New life for old school near Llangollen

Reporter:

Alan Davies

A historic village school which closed more than 30 years ago has been given a new lease of life in its second career as a community centre after going ‘green’.

Pentredwr School opened in 1909 when the village near Llangollen was the home to many of the quarrymen at the Berwyn Slate Quarry on the Horseshoe Pass.

Then the 60 pupils were kept warm through the winter by two open coal fires, but now a sophisticated air-source heating system has been installed by specialist Hafod Renewables.

Two highly efficient units have been fitted to the rear of the building to take heat energy from the air even on the coldest winter’s night and convert it to warm the large high-ceilinged main room.

The £5,000 system, paid for by a grant from the Waterloo Foundation which supports eco-friendly projects in Wales, complements an array of solar panels on the roof and is part of a £200,000 refurbishment designed to bring the building up to date and make it more user-friendly for the community.

David Jones, managing director of Hafod Renewables and a former pupil at Holywell High School, said: “The new system will now heat the room effectively and in fact air-source systems are extremely
good at heating large spaces like this.

“It acts like a fridge in reverse – the back of a fridge is hot while the interior is cold and this just reverses the process so that the room is heated while the outside is cold.

“It should work very well here in combination with the solar panels and the air-source system can be set to low level heart all the time which can easily and quickly be raised so it’s ready for use in less than an hour on the coldest night.”

The renovation of the community centre has been carried out by Pentredwr Community Association and local resident David Crane, from nearby Eglwyseg, handled the grants for the renewable aspects of the transformation of the Ruabon brick building.

He is delighted at the progress of the building which now provides facilities for everything from caving and mountaineering to Zumba classes.

He said: “We originally bought the property from Denbighshire Council just before 2000 for £6,000 and we’re now in the process of an update that will make the
building much more community friendly.

“It used to be heated by three large electric wall heaters which were very inefficient and cost a huge amount and there have been damp problems too.

“But there are 30 local organisations here and more in the surrounding area who would be interested and we have groups like the North Wales Cavers, climbing clubs and the Duke of Edinburgh Awards which use it.

“There are kitchen facilities and the plan is to terrace the grounds so they will be suitable as a campsite and Denbighshire County Council are installing new toilets so the facilities here will be really excellent.

“We’re also looking at taking someone on part-time who can organise events here and really ramp up the activities.”

Hafod Renewables, which was founded in Denbigh in 2010 by David Jones and his father, Richard, now employs nine staff and has become a key player in North Wales in the installation of non-solar systems such as air and ground-source heating and biomass and this sector now accounts for over 60per cent of its business.

David Jones said: “We have been successful by being versatile and not relying on the solar sector and by using only our own dedicated teams of installers.

“Over the last 12 months a number of innovative new products have come onto the market and I believe it is vital to stay abreast of what is a rapidly developing industry because that’s the way to continue to grow the business.

“These products like the high temperature air-source system, which can be retro-fitted to older properties, are revolutionising the market and can provide heating even when it’s -20C outside.

“The system absorbs heat from the air into a liquid at a low temperature, then a compressor increases the temperature of that heat which warms air which is then blown into the room.

“In the summer it can also be operated in reverse so it becomes an air-conditioning unit to provide cool air.”

Email:

alan.davies@nwn.co.uk

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