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New chandelier heating system a ‘game-changer’ for Bristol church

21 July 2023

St Matthew’s, Kingsdown, cut the cost of its heating by up to 90 per cent

BRISTOL DIOCESE

Chandeliers containing radiant heaters are suspended from the ceiling of St Matthew’s, Kingsdown, in Bristol

Chandeliers containing radiant heaters are suspended from the ceiling of St Matthew’s, Kingsdown, in Bristol

KEEPING a congregation warm has always been a problem; but one church has successfully conducted trials of a system that cut the cost of heating by up to 90 per cent.

Over the past two winters, a series of radiant heaters — such as electric bar fires — have been suspended in circular chandeliers from the ceiling of St Matthew’s, Kingsdown, in Bristol. “The chandeliers are clearly different, but people have felt warm even throughout the coldest period, back in January,” the treasurer, Andrew Wood, said. “For us, the costs can be as low as £10 per Sunday service to run the radiant heaters for one to two hours. In comparison, the gas system, which must run on full for many hours in advance of a service, could be costing us up to £100 per service on cold days.”

The new fittings were conceived by a local architect, Simon Pugh-Jones, who chairs the diocesan advisory committee and is an honorary lay canon of Bristol Cathedral. He said that he knew radiant heating was good in theory, but that it had often been delivered poorly. “I could see that targeted, instant radiant heating could be a game-changer, but it had the reputation for unattractive fittings and very harsh heating effects,” he said.

He took his designs to the Bristol-based heating specialists Herschel Infrared, which turned them into reality. “Initial tests of the prototype exceeded our expectations,” the company’s founder and chief executive, Paul Morey, said. “The fitting looked amazing, and the effect was like a gentle bubble of heat. We knew we were on to something, and that we needed to try them in a real church setting.”

The parish was persuaded to turn off its traditional gas-fired heating, despite expecting that, while the system had lower installation costs than the alternatives, running costs would be higher because of the change to electricity, especially during the energy crisis. The two-year trial found, however, that it was so efficient that running costs dropped, too.

“The trial shows that this works,” Mr Pugh-Jones said. “If it works here, it could be an excellent means of zero-carbon heating for other churches. In the context of a cost-of-energy crisis, this could save a lot of money, and enable church buildings to stay financially viable.

“In the context of a climate crisis, this could be a huge step towards net zero — a means by which parishes can act to make a real difference to the planet.”

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