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Rheem Commercial HVAC Brings Maximum Comfort to Multi-Use Oregon Church

February 9, 2023

On any given Sunday, you can find around 120 people coming together in worship and prayer at Trinity Covenant Church in Salem, Oregon, just 20 miles south of Portland.

The church started in the 1950s, and over the years has grown to provide a free after-school program for kids, music classes, youth groups, resources for the homeless and countless other programs committed to helping others. In fact, it’s become more than a church—it’s a community gathering place, a point of connection that opens its doors to everyone.

The only problem: The 31,500-square-foot church building, which the congregation moved into in 2001, did not have heating and air conditioning that kept all areas of the building comfortable.


HVAC Challenges

The building itself is a two-story multi-use space, fit with a large foyer, sanctuary, classrooms, community gym and offices.

“One of the issues we found on this building was that they zoned by use of equipment,” says Jason Burns, owner of Focus Heating & Cooling and a Ruud Pro Partner. “The building is a two-story building, and they zoned it being north and south, so two separate floors were controlled off one piece of equipment.” The result was that the classrooms on the upper level would routinely reach 80 degrees, while the offices below would freeze. Because of this, church staff required space heaters to stay comfortable, which can quickly drive-up electricity usage.

“There is no doubt that we were in dire straits. Our HVAC system was falling apart,” says Jon Lemmond, lead pastor at Trinity Covenant Church.

The gym was another problem. “The community room gets a lot of use, and it had historically been a challenge to keep the temperature comfortable in there,” says Chuck Burleigh, a member of the church since he was 13, who is a retired engineer and works as a volunteer facility manager. “We used to have issues with cold drafts that would blow through randomly.”

To fix the continual temperature issues, the church partnered with Burns and the Focus team to design a new HVAC system that could keep every part of the building at maximum comfort, no matter the floor or season.


The Solution

Together with the team at Mar-Hy Distributors, Burns and the Focus team built an HVAC system that featured almost 100 tons of equipment across nine units from Rheem Manufacturing’s premier brand Ruud®, including Renaissance™ and Resolute™ commercial packaged units, to deliver ultimate comfort. 

Renaissance was an easy choice thanks to features that make for seamless installation and serviceability. “With some of our competitors’ designs, you are going to take the top off the unit to access [internal components]. There is a lot of time and effort involved to do that,” says Heath Owens, western region commercial sales manager at Rheem. “We’re trying to make it so that with the hinged panels, slide-out blowers and slide-out heat exchangers, [contractors] can get in there and cut their time on the roof in half, or maybe more in many cases.”

Burns agrees that Renaissance makes the installation process easier—and faster. “The Renaissance line is so great. You just set it on a curb, and you’re done,” he says. “You don’t have to put a curb adapter in, which saved us probably an hour of crane time on this project. And that’s huge.”

Renaissance also keeps dependability top of mind with a stainless-steel heat exchanger option for gas/electric products that is backed up by a 20-year warranty. “The equipment has a long-standing reputation for being super reliable and easy to work on,” says Matt Schmidt, distributor.

Meanwhile, the Resolute line comes with additional benefits, such as a factory-programmed variable frequency drive (VFD) motor that allows for plug-and-play install, standard single-point wiring for faster installation and standard hinged panels and slide-out assemblies for enhanced serviceability.

“We came in and designed a system that fit their needs and matched what they wanted instead of just coming in and replacing equipment,” Burns says. “I tell my customers, ‘Ruud equipment is well-made, well-priced and they stand by their equipment. What else can you ask for from a manufacturer?’”


Partnering with Ruud, a Rheem Manufacturing Brand

Installation day was a full-team effort from Focus, Mar-Hy and Ruud to ensure that all nine units—plus the crane—were where they needed to be and when. Despite all of the moving pieces, they pulled it off without a hitch. By 5 p.m., even all of the scrap had been removed.

“We really rely on each other, between me as a district sales manager, Mar-Hy as a distributor and Focus as the contractor, where we can each have strengths and benefits and help the project,” says Jim Wheeler, Rheem district sales manager. “A lot of where I came in was in communication and working with the factory to make sure we were on time and the equipment was going to get there when it needed to get there.”

“When I interact with Ruud, there is appreciation for us as contractors and installers,” Burns says. “The attitude is, what can we do to help you? How can we refine our process, our equipment, our tools for you to make your job easier?”

We’re able to go to different trade shows, and the Ruud representatives there want to talk with us and what’s working well and what isn’t working well,” says Janci Burns, co-owner of Focus. “They listen, and, when possible, they make appropriate changes.”

Owens says that contractor-first mentality is intentional. “The one controlling the decisions of what goes on that roof is the contractor. We’re trying to do things to make his life a little easier,” he says. “There are probably two dozen feature sets on one of those units alone that are absolutely driven directly from the contractor. We try to design as much reliability into the product as possible for all applications, starting with the raw materials that we use.”

Chet Biggs, product manager of commercial packaged equipment at Rheem, echoes that. “We have our four principles of performance, serviceability, installability and sustainability. It’s not just the words we say; it’s what we do, live, eat and breathe every day,” he says. “Time is money in this industry, and if a unit needs to be serviced, a contractor needs to walk in and do what they need to do and get out. We have a design philosophy that integrates those key features into our products so we can maximize return for our customers.”


The Result

With the church’s new HVAC system, the zones throughout the building were reconfigured to better meet the needs of both levels, which included zoning the first and second floors separately. Church staff no longer need space heaters while they work in the offices on the main level, and airflow in the gym was corrected to eliminate cold drafts and provide comfortable, balanced temperatures.

“I come in, the building’s cold, I turn the thermostats up, and the place actually gets warm quickly,” Burleigh says. “Everybody has been real happy with the system.”

“Rheem always wants to do what’s right, and they always want to try to make a product that is going to last a long time, easy to install and good quality equipment for the contractors and the end users,” Wheeler says.

And for Trinity Covenant Church’s congregation—and the larger Salem community itself—Rheem did just that, providing comfort to every person who walks through the church’s door.

Reach out to the Rheem Commercial sales team or a distribution partner near you to learn more about installing a Rheem system in your next commercial project.