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Shepherd's Gate Lutheran ChurchBuilding Automation

In 2007 David Johnson Jr. , the owner of Johnson Heating and Cooling L.L.C. engineered, programmed, and installed a building automation system for Shepherd's Gate Lutheran Church in Shelby Township, Michigan. David Johnson Jr. performed the work for his father's company, although he alone was the "brains of the outfit" when it came to putting in the building automation system.

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Shepherd's Gate Lutheran Church is located in Shelby Township, Michigan on 23 Mile road about a half mile east of M-53. The Johnson's have provided heating, ventilation, and air conditioning service, construction, engineering, planning, and building automation services to Shepherd's Gate for well over a decade. Because of the size of the facility and because of the large amount of traffic in the building, the church decided to have a building automation system installed.

Because Shepherd's Gate has been a customer for so long, and because we never stop maintaining the code in the servers that control all of the building automation systems installed by Johnson Heating and Cooling, LLC, the building automation system at Shepherd's Gate has been tweaked so much over the last few years that we even know when a refrigerant charge is off by a little bit on one of two refrigerant circuits, in a piece of equipment. It is easy enough to design a system that calculates a unit's refrigerant charge, but is it cost effective? At the time that the system at Shepherd's Gate was installed, programmable logic controllers that had enough physical inputs to make provision for superheat or subcool calculation where not cost effective to install. Furthermore, calculating superheat or subcool on a refrigeration circuit on an air conditioning unit properly would require that very expensive pressure transducers be installed on each refrigerant circuit. The hardware necessary to have properly calculated the refrigerant levels in the air conditioning unit's refrigerant circuits would have caused the material cost for the job to have been three or four times what it was. Here is why Johnson Heating and Cooling, LLC is excellent at installing building automation systems: David Johnson spent a lot of time to write code to calculate refrigerant charges in each individual piece of equipment. According to our contact, we did not need to provide for such accurate reporting of equipment condition, but we did because we care about our customers. We did what our competition doesn't do, we spent days and days tweaking the constants in the code for each individual unit to get the program to a point where false alarms where totally eliminated, but where any deviation from optimal running condition would be immediately reported to us.

A long time ago, David Johnson decided to make controls a big part of his career and market share in business. For the mechanical contractor, building automation is desirable because it allows small business owners (mechanical contractors) the ability to be proactive instead of reactive. When you own a small business that is in a service related industry, you know what it is like to have service calls on the weekend, or at other inopportune times. For an owner of a mechanical contracting company, as with any business owner, ultimately, "the buck stops with the owner". With Shepherd's Gate, for instance, we know about failures during the work week and not on Sunday morning. For this reason alone, the building automation systems that we install make our quality of life better. Obviously, the customer benefits in the same way that we do. They don't want to find out about equipment failures at the time when they need there heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment the most. The reason why many mechanical contractors do not venture into the building automation industry is because of the costs involved. Entering into the field of building automation requires that a mechanical contracting company spend at least $150,000.00 in training, software, and hardware, to be competitive in that industry.

Shepherd's Gate is a big church! Imagine the time required to adjust or check the thermostats twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. From end to end, Shepherd's Gate is about a quarter mile long, and it is basically a big square. Using a building automation system has saved the people at the church a tremendous amount of time every day. The building automation system can be checked in a few minutes once a week instead of twice a day, every day. Because the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment requires very little attention and time, the staff is much more productive and can focus on other matters. Add up the time and do the math. If a staff member saves a hour a day, every day, for ten years, that is a time savings of 3,650 hours. Further more, even if the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment thermostats where checked twice a day, it would still be impossible to guarantee that the equipment would not be turned back on by someone using the facility after hours.

A huge issue with any big structure is whether or not the heating and cooling is on at the same time in the same space. This sounds really silly, but when a big room that has four or five different thermostats in it, is not on a building automation system, it is not uncommon to have one HVAC unit heating and one HVAC unit cooling, continuously. It's not hard to understand. If someone get's cold, they may turn the thermostat near them to heat, and then turn the set point temperature up. If the other thermostats are set to cool and are at a lower set point, one unit will be heating and the others cooling. This was an issue at Shepherd's Gate before we installed the building automation system. Many mechanical devices are rated by how long they can operate before failing, so that being said, the condition described is not only wasteful in terms of energy consumption, but is also wasteful in terms of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment life cycle time.

If you are considering installing a building automation system in a building that you own, manage, or steward, please give us a call and we would be happy to discuss the options available to you. We only do what is in the best interest of all parties involved, so if we don't expect you to realize a short return on your investment, we will tell you so. If you already have a building automation system that needs to be serviced, give us a call. Our rates are extremely competitive, and you can deal directly with the owner of Johnson Heating and Cooling, LLC.