HeatHack lets the science-minded of all persuasions loose on a very interesting question:  how can we make Edinburgh’s church halls, worship spaces, and community centres more comfortable on less energy use?   These important community spaces are at risk as energy prices rise, because only commercial operators can afford to run and maintain them – but countless community groups  rely on them.  We have two goals:  collecting the data that energy efficiency consultants and conservation architects need to design building retrofits, and helping property managers and building users understand how heating in these spaces works – which brings up academic research questions in engineering, architecture, computer science, business, and many other disciplines.

We occasionally run exploration events to understand buildings, as well as a “hackerspace” for any who is interested in our question:  people from churches that want to understand their energy use, parents of children in activities in cold church halls who want to help, and people who just want to make stuff and have fun!  We’re working on a sensor network that puts live temperature and humidity monitoring on the web, time lapse photography (for gas meters!), current sensing, data displays, and interactive stalls that convey the problem to the public – but we’re up for anything, as long as it’s interesting, fun, or helps people understand how buildings work.  If you think you don’t know anything useful for our question, think again – past vital contributions have come from an expert knitter, dolls house builder, and angler who otherwise were new to it all.

HeatHack is a collaboration between between City of Edinburgh Methodist Church and Christ Church Morningside and is funded by Scientists in Congregations Scotland,  which explores the interface between contemporary faith and science, and seeks to foster a deeper and better-informed conversation between scientists, clergy and congregations.  They are in turn funded by the John Templeton Foundation.  We are grateful for their support.   Via Science of Church, a University of Edinburgh-led initiative, we also have access to a larger pool of equipment and expertise than would be possible on our charity funding.  This includes equipment bought by the School of Informatics specifically to help HeatHack grow faster and interest students from any of Edinburgh’s educational institutions.   We thank them for this support, and look forward to welcoming all who come to join the fun.Templeton logo

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6 thoughts on “About

  1. I’ve only just heard about heathack. I’m involved with looking after the building at St Columba’s by the Castle, and also a (retired) sort of hacker. I’d be very interested in getting to know more, so that we can improve the comfort level in our church. Like the description of Christchurch, there is a wooden roof with slates directly on top.

  2. Join the club 🙂 ! I need to maybe call in some of the USB dongle radio kit (at someone’s home for testing – it’s easier than what I have to hand) and then there’s only two skills we need to find to start monitoring another site – soldering (which I can’t do yet!) and preferably, cloning SD cards to make things faster. We could certainly assemble the equipment at the next Tuesday night session, which I think is 13 January, or we could try to put together those skills to do it before then. Meanwhile, have a scout round St Columba’s and see if you can find out – where are the meters and what kind of stuff is around them? Is there a wireless network, and does it reach anywhere interesting? What’s the password? Where are the big holes in the wall that radio signals might go through, and the disused electric sockets? These things will help make it faster to deploy it during a visit.

    Hope to see you at some point soon, and that some of the events will be of interest. Early in January, we’ll be thinking about how best to start going faster, maybe by taking up residence in the Methodist basement for full days at a time when there’s a task on.


  3. Hi
    Good luck with the project.

    It would be good to see where heat goes in these “large box” spaces, especially convection and the way heat sits at ceiling level, not where it is needed, and the effect of draughts on comfort levels, especially off large singe-glazed lead lights. Do ceiling fans do wanything worthwhile? Would a PID-type small heater work to stop window down-draughts and be better than a heating boost for the room?

    1. Thanks for the good wishes. These are all great questions – stopping the window down-draughts especially! Must try setting that one as a student project next year as it’s crying out for measurement.

  4. Hi. I really like what you guys are doing – having fun with groups while doing serious carbon reduction work. Brilliant.

    I’d like to come along and learn how to make remote sensing data loggers but have no programming experience. Is there anything I should bring to your next drop in session on Tues 11th?


    1. Aw, thanks. I can’t think of anything in particular – we have the things we need to use on site, really! We’re a bit small and slow at the moment (any strange venture like this goes through phases) but we need to set up the equipment to investigate the pipework in a church where we suspect problems with the circulation. That wouldn’t be building fresh, but assembling and checking the equipment, and diagnosing any faults. We’d often do this outside of the Tuesday session and try something that requires multiple brains during it – but in this case I think I’ll set up ahead to show (along with the code) at the Tuesday session. The debugging practice can be useful for the group if we’ve broken a solder connection through carelessness. Ad then we can move on!

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