Ensuring that church attendance remains high during the coldest winter months requires the environment to be warm and inviting, but heating a church is not easily done. Many UK churches date back a century or two, which means stone walls, draughty doors and, of course, those high vaulted ceilings; none of which are conducive to heat retention. Before considering the best heating methods some remodelling will be necessary that will provide greater insulation. Other aspects to be considered are the Church of England’s campaign to help churches shrink their carbon footprint and the fact that churches are not in constant need of heat.
While some methods of heating a church may prove more effective than others, the fact that the church is not in constant use may not justify the cost involved. Therefore, heating must be cost effective as well as suitable for occasional use.
Heated pipes require continuous use to be effective and cannot be placed close to pews as they may damage the wood. Convectors, although suitable for occasional use, usually just warm the air, which then rises resulting in a cold congregation and toasty rafters. Electric radiant heaters are among the simplest to install. They do provide adequate heat and are suitable for occasional use. This type of heater does need to be strategically placed, so that they do not have a negative impact on fabrics. Storage heaters also have the least amount of negative influence on surrounding structures, but it is difficult to control their use effectively.
Based on architectural design, individual church bodies will need to decide which heating method best suits them. Consulting with professionals will always produce the best results and they will also be well acquainted with environmental issues and renewable energy sources. It is then purely a matter of budget.