St. James United Methodist Church

The Challenge

Built in the 1850s, St. James United Methodist Church in Palatka, Florida consists of three buildings and 32,000 square feet of conditioned space. The church’s sanctuary was conditioned by two 15-ton chilled water systems with supplemental heat strips. The classrooms and chapel utilized two five-ton gas furnace/straight air systems. The fellowship hall was conditioned by 2 10-ton heat pumps, plus two one-ton wall units.
For years the system proved inadequate. The fellowship hall was often unusable due to intolerable comfort levels. The sanctuary was uncomfortably cool during the winter and warm during the summer. In addition, the system was expensive to operate with utility bills averaging $4,500 monthly. In 2008, Pastor Don Hanna sought an estimate from a major HVAC contractor to replace the aging system. It would cost nearly $150,000 to replace the chilled water system for the sanctuary alone.

The Solution

Kenny Downs, a chairman on the board for the church, contacted Jimmy Bellamy in 2008. Jimmy’s team began transforming much of the existing equipment into an improved hydronic system with the Arctic Gator conversion unit.
In 2009, Kenny Downs contacted Jimmy Bellamy again; this time to address the church’s heating problems. Jimmy recommended using a 55-gallon gas water heater for heating the hydronic system. This resulted in removal of the 5-ton AC/gas furnace and the heat strips.
In 2012, the chapel, classrooms and fellowship hall were added to the hydronic system. Numerous repairs and upgrades were conducted on the ductwork and electrical components to further enhance efficiency and improve reliability.

The Results

With the Arctic Gator the church maintains comfort levels with 30 tons of compressor capacity, which is down from a total of 62 tons. “That’s 32 tons of compressors that are no longer in service, no longer impacting the environment,” said Pastor Hanna. “It’s wonderful for the church to enjoy the savings, but the lower power use and reduction of Freon has a positive impact on the environment. We were also able to lower our utility bill by over 40 percent and fully utilize our space.”
Energy consumption for the fellowship hall, which runs on a separate power meter, decreased so much that Florida Power and Light replaced the meter under the assumption it was malfunctioning.
The system also dramatically improved heating performance. “We went from heat strips in the sanctuary to water-to-air heat,” the pastor said. “It’s been a real benefit. It’s a much more comfortable heat. It doesn’t dry out your skin and it doesn’t spin up the meter resulting in huge savings.”


  • The Arctic Gator conversion cost much less than the estimated $150,000 quote to replace the chill water system in the sanctuary. The replacement of the other 32 tons of DX and wall units in other parts of the church would have resulted in additional expense.
  • Refrigerant use was reduced by more than 50%.
  • Demand power consumption reduced from a monthly average of 90 kWh to less than 21 kWh.
  • Monthly utility bills were reduced by more than 40%.
  • Consistent comfort levels across all five zones: 68° in church offices, and 70° in the other zones
  • Return on investment was 1 year
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