received positive reviews in publications ranging from ecclesiastical journals to The Sun newspaper. Several demonstrations have also been staged at St Giles, enabling members of the congregation to try it out and check that it will be in keeping with the historic building.
It is costing a little more than £12,000 to install in Graffham’s village church. A generous member of the congregation has pledged £5,000 towards it – £6,250 once Gift Aid is added, covering half the price. Other donations have been made by other parishioners – and the Beatrice Laing Foundation has gifted another £5,000. Further funding may be available via various grants, and other parishioners are being invited to contribute via the ‘rosy cheeks’ appeal. If donations and grants don’t cover the full cost, the PCC has some reserves available, built up in recent years through St Giles’ Christmas Fairs and other fund-raising initiatives.
Churchwarden Ginny added: “This up-front investment compares favourably with most alternatives, and it is expected to cost just one pound per church service to run, which is astonishingly low in comparison to more traditional systems, powered by environmentally unfriendly oil or gas.” The next step, which is already in progress, is to seek the diocese authorities’ blessing for fitting the new system, with the aim to have it installed ahead of the return of the autumn chills.
How pew heating works: Electric cushions are fitted to the top of pew seats and emit heat when someone sits on them (left). As any student of physics knows, heat rises, so warmth from conventional systems in large spaces like churches rises to the rafters , while pew heating (right) is directed at people.