St. Matthew's Church (Oconomowoc, WI)

In the town of Oconomowoc, WI, 20 miles west of Milwaukee, sits St. Matthew's Church, a forty-six year old building that houses the local Lutheran congregation. St. Matthew's, a basic, "A" frame, consists of two sections; a main chancellery where the congregation is seated, and a nave which contains the altar and seating area for service celebrants. The chancellery ceiling rises approximately twenty feet from the ground and is supported by oak joists and beams. It is clad from base to apex with oak tongue-and groove woodwork on both sides the entire length of the church. The nave is separated from the chancellery by a flat-stone archway, and its ceiling is also supported by oak joists; though, unlike the chancellery, the space between joists is a continuation of the stucco plaster finish that makes up the nave's side walls. The overall effect of the extensive use of darkstained oak throughout the church is one of unassuming warmth and coziness; creating an inviting place of worship. The only problem was that in the summer months, this house of God became as hot as Hades (if you'll pardon the phrase).

Pastor Kent Schroeder had been approached by one congregation member, an HVAC installer, who offered to outfit the church with a conventional air conditioning system for nothing more than the cost of materials. But the church's Board was unhappy with the changes that traditional metal ductwork would have made to St. Matthew's. There simply was no place to route ductwork in a manner that would not ruin the building's basic beauty. But, the owners of the contracting firm that had handled the church's heating concerns for years, Schulte and Sons Heating of Oconomowoc, had the answer. The father and son team, Rich Schulte, Sr. and Rich Schulte, Jr., knew that the Unico System was the only way to go.

The Schultes proposed installing two Unico System 5-ton air handlers in the large chancellery and a 3-ton air handler in the smaller nave area. In the chancellery, both of the air handling modules were mounted horizontally in the balcony wall space directly behind the organist's area. Rich Schulte, Jr. then came up with an ingenious plan for concealing the 9" main trunk line. He contracted with a local carpenter to construct a 24"x24"x60' hollow wood beam. This beam would house the main trunk line, supply tubing and diffusers, and would be mounted above the chancellery ceiling's cross beams and run the length of the main room. Rich used Unico System oak outlets, normally used in floor installations, and stained the entire beam to match the existing woodwork. A total of 50 outlets were installed in the beam, 25 per each 5-ton air handler installed. The chancellery now has a central air conditioning system that is practically invisible and does not disturb St. Matthew's natural aesthetics.

The Schulte's installed the 3-ton air handler vertically, concealed by the wall panel directly behind the altar, and in the same fashion as they had the 5-ton handlers. In this situation, it was possible to run the main trunk line from a "T" off of the air handler and in a horseshoe layout that runs down the interior of both side walls of the nave. The supply lines terminate just below the base of the oak ceiling beams, and off-white plastic terminators are used to blend into the stucco finish of the walls. There are a total of fifteen diffusers supplying air to the nave. Bill Riley of Design Air in Kimberly, WI supplied all Unico System products.

The Schulte's had managed to install a central cooling system to St. Matthew's without disturbing the church's inherent beauty, but the big question still remained: would the system cool such a large open space? The answer is supplied by Pastor Schroeder who states, "The Unico System really gives us what we want. To tell you how well the system blended in, a member of the church asked me in late August if we still thought we needed air-conditioning as it was so comfortable inside on a warm day. [I had to tell her] that the Unico System had been installed and running since July!"