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Three Needed Technologies for Church Facilities

Three Needed Technologies for Church Facilities

Our author finds products that can offer a better way to make your church more secure, comfortable, and economical to operate.

A brand-new year is upon us.  Right about now lots of church facilities managers are figuring out how to make good on those New Year's resolutions, to find better ways to make their physical plants more secure, comfortable, and economical to operate.

Below is just a sampling of products and services that will help you do just that.  No doubt there will be more to follow in the year to come here's a good places to start looking.

Cut Those Energy Bills
It takes a lot of money to pay for the energy necessary to heat, cool and light a church facility, not to mention power for AV equipment and other technologies used to effectively communicate its message to their congregation.

Churches that are interested in exploring energy cost savings as well as becoming better stewards of the environment in the process can get in touch with CollectiveSun, a San Diego, California-based company that exclusively helps churches and other nonprofits "go solar" by helping them finance sustainable solar power projects.

CollectiveSun connects impact investors i.e., investors who invest in cause-related opportunities with churches who need to raise the funds to develop these projects.  Working on behalf of churches, CollectiveSun raises money through crowdfunding campaigns; funds the project and acts as engineering advisor to installers hired by the churches; and, through a "power purchase agreement," sells solar-generated power to the church at a discounted rate for 20 years, during which time the company also handles necessary services including monitoring, operations, maintenance and repairs.

The energy savings generated by solar are considerable, with Todd Bluechel, vice president of marketing and sales for CollectiveSun, citing reductions in church energy bills of from 50 percent to 97 percent.

"At the end of the day churches need to not only be good stewards of the earth, but they need to be fiscally responsible, so any solar system needs to pencil out,'" says Bluechel. 

Many times solar power can afford a church the ability to be a good steward of God's resources and reduce their own annual energy costs.

Stay in the Comfort Zone
With their peak-and-valley, Sunday-heavy profile of heating-cooling usage over the course of a typical week, churches pose challenges to facility managers trying to maximize comfort while controlling energy usage. 

Problems can get worse in situations where reliance on manually operated, individual room thermostats can result in situations such as rooms staying too-warm or too-cold for too long, times when users forget to adjust the HVAC controls when they are finished using a room.

Enter Net/X network thermostat solutions from Grapevine, Texas-based Network Thermostat, a manufacturer of simplified HVAC controls for the commercial, industrial and high-end residential marketplaces.  Coming in both wireless and Ethernet versions, these thermostat systems allow you to use your Internet browser to configure and control everything about your facilities HVAC system from a single point/central location, and play a big role in reducing your energy costs in the process.

With these products, "Worship facilities can create schedules [for their HVAC systems] and very easily change them from anywhere in the world," said Jerry Drew, Network Thermostat CEO Jerry Davis. 

Nonprofits that do their own installations get special pricing from the company; check this out at http://www.networkthermostat.com/solutions/worship-facilities-non-profits.

Power Protection
Today complex, high-quality audio, video and lighting equipment is essential in communicating a message on Sunday mornings. Not only does all that equipment require ample amounts of electricity, but that juice also has to be in the form of "quality power," according to Dave Perrotta, chief operating officer of Knightdale, North Carolina-based ESP/SurgeX, a manufacturer of energy intelligence and power protection solutions.

"Unfortunately, power surges, spikes and transients occur often, and can damage, disrupt or destroy this mission-critical equipment," notes Perrotta, adding that "High-quality power protection is needed to ensure the safety and longevity of delicate tech equipment."

Surges and other power anomalies can cause downtime and unnecessary equipment replacement costs, that any congregation would want to avoid. While lightning is often a major cause of these situations, "The truth is that 80 percent of disturbances are generated from within a building," Perrotta notes, with the simple turning on/turning off of electronics such as HVAC systems, lights and printers often being the culprits.

Consumer-level surge protectors and UPS (uninterruptible power supply) devices themselves are susceptible to power surges, spikes and transients that can leave equipment vulnerable to outages.  For protecting large electronic investments like your church's new AV system check out electronic and electrical protection, filtration and control products from a vendor..

Who Has Access?
Access and key control present challenges for congregations large and small in keeping track of who has keys to what not to mention who has used them when and where. 

This situation is leading many churches to move from traditional mechanical key systems to electronic smart-key solutions, such as those by Corvallis, Oregon-based CyberLock Inc.

The transition process is easy, according to John Moa, a member of the sales and marketing team at CyberLock. The first step is simply replacing conventional door lock cylinders with smart cylinders, which are basically electrical versions of their mechanical cousins.  Then, accompanying smart keys are programmed with access privileges for each of their users, as well as list of locks the user may open during specific time periods, such as 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.  Keys can also be programmed to expire on a specific date, at a specific time, for increased security.

"When a CyberKey meets a CyberLock, the cylinder is energized, and an information exchange occurs to determine if the key has access to that specific lock cylinder," says Moa. If it does, the lock will open, with both the lock and key recording all associated events, including accesses granted and unauthorized access attempts. 

Key pieces of equipment within your facility can also be protected by installing CyberLock padlocks, which operate in a very similar fashion.

Several qualities make smart key options particularly well-suited for the worship facility, explains Moa.

"The big issue we hear from houses of worship is key control," Moa says. With a smart key system, "You can program what specific keys work where and for how long and if you lose one, you simply turn it off."

Affordability is another consideration.  Conventional locks that offer similar elements of key control typically come from hard-wired systems that require cutting into walls and using conduit, he notes, while CyberLock has basically no wiring.

Access control systems can also be installed as a budget allows. Smart cylinders can be installed first in sensitive areas where they are needed most, then added to other locations as it becomes financially feasible.

"You can get started with one lock/one key/one communicator and the software, and grow as your budget grows," tells Moa. 

"Churches want to be frugal, and they want to always be responsible in their stewardship of funds," he notes, "and the ability to start small and build from there can be a very important part of that."

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