Solar power and new heating – improvements for our centenary

The committee of Pant Memorial Institute are delighted to announce that we have been awarded funding for major improvements to the hall. The project has three main elements:

  • solar panels to generate electricity, with associated battery storage
  • modern heating
  • improved insulation

Read on to find out more about our plans and the benefits for the hall (and the community).

Part 1 – solar energy generation and batteries

The hall is all-electric due to our location, and the electricity bill is by far our largest expense. We have greatly reduced the costs for lighting with our 2020 project, but the cost of heating has always far outweighed this.

Roof-mounted solar panels are an obvious solution for cleaner energy. Even more obviously, solar panels only generate energy during daylight hours, but the hall is often in use in the evening. Hence the need for batteries so that we can store energy for use when we need it. Any excess will be sold back to the power grid. Battery technology has moved on a lot in the last few years, so we now have sufficient internal space to create a ‘plant room’ for the equipment needed. We hope to take this opportunity to rearrange and refurbish the old bar area to make best use of this space.

Part 2 – improved heating

What we have: The panel heaters in the hall were installed at the 1981 rebuild. They all work, and all electric heaters have the same 100% efficiency. However the controls are very basic which means that we are using more electricity than we should for heating. As a lesser (but still notable) issue, the heaters are scruffy and rather a dirt magnet. The heaters in the main room and kitchen have protective guards due to their surface temperature, which makes cleaning a major exercise. All the guards are different and are difficult to fit and remove.

Heating costs have been included in the hall hire fee since late 2017 – we felt it was time to move on from coin meters. The system has a one hour timer pushbutton which means that the heating cannot be left on by mistake. A separate pushbutton controls the heating for the side room and toilets. It’s all more complex and less efficient than it could be.

What we plan: modern electric heaters correctly sized and positioned for the use of the hall, to create an even temperature throughout. That is not only more comfortable, but uses less energy. We’ll have improved controls while still keeping things simple for everyone. Guards will still be fitted where needed, but everything will be easier to keep clean. (we have some clever ideas about that!)

Changing the heaters is inevitably going to leave some gaps, so the main room will be redecorated when the project is finished – this will make it as smart as the entrance hall. We’ll also take the opportunity to put our commemorative plaques in a better place (not halfway behind the curtains!) and think about what else we might need in the main room.

Part 3 – improved insulation

The hall does have some attic insulation, but it is nowhere near enough for modern standards. We will add more insulation in the ceiling on top of what is already there. We can access this via the ceiling grid.

We added modern underfloor insulation in the entrance lobby and store rooms during the 2018 floor replacement project. The main room has a suspended floor which needs to remain that way. All other parts of the hall are on solid floors.

These three elements will give us a more comfortable hall with lower energy bills and a greatly reduced carbon footprint. That matters to everyone, and makes this project the perfect way to mark the centenary of the hall in 2022.

When will all this happen?

We have a year to spend the money – but we need to get this right! We also need to consider the right order in which to do things, the availability of materials and the availability of the contractors that we need; all of these things are a challenge. And of course we need to minimise disruption to bookings, while still working safely.

The committee have already started our planning meetings and we’ll be working hard to make all this happen. If there’s anyone reading who wants to join us, we always welcome new committee members.

Thank you to our funders

This project would simply be impossible without two generous grant awards. A huge thank you to our funders.

Postcode Local Trust is a grant-giving charity funded entirely by the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery. Pant Memorial Institute received a grant of £20,000 for the solar panels, batteries, and associated works.

The new heating and insulation for Pant Memorial Hall has been made possible by an award of £9,905 from the National Lottery Community Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players. #NationalLottery