The Community of St Mary the Virgin is committed to managing environmental issues wherever possible. In the slides you can catch a view of how we value and seek to maintain the beauty and diversity and wildness of Creation in our grounds.
The site at Wantage includes a pair of high efficiency gas boilers, giving low carbon emissions, a bank of thermal solar panels, a log burning boiler and a computerised building management system to control everything.
The gas boilers are high efficiency condensing boilers with low emission levels, some 97% to 98% efficient in their use of gas.
The solar panels are mounted on free-standing frames outside the boiler house. They are based around parabolic reflectors, which effectively concentrate the sunlight onto tubes of fluid. When the temperature of the fluid in the panels is higher than the water temperature in the hot water cylinder, the panels contribute to the heating of the hot water. The hot water cylinders themselves are highly efficient, rapid recovery models specifically for use with solar systems.
The log boiler is precision engineered and it is capable of burning dry logs and wood waste. Small amounts of wood chip or pellets can be added to the burn. The boiler heats two well insulated accumulators which, once hot, feed into the main boiler house system providing central heating and hot water. Once the pump from these accumulators is running the gas boilers shut down. If or when the log boilers burn out the gas boilers will restart.
The Building Management System comprises two control units linked to a computer. Any part of the heating and domestic hot water system can be displayed, indicating open valves, which pumps are running and what the temperatures are at specific points in the whole system. It also allows for the control of temperature settings and central heating timings. Ultimately, it is the means by which the two types of boiler, all the pumps and all the various valves and thermostats communicate with each other.
Wood for the log boiler comes from waste pallets of good, dry wood collected from within a mile of the convent, the collections being combined with other journeys to avoid unnecessary additional carbon. On site, timber off cuts from maintenance and logs from pruning are also available. Most of the wood needs to be cut before it can be used; this is done with an electric chainsaw which produces less noise and air pollution than a petrol equivalent.
The Wantage site also includes a Voltage Power Optimiser. Located on the supply side of the electricity meter, it reduces the voltage to the level actually required by modern appliances. In addition, all electricity purchased is from renewable sources.
Recycling is a major initiative and the Community recycles cardboard, plastic bottles, polythene, paper, glass, printer cartridges, batteries, aluminium and steel cans, textiles, scrap metal, small appliances, low energy light bulbs and fluorescent light bulbs. Furthermore, repairs are put before replacements and materials are re-used whenever possible.