RADIANT HEATING IS an increasingly popular option in American homes. The process of laying out properly sized and configured piping runs manually is tedious and time-consuming.
Computer assistance has streamlined the process dramatically, however, enabling contractors (including those who have broadened their business to include combination forced-air and radiant systems) to quickly and easily generate an exact piping layout diagram, from manifolds to loops, along with an accurate bill of materials. Here's a just-released, dedicated software solution that automates a large part of the process.
Wrightsoft Corp.'s newly updated Right-Radiant software module (www.wrightsoft.com, 800/225-8697), which works in conjunction with two other Wrightsoft solutions, Right-J and Right-Draw, facilitates fast and accurate design and calculations for radiant heating floor plans. All three modules are integrated and share one screen for seamless operation and maximized productivity.
The program, which produces professional level CAD-like designs, automaticallygenerates both the layout of the radiant loops and the piping to connect those loops to their manifolds. The designer never has to leave the drawing to enter or alter data in another form or screen or work on paper and then transfer data, the company notes.
Right-Draw provides the drawing symbols and drawing tools to lay out the loops and is the module in which the layout is created. Right-J, the core of which is the Air Conditioning Contractors of America's Manual J on screen, performs the automatic calculations for the heating and cooling loads for single-family detached homes, small multi-unit structures, condominiums, townhouses and manufactured homes based on industry standard ASHRAE calculation methods. Design loads are automatically hotlinked to Right-Radiant, minimizing any additional data input.
The drawing in Right-Radiant is a live model.
Unlike a CAD drawing, however, the drawing in Right-Radiant is a live model — the program draws the loops and performs the calculations simultaneously and any modification in the drawing reflects immediately in the numbers. This capability speeds the initial design process and enables the contractor to accommodate what-ifs, changes and additions very easily.
Right-Draw is an object-oriented, drag-and-drop drawing system that primarily uses three objects — a room, a door and a window — to describe the building and correctly position and space loops that fill the entire surface area of the floor (if that is the intent). It can handle multi-zone, multi-floor installations.
In order for a designer using CAD to determine calculations, each run in every room would have to be measured and evaluated for pressure loss and other factors, such as surface area of windows and doors. This program, however, takes over those responsibilities and generates a layout that satisfies inputted parameters.
Users can add product from preloaded radiant panel components from several manufacturers or they can customize components storable in a "preference collection" library, which are available for retrieval for current and future projects.
As there is no one prevailing building code that dictates tube spacing, the software has provisions for setting the spacing of the loops to match manufacturers' recommendations. One common convention, for example, spaces the loops near outside walls closer together than loops in the interior of the room.
With Right-Draw, the three objects are "smart." Insertion and location affect calculations. Add or remove any object and the numbers change in response. Ditto if you alter any location. The program offers 17 HVAC shapes, object symbols that represent factors that can affect heating requirements, such as cathedral ceilings, skylights and special kinds of floors (for example, the floor under a center island in a kitchen would not require heat), ducts and special radiant objects, such as a snow-melt system.
The software includes a handy loopgrabbing tool that enables easy movement and realignment of any run to reflect change in floor layout ( an additional cabinet, a larger refrigerator, a center island, etc.). The recalculation might even result in elimination of a loop, which would be automatic.
The screen is user-friendly. In every layout, adjacent loops alternate colors (red and blue) for easy identification. Each loop is tagged with a yellow "post-it" note that indicates how many feet of tubing are in the loop and the flow rate of the fluid through it. As the designer alters any factor in the drawing, the numbers change instantly.
The program also includes a nifty time saving feature, Quick Quote, which generates a first-pass design based on input of the roughly estimated area, Btuh output required and an assumption of the kinds of loops and materials to be used.
Right-Draw supports the importing and reading of AutoCAD files without requiring AutoCAD on the computer as well as the ability to add the radiant design into a separate layer in the Auto-CAD file for export to others.
The program is available from Wrightsoft directly. The "suite" of three programs plus Right Proposal Plus, a template module that produces professional proposals with fully integrated costs and equipment images, costs $1,700. Any of these individual modules is $499.
William and Patti Feldman provide Web content for companies and write for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.