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A New Heating System for Old Saint Paul’s

*** Please note***
In order for the new heating system installed in time for the winter, you now have until Friday 2nd August to comment on the proposals. Once the Vestry has taken account of your comments, it will apply for diocesan consent. Comments should be emailed to


Our current gas-fired heating system is increasingly ineffective, is breaking down, and is irreparable. It is also complex and costly to operate, and seriously eco-unfriendly. Complaints about the coldness of the church are frequent, and the coldness is keeping some of our members away.


The Vestry has therefore determined that we should replace the current system with one that would be:

    • More effective
    • Better for the environment
    • Less expensive and complex to run

Feasible Options

The Vestry commissioned a feasibility study of options for low-carbon heating systems for the church from consulting building-services engineers Max Fordham. Max Fordham’s report set out that there are two options to heat OSP that would meet our objectives.

Electric under floor heating powered by an air-source heat pump

This option would in theory meet some of the objectives for a new heating system, but has several fundamental drawbacks. It would be costly and disruptive to install and would require a new Nave floor, requiring the involvement of an architect and other professionals in a complex consent, design and construction process. The associated air-source heat pump could only be located in a small number of locations: in the Memorial Garden, the balcony outside the choir vestry, or mounted on the back wall of the church: none would be ideal and would need separate consents.

The operational principle of underfloor systems in large interiors is that they build up and release heat slowly. This does not suit the usage patterns of OSP and the constant-heat system would be costly to run unless the main body of the church were to be used much more frequently. Max Fordham did not recommend this option and the Vestry did not explore it further.

Electric radiant heaters

This option would meet all the objectives for a new system and would be affordable and straightforward in all aspects. Electric radiant heaters use infra-red radiation, like the sun. This heats the objects the radiation strikes – the people – rather than the air around them (which is what the present convection hot-air-system does).

Electric radiant heaters and their power cables would be discreetly mounted in the church interiors, making the system a light-touch and wholly reversible change to the building, which is a key consideration in building conservation terms. It also involves a lower capital outlay and lower running costs than underfloor heating (assuming the usage of the church does not significantly increase) and would be simpler and faster to install.

The system would have a fairly rapid heating up time (as it heats people rather than the air mass) and would also allow for zoning of the church, so that for example only one of the chapels or the front of the Nave could be heated. This would be both cost and energy efficient.

Max Fordham advised that this kind of heating system is becoming very common for churches and recommended it as the preferred option. The Vestry has accepted this recommendation and scoped out options for the actual design from three potential contractors.

The Proposed Design

There are several types of electric radiant heaters that would need to be combined to heat OSP:

    • Heaters fitted in chandeliers
    • Heaters located under fixed pews
    • Heaters mounted on walls


Heaters fitted in purpose-built chandeliers are the best option in the Nave. As shown in the visualisation, the chandelier heaters would hang in two rows down the Nave, aligned on the columns that divide into bays. Hanging 3.2 meters above the floor, above the level of the pulpit’s tester (canopy), they would not block the congregation’s view of the pulpit, the lectern or the sightlines of the live-stream cameras.

Photo showing the proposed chandelier

Credit: OSP/Electric Heating Solutions

Other options were tested. For example, wall-mounted heaters, to reduce the visual impact. However, these are not practical, as the heat would not reach those seated near the central aisle, while those seated closest to the walls would be over-heated. Strip heaters were also considered, but would only be effective if a large number were installed and the resulting visual impact would be greater than the chandeliers. Consequently, the Vestry has ruled out both options.

We are used to the openness of OSP’s Nave with no visual clutter. However, when the church was originally lit with electric lighting in the early twentieth century, there were suspended light fittings in the Nave (see image). These may only have been removed when the present uplighters were installed.

The proposed chandelier heaters can also be used to mount lights. If we do away with the high-level lights in the Nave (at the same time as installing the chandeliers), maintenance complexity and cost for lighting would be greatly reduced. The quality and colour of the light would also be improved and would be closer to the congregation’s heads meaning better light to read (our current high-level lights mainly illuminate the underside of the roof).

Electric radiant heaters glow when in use, which might affect the way services during which the church should be in darkness look. However absolute darkness is limited to a small part of a few services per annum, and the heaters could be turned off when the lights were also turned off.

Photo showing a comparison of lighting in the Nave c. 1930 and with the proposed electric radiant heaters.

Credit: OSP/Electric Heating Solutions


Under-pew heaters are recommended for the choir, as being the least visually intrusive (in effect invisible) option.


Hanging heaters are not recommended at either the high altar or in the two chapels as their visual impact would be highly detrimental, and the clergy and servers are anyway sufficiently warmly vested.

Lady Chapel

Two wall-mounted strip heaters are recommended in the chapel, installed above two of the three arches that divide the chapel from the Nave (with no heater at the altar end of the chapel).

Memorial Chapel

A single wall-mounted strip heated mounted on the wall facing the altar is recommended here. This would have the least visual impact and would warm those seated in the congregational area of the chapel.

Photo showing a church with proposed wall-mounted heaters for the Memorial Chapel

Credit: OSP/Electric Heating Solutions

Canon 35 Consent

For the project to go ahead the Vestry would need to obtain Canon 35 consent from the Diocese of Edinburgh. Part of this consent procedure is that the congregation is consulted about the proposals.

Cost and Funding

Having received competitive quotations from three potential contractors, the Vestry considers the proposal of Electric Heating Solutions as the most competent, lowest risk, and best value for money. They are also the most experienced of the three contractors in this kind of church project. The cost of the new system, including installation and VAT, would be just under £110,000.

So far, £40,000 has been most generously donated by members of the congregation, and we hope that further congregational donations will follow. The remainder will be met by budgeted investment from church funds and from grants by bodies which support churches in environmental projects like this.


The Vestry commends the proposed new heating system to the congregation and welcomes your views. Please send any comments to

Photo showing proposed heat map coverage by Electric Heating Solutions

Credit: OSP/Electric Heating Solutions