A very happy New Year to everybody. Let’s hope it’s a good one: a group of volunteers is progressing plans for the Jubilee Celebration in June and some dedicated gardeners are already preparing for Open Gardens the following week. If ‘the usual suspects’ haven’t exhausted ourselves, July may see the return of Froyle Fete. Covid permitting, the Committee must find a way of restarting our film shows and more generally increase the useage of the Hall
Working with the Parish Council, another important challenge for the coming year is to think about what additional facilities the Hall can offer residents. At the AGM we considered a glazed roof over part of the patio or, less ambitiously, an awning. Could we find a way of adding another loo accessible from the outside? Is there a more productive use for the space at the far end of the patio outside the storeroom? And what about activities inside the hall. In the past we have considered investing in a bowling alley. Do we need a better piano? There must be enough musicians in the village to form a scratch band. Would anyone enjoy a table tennis evening? Given the enthusiastic dancing which was such a feature of the Froyle Festival, what about a monthly hop. At least we wouldn’t need the heating on. The Village Hall Committee is always ready to support and encourage residents who have ideas for new uses and groups of users for the hall. Despite Covid and partly because of it, 2021 has been a very busy year for all those who help run the hall. We are pleased that we have recruited some younger residents to help share the load but we will need more volunteers if the Hall is to remain at the heart of the community.
I write this in early December with Storm Barra propelling sheets of rain against the house. Yet again I ring our roofing contractor and explain that the flashing on the Village Hall solar panels has come adrift and water is leaking through the ceiling and forming a puddle on the floor. They are sympathetic as usual but I sense we are no longer a priority. I am promised a call back as I was last time. I have begun to doubt the wisdom of buying high tech integrated panels which form part of the roof rather than the more conventional ones which are installed above the roof tiles. Aesthetically they look much better but if they leak ….. Perhaps this is why the contractor no longer fits them. I make a call to the National Federation of Roofing Contractors who for 125 years have been maintaining standards in the roofing business. However no one in their large and extensive membership combines expertise in roofing and solar and who might be able to offer assistance. Given that every existing and yet-to-be-built south facing roof has the potential to help mitegate the impact of climate change, I find this extraordinary. But then I hear about increased workloads, shortage of skilled labour, scarcity of materials and escalating costs. For the time being the only option appears to be a strategically placed bucket.
2022 is also the year when the Village Hall Committee along with everybody else is committed to finding ways to reduce our so called carbon foot print. In other words we must try to make the hall more energy efficient. We have made a good start. The walls and the ceiling are insulated. We have installed LED lighting. We have double glazing. Our boiler is relatively new. However our leaking solar panels while earning an income do little to lower our fuel consumption. The problem is that on a sunny day when we are generating lots of electricity we need neither heating or lighting so the electricity is just fed back into the grid. We could install a battery. But the cost is very high, the technology is likely to change and finding impartial expert advice on what to buy very difficult. We should certainly investigate air or ground source heat pumps which would use the electricity we generate. Such systems operate at much lower temperatures than our existing gas central heating so we would need a much greater surface area of radiator. Ideally we would dig up the floor and lay heating pipes underneath. Can you imagine the cost, the disruption and ongoing maintenance? But we will have to bite this bullet when we are no longer able to replace the gas boiler. Perhaps some new technology will be invented which provides an easier solution. Let’s hope so.
Meanwhile we have a relatively sophisticated system for controlling the heating, at least I thought so initially. Over the internet from the comfort of my study I can set the heating to turn on and off according to the useage of the hall. But the erratic use of the hall creates problems. If the hall is not used for several days and the heating is off it gets progressively colder. To then raise the temperature to say 20 degrees for a booking, the heat has to be turned on the day before to avoid overtaxing the boiler. I have more or less to guess at the offset. What puzzles me is why the system with a bit of artificail intelligence can’t work it out for me as it knows when I want the temperature to be 20 degrees. It knows the temperature in the hall and outside the hall. (We have weather compensation!) It knows or should be able to work out the heat loss of the hall and the solar gain when the sun shines. There should be an algorithm to calculate it all, but as far as I am aware there isn’t. So we compromise. When the heating is off I set the temperature so it doesn’t drop below 16 degrees and when it is on it shouldn’t rise above 20 degrees. This means that when you arrive for your booking the hall should be warm on all but the coldest days. It also explains why the hall will be found to be fairly warm on days when it is not in use. We are trying hard not to contibute more to global warming than we feel we have to. Comment welcome particularly from heating engineers.
As I suggested above, one conclusion is that during 2022 we should try to increase the useage of the hall. To that end we have revised the tariff to permit shorter bookings for which there is some demand. We have slightly increased the cost of weekend hire. We have done out best to keep down the cost for residents.