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Renewable energy success for village church

Several years ago, St Andrew’s in Sandford-on-Thames installed a ground source heat pump to provide renewable heat to the church. The successful project now means that community groups, congregants and visitors enjoy a warm welcome all year round, at a lower cost to the planet.

Moving to renewable energy was the idea of the vicar, Revd Robert Morgan, who wanted to utilise a funding reserve for positive use on a project with a longer term payback. The church is a Grade II* listed building with a large churchyard, and is located in a small village on the outskirts of Oxford. The church has a mixture of pews, a flexible space for a creche, and a chancel with an organ.

Installing the ground source heat pump involved drilling bore holes deep into the ground to extract the low grade heat, which is then compressed by a heat pump before being sent via pipework into an underfloor heating system in the church. In the case of St Andrew’s, the bore holes were drilled in the churchyard, away from the graves, and the pipework runs under the path back to the church.


The installation of the project took six weeks, once faculty and planning permission had been obtained. The only planning permission required was for a small container unit in the churchyard for the ground source heat pump.

The church maintains a temperature of between 17 and 18 degrees all year round, with no supplementary heating required. And although the ground source heat pump is expensive to install, boreholes are expected to last in excess of 60 years and the heat pump compressor unit some 25 years.

Neil Lawson oversaw the heat pump project, and is a member of the congregation at St Andrew’s. He commented:

It was great to see our vicar so forward thinking and wanting to decarbonize our 1000 year old Church by embracing a quirk of physics. Before long Bob’s drive and enthusiasm had the whole council on-board. For the first time in the history of the Church, you could sit in the pews wearing just a shirt on Christmas day.

To find out more about renewable heating for your church, visit our Eco Hub or Email us to join. You may wish to have an energy audit to find out what options are available to your particular church.

The Diocese of Oxford has a target to reach net zero carbon by 2035, reducing emissions as far as possible across our churches, schools, offices and clergy housing. Find out more about our plans. 

Page last updated: Wednesday 15th November 2023 1:39 PM
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