Niagara AX Certification – One Tough Week

A week without a blog! I made a pact with myself to do a blog a week and I had to let myself down last week when Thursday came around and I didn’t have a blog to post. I’m so ashamed! Well, I’m BACK! And here’s what I was up to last week that left me blogless…

CCI 2012
*********************************The Niagara AX Certification class, taught by Vern Petersen, is one of the most intense and grueling classes I’ve ever taken. It was also one of the most rewarding.

Last week I attended the Niagara AX Certification class at Control Consultants, Inc. (lovingly called CCI because their whole name is a mouthful). What is Niagara AX, you ask? It is, in my opinion, one of the best Building Automation software options available today. Which leads to the inevitable question, what is “Building Automation” software? There really is no short answer to that question, but here’s my best shot at it. It is software that allows you to run your building in the most efficient way possible using responsive technology. It can automatically and intelligently control HVAC, lighting, plumbing, security, fire systems, water fountains or even a laser light show in your lobby, if you were so inclined.

As an HVAC contractor, my interaction with Niagara AX is primarily with making the heating, AC, and ventilation systems of a building run with the greatest possible comfort to occupants AND the greatest possible energy efficiency. The brilliance of the Niagara AX software is that it is scalable and adaptable to nearly any building or group of buildings and it also plays well with other types of controls software. For example, if you have a Hydrotherm boiler, Carrier rooftop unit, two Trane rooftop units, VAV boxes, energy recovery make up air unit and exhaust fans, Niagara AX can talk to them all and bring all of their information back to one easy-to-use secure online interface. There are other systems that only talk to their own brand, or are so completely proprietary that only ONE installer can install them and ONE service provider can fix them. Niagara AX is totally open. It is the social butterfly who can roll with almost any clique. And that’s the main reason why I dig it. And why I subjected myself to a week-long class of total immersion in it.

The Niagara AX Certification class, taught by Vern Petersen, is one of the most intense and grueling classes I’ve ever taken. It runs Monday – Thursday 7:30 am through 5:00 pm with a break just long enough to shove lunch in your face before you’re back at it. It’s cruel and unusual, but MAN do you get to learn a lot from this class. I started the class with a fresh clean OfficeMax notepad. I ended the class with only nine blank pages in the whole pad! Which is basically how my brain felt at the end of the week. Crammed so full of information that there was barely enough room left for a few pages of doodles! (I blame this doodle-brain condition for my lack of weekly blog, by the way.) The fifth and final day of the week was the certification test. It starts at 6:30 am on Friday and can take as long as EIGHT HOURS to complete.

You’re wondering if I passed aren’t you? Well, so am I! I don’t find out until next week. Cross your fingers and hope for the best, would ya? Pass or no pass, I learned a TON and would not hesitate to recommend the class. I would strongly suggest that you have at least a basic familiarity with this type of software before taking the class. It’s definitely not a USER class, it’s a PROGRAMMER class.

What I mean by “programmer” is that you actually learn to build the user interface, write the behind the scenes sequence of operations that controls the HVAC equipment, create graphics, set up security for the system, etc. Once the system is built by a programmer, the user then logs in and has the tools to control the building. This requires training as well. The software only works if YOU work it!

If you’re looking to learn to USE the software to control your building, CCI also offers User classes. Or you can contact Advance Air or your service contractor to set up a one-on-one session with your specific system, or to discuss your future system needs.