21 Sep 2018

As most churches are hundreds of years old, many are fitted with old and inefficient heating systems. In order to become more energy efficient, churches need to install a cost effective and sustainable solution that will not only saves money but ensures the heat targets all the right areas.

Tansun has highlighted the four methods typically used to heat churches, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. These are underfloor heating, infrared heaters, gas heating and pew heaters.

Using underfloor heating

Underfloor heating is installed underneath the flooring to either heat the floor or to act as the main source of heating in the church. The two main forms of underfloor heating are electric systems and water heating systems. The electric underfloor heating systems are usually the most commonly used due to them being easy to install and causing less disruption.

Underfloor heating is known for being energy efficient, as both electric and water underfloor heating systems provide consistent and efficient heating. It keeps heating costs down and means there is more space available in the church and it is not visible to visitors.

After the underfloor heating is installed, it is virtually maintenance-free and is compatible with controllers and thermostats, and as it is under the floor, the congregation will not have to risk bumping into hot surfaces or the sharp edges which are usually associated with old heating systems.

The cost of installing underfloor heating can be a major disadvantage, as the price can rise very quickly, especially for churches with large floor areas. Estimated costs for installation fall between £75 to £100 per square metre depending on the type of underfloor heating system installed. It takes a few days to install, but electric underfloor heating systems can require a self-levelling compound to be applied on top. Water-based underfloor heating will take longer to be installed and can take up to a week to be fitted. Installing an underfloor heating system usually results in increasing the floor height by a few centimetres, and this can be an issue for some churches.

The advantages of infrared heating

Infrared heaters are innovative and energy-efficient and take advantage of infrared heat. Infrared heat travels directly from the heater to the area requiring the warmth, without heating the air in between, making infrared space heaters ideal for heating churches with large open spaces and high ceilings.

Infrared heaters are one of the most energy efficient heating systems on the market as they use shortwave infrared heat which directly targets those that require the heat. This means little or no heat is lost to the surroundings. They are also cost effective as the heaters only need to be switched on when the heat is required, which greatly reduces the heating costs for churches, particularly during the winter months.

As the infrared space heaters use shortwave infrared heat, heat is provided as soon as the heaters are switched on. They are easy to install and can be mounted on the walls or ceilings of churches with Tansun’s range of versatile bracketry. No maintenance is required as Tansun’s heaters are designed to ‘fit and forget’ and can be controlled with the company’s range of controllers.

Due to their power, the infrared heaters can be mounted so they are not obtrusive and can cover a very wide area. Infrared heaters are usually installed out of the reach of people and contain a protective metal sheath that guards the heating elements, making them extremely safe for places in the public domain. No noise is emitted from the heaters and they are environmentally friendly, and infrared heating is classed as green energy because no direct carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide emissions are released.

Infrared heaters can suffer from heat diminishment, as after the heaters are switched off the warmth diminishes quickly, unlike conventional heating systems. Infrared heaters can also be obtrusive, as even though their elegant and modern design may be on trend when they are installed into traditional churches they stand out from the infrastructure and architecture.

How gas heating is used

Gas heating is most commonly used as a central heating system, providing comforting warmth to the inside of a church. Gas heaters are a type of space heater that burns natural gas and is used to heat a room or the large open space to an ambient temperature.

Gas is an efficient fuel, with some modern gas heaters being more than 90% efficient. It is easily obtained, especially for churches already with a standard gas boiler, and replacing the gas heating system with a new modern version is usually straightforward. It is also simple to fix, as with gas being one of the most common heating systems in the UK it is easy to find heating engineers.

Although popular, gas heating is not environmentally friendly as gas heaters use fossil fuels which release carbon dioxide when burned. Installations can be costly and fitting a gas heating system in the church can be expensive, especially in rural areas. If a church is not on the gas network, connecting it incurs extra costs. As well as being expensive, installations are often disruptive and time consuming. Pre-heating is also required, and systems may need to be turned on a few days in advance which drives up heating costs.

Pew heating as an option

Pew heating is a modern type of electrical heating system designed specifically for church heating. The heating element is fixed to the pew’s seating and provides local heating directly into the surface.

Pew heating is a good source of direct heat as it heats the churchgoers and not the air. It provides an even heat distribution as the electric heating element is conductive over the whole layer of the pew, resulting in the heat being evenly distributed. This type of system is also maintenance-free as pew heating does not require refurbishment, meaning their life time is greater than most alternatives.

Pew heating also has a low pre-heating time, meaning they only need to be switched on about 10 minutes before the church service and the heaters are silent.

A disadvantage of pew heating is only the seating area is heated, so those visiting the churches and not sitting in the pews remain cold. The initial costs are high, as while pew heaters cost considerably less than gas or underfloor heating systems, if the church is quite large with many pews the costs can be substantial.

While gas and underfloor heating used to be the most common form of heating systems for churches, in this modern age these types of old heating systems are considered inefficient and costly. Modern innovative heating systems like pew heaters and infrared heaters use electric heating, so are considered efficient and environmentally friendly.

Final word

Whilst there are many heating options available for churches, infrared heaters offer maximum performance and very low running costs. They are designed with a ‘fit and forget’ reputation, are reliable, durable and virtually maintenance-free. Features include extruded aluminium heat sinks to keep heaters cool for better reliability. Tansun’s shortwave technology is also noiseless, doesn’t contribute to air pollution and is compatible with a full range of energy-saving controllers which further enhance the efficiency of the products.

Further information is available from Tansun on 0121 580 6200, by emailing or by visiting the company’s website at .