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The Coolest Approach to Climate Control

The Coolest Approach to Climate Control

As experts worldwide emphasize the negative effects of climate change, churches are taking their own temperatures in the form of climate control. A significant expenditure of resources both environmental and financial, heating and air conditioning systems are a prime target when facilities are examining how they can reduce their carbon footprints, as well as the increasing demands on their bank accounts.

While it requires an investment on the front end, the key to gaining more control of a church's internal climate is relatively simple. Based on technology that has been in existence for decades, today's thermostats are not only programmable, but many offer the ability to be networked with a building's overall control system, enabling the schedules associated with the heating and air conditioning system to be aligned, with the click of a mouse, with what's actually taking place in the facility at any given time.

Models and Features
There are three main types of programmable thermostats, and their designations are associated with the number of days that the programming is configured for: a seven-day model, which sets the temperature the same way seven days of the week; a 5+2 day model, which uses the same schedule for weekdays, and then another schedule for weekends, and; a 5-1-1 model, which is best suited for facilities that keep one schedule Monday through Friday, and a different schedule on Saturday and Sunday, which is the case for most churches.

Generally, programmable thermostats allow for four different set points within the day.

Arguably one of the most convenient features on programmable thermostats is the override button, which enables users to "break into" the system to change the temperature for a certain period of time. For example, say you decide to have a last-minute reunion in one of your meetings rooms, where the air conditioning was set to a low setting: by hitting override, you can turn up the cooling system (usually within a specified number of degrees, for a specified amount of time), ensuring that everyone is comfortable during the meeting. Once the specified amount of time is up, the system will automatically revert back to its original programming, without anyone having to remember to reset it.

While the override feature is indeed convenient, if abused, it goes against the ultimate purpose of the programmable thermostat: to conserve energy. "Because there is an override capability, you could be vulnerable to the same thing that has always happened with thermostats: people push them up and down and back and forth depending on a very individual sense of comfort," says Jerry Lawson, national manager of Energy Star in the small business and congregations network of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C.

Jerry Drew, president and CEO of NetworkThermostat in Dallas, Texas, notes that because of this override capability, churches must consider how much access they want to give staff members and the general public. "In cases where temperature override capability is needed, thermostats can be left in their original location; if no public adjustment is desired, then it's advisable to put all of the thermostats in a closet where they can be locked up, and then put remote sensors in the space so that there are no buttons at all for people to deal with, which gives you a little bit more control," he suggests.

Depending on how your congregation operates, there are a number of different features available, such as alert systems that tell you when you need to change your filters, or programming that can be conducted via voice or telephone. Some programmable thermostats are equipped to provide alerts if the heating or air conditioning system is malfunctioning.

NetworkThermostat manufactures models that can be controlled via Ethernet, allowing the user to adjust an update schedules via their PC. "People use our equipment with our PC-based software for easy programming," Drew explains. "You can get to it via the Internet, or via your Local Area Network." The company is currently working on the manufacture of a wireless version of the system, and is integrating the new Net/X system with ServiceU's EventU software: when users schedule an event through EventU, it will automatically program the heating and air conditioning system accordingly.

Honeywell International of Morristown, New Jersey, offers a feature that quickly adjusts the temperature depending on the heat load in the building at any given time. For example, on Sunday mornings, when hundreds or even thousands of people all arrive at the church around the same time, the doors are open, allowing the heated or cooled air to escape. Dan Sullivan, senior product manager at Honeywell, explains that the company's Proportional Integrative Derivative control renders the thermostat responsive and accurate in these situations. "The way we built the algorithm and the mechanics of the sensor's response time, the thermostat will rapidly adjust to those changes and work with the equipment to keep the building comfortable and at the set point at which it was programmed," he says. He adds that users can see up to 30% to 35% savings in heating and cooling costs with Honeywell's commercial thermostat models.

Special Considerations
Depending on how expansive your facility is, you may require multiple programmable thermostats; if you have several HVAC units, for example, you would require matching thermostats to go along with them. Drew estimates that the price of an installed network-programmable thermostat by NetworkThermostat runs churches about $400, if the facility uses a professional installation company.

Some churches prefer to install their own systems, but in any case, proper installation is essential to benefit from the system's optimum performance, Lawson notes. "You don't want the programmable thermostat receiving false temperature signals," he says. "You need it on an interior wall and away from vents where it might have heated or cooled air blowing on it. Likewise, you wouldn't want it near a door, window, or skylight, or under a very bright, hot light."

Lawson acknowledges that while for many consumers, the driving factor behind the decision to install programmable thermostats is the energy savings they offer, churches favor them as part of their overall creation care or environmental stewardship programs as well. "Every dollar saved equates to some emissions that did not go into the air if it's a carbon-based fuel," he says. "There is a natural resource benefit."

Large churches may require sophisticated systems. Visit www.worshipfacilities.com to read an article on NorthlandA Church Distributed's

HVAC control solution .

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