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In October 2002, I arrived in the Falkland Islands to take up my new appointment as the new Apostolic Prefect of the Roman Catholic Church in the South Atlantic Ocean. I did not take me too long to discover that the two most expensive demands on my meagre budget is travel and heating. There was nothing much I could do about the former, but I always felt that there was some alternative to the latter – but what? The system that I inherited was a kerosene fired boiler in each of the four buildings on the site of the Church property – each boiler fed by its own fuel storage tank. Initially, the cost of filling thanks came to about £900 per month, but as time went by, and gradual price increases, the cost came to more than twice that amount. Because of the cold climate in this part of the world, is necessary to have the central heating ‘on’ all day (albeit on timers and overdrive should the temperature reach freezing levels outside the programme). This was not an issue for our buildings, except the Church building itself. The Church building is used for only one hour each day, with the possible exception of a funeral, wedding or baptism and an occasional devotion Service (in May & October). However, to get the building up to the right temperature, it had to be on for about two hours prior to the intended use. This meant that the ‘empty’ church was being ‘heated’ for many hours each week, giving the old saying ‘silence is golden’ and entirely new meaning! To add to this situation, the boiler for the Church Building was old and would frequently ‘break down’, often on a Sunday morning. Clearly, something had to be done.
I held an informal discussion over a cup of coffee, and it emerged that perhaps Infra-red heaters might be the answer. So I promised to investigate. I did this by trawling the internet. The more I read the more interested I became. It seemed to be the answer to our need. However, most of the sited seems to be geared to warehouses and large open shopping stores. It was when I came across your web-site that I stopped looking any further. It had a focus on church buildings, accompanied with an attractive photograph of an interior of a large Church. So, for the record, I give top marks for your web designer for coming up with a first class promotional piece of work. I made my initial contact with you firm, and I got a very sympathetic response to the many questions I had about the whole concept of infra-red heating. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was convinced that this is what we should have, and all those (here) who were following the debate, agreed. So, we decide to go ahead with the purchase.Eventually, the consignment arrived on the Island, in June 2014.
We had a fully qualified electrical engineer who agreed to install the equipment as soon as he was available (in fact, within two weeks). On his advice, we had to install an additional and larger capacity electrical wiring system to cope with the extra power load. He Installed, four overhead heaters to cover the main body of the Church building. H was able to wire the thermostat units inconspicuously on a vertical wall posts. He had to leave the project at that point for other professional commitments. But he promised to ‘finish the job’ as soon as he was free. This suited me for more than one reason. Firstly, I did not understand the thermostat programme – so for a while, I manually switched the heaters on and off each day. To work out how early I needed to switch them on prior to use (I settled for two hours). Eventually, I did master the programme, and now I am a veritable expert (ahem).
This was a perfect time to fit the installation, as in June, July and August, it is winter ‘down here’ and some days (ie when the southerly winds are blowing from the Antarctic) it can be very-very-very cold indeed. For the first few weeks, the main body of the Church was warm while the sanctuary (the alter area) was freezing (only I knew how). It was obvious that we needed the fifth overhead heater, and quickly. This was fitted in August and since then the new system has been working like a dream. During this period, let me share with you some observations: All the thermostats are set for (something like) 23c but none have reached that figure. They seem to reach about 13c to 17c. This is not a problem, because the atmosphere in the Church for most of the days is always ‘just as it should be’. On extremely cold days, (not often) the church is still ‘chilly’ during use. But then this is nothing new. When we were on the old ‘oil’ system this was also the case – even when the boiler was going at full blast for hours before the Mass began. The Falkland Islands are not the UK, for sure.
I enclose the photographs you asked for, and also a breakdown of the costs of each overhead heater, from June until the end of November 2014. At last, we have a heating system that is reliable, efficient and economic – in other words, perfect for the Falkland Islands. Everyone that has expressed an opinion has only positive things to say about it. Many, of course, have said nothing. They have not noticed the changeover because the system is so unobtrusive and blends so well into the ambience of the Church it is the last thing on their mind. For me, that is the greatest complement of all.
Mgr Michael Bernard McPartland SMA
Apostolic Prefect of the Falkland Islands