Shadow Industrial, a UK shortwave infrared heating specialist, recently helped St. Helen’s Chapel, in Colchester, Essex, specify and install a low-carbon heating system, keeping the congregation warm and costs down.

Installing 14 of its powerful ceiling hung and wall-mounted heaters and 16 controllers from scratch, the new system has given visitors a warm, comfortable and sustainable place to worship, whatever the weather.

Taking a closer look at the project…

Futureproofing sensitively

Reducing energy consumption and increasing its efficiency is a goal that touches on every part of UK business and industry, especially against the backdrop of the drive towards Net Zero 2050.

It’s especially important for the UK’s Eastern Orthodox Church, which has over 250 properties nationwide. With strict and ambitious ESG commitments, futureproofing these assets in the face of tighter climate change regulation, whilst delivering their core function is a real challenge.

Some of its sites are centuries old, and it can be difficult to upgrade facilities here. One particular area of concern is how to heat these large, high-ceilinged, and poorly insulated structures. Crucially, visitors need to be comfortable, but simultaneously ensure utility bills and waste are kept to a bare minimum.

Warming-up the congregation

It was an issue at the forefront of the church’s mind when they took over the lease of St Helen’s Chapel, Colchester, Essex in September 2020; especially as the 16th Century, Grade-II building had no existing HVAC system.

The congregation bore the brunt of this unfortunate situation over three consecutive winters, where temperatures would sometimes plummet down to 1°C. It made the church a particularly uncomfortable place to worship.

Initial use of oil-fired heaters proved futile, failing to provide the necessary levels of warmth and releasing a large amount of CO2. Next, industrial fan heaters were introduced, to little effect; noisy, they also proved a significant disruption to services.

Following further research, they decided to trial shortwave infrared heating, approaching Shadow Industrial on the recommendation of their electrician, who had installed its solutions on previous projects.

A heating revelation

Shortwave infrared heating is one of the fastest-growing and disruptive categories in the heating and ventilation sector.

Simply, the technology works by emitting focused radiant heat through a precision-engineered smooth parabola reflector; it heats the person, not the air around them. Wall-mounted and directed downward at individuals, the energy creates a comfortable and instant warmth, mimicking the gentle heat of the sun.

It’s fast-becoming a popular in historic ecclesiastical buildings as it’s easy to install, with limited impact on the structural fabric, in addition to its effective heating function and low energy consumption. It is also unaffected by changes in air movement, making it particularly efficacious in drafty settings such as those found in heritage sites, like St. Helen’s Chapel.

Unrivalled performance, at a reasonable price

Installed in 2023, Shadow Industrial’s systems have significantly improved the comfort of congregants, allowing them to remove coats during services. The impact was particularly felt among older people and children, for whom extreme cold can have an adverse impact on health during extended services.

Initially, the client was worried their tight budget would not be enough to fully equip the church’s interiors with heaters. However, it proved far cheaper than traditional electric or gas central heating. The entire system and installation totalled £20,000. Putting this in context, they were initially quoted £100,000 for underfloor heating; this represents a massive 80% upfront saving, with greater performance – a no brainer decision.

Commenting on the project, Shadow Industrial’s founder, Steve Levy, says, “We are deeply committed to the preservation and longevity of heritage buildings. With a focus on comfort, we have successfully executed numerous heating projects with this in mind, of which St. Helen’s Chapel is the latest. It’s such an important local landmark and it was great to be able to provide a solution that benefits all those who work, volunteer, and pray here.”

Father Mark Shillaker added, “Shadow Industrial’s infrared heating systems have had a transformative effect. Now visitors can worship in maximum comfort even on the chilliest winter mornings. In fact, since we’ve installed these heaters we’ve actually seen an uptick in service attendance. Many thanks to Shadow Industrial and its team for their expertise and ongoing support.”

Shadow Industrial’s electric heating systems, present a low-carbon, net-zero alternative ideal for heritage structures, churches, and culturally significant buildings. They even align with The Church of England’s Heat Decarbonisation Plan, offering compliance and sustainability in a non-intrusive way.

To find out more about Shadow Industrial’s infrared heating systems, click here.