CONTRACTORS WHO install radiant heating systems will be interested in Avenir Software’s LoopCAD Version 1.5 (www.LoopCAD.com, 888/568-0031, $395, trial version available free at Website). The program is standalone CAD software that generates professional-quality circuit layout floor-plan drawings that are consistent with most manufacturer recommendations for residential and commercial radiant heating systems.
Developed by a vendor with almost a dozen years of experience creating software for the heating industry, the design solution interfaces with AutoCAD. Users can import a floor plan as a basis to start the heating layout and can export the completed circuit drawing into an AutoCAD file.
The software features object-oriented drawing tools, which designers typically use to automatically draw 80% to 90% of the project’s loops, and freehand drawing tools, which enable designers to edit or tweak the loops or draw the rest of the loops from scratch.
Users create new floor plans using the predefined rooms, doors, windows, stairs and other objects, which can be edited to create intricate shapes. Rooms can be resized by dragging the walls or corners and docked together to create complex floor plans. The layouts automatically accommodate drawn-in obstructions in rooms such as stairs, cabinets or kitchen islands.
The program supports various automatic loop patterns, including single serpentine, which is the normal back-and-forth layout; double serpentine, for making an L around two exterior walls where there is high heat loss; and multiple spacing in a single loop, enabling, for example, 6-in. spacing on outside walls and 12-in. spacing for the remaining area of a room.
The solution can design layouts for thin-slab, standard-slab and in-joist designs and automatically generates wide-radius serpentine patterns for in-joist designs to eliminate kinking of the tubing.
The software automatically keeps track of changes in tube spacing, number of loops, pattern type and rotation, and automatically recalculates and regenerates the loops to fit any revision in room size or configuration.
LoopCAD’s auto-balancing feature typically generates loop lengths within 5% automatically, and with minor adjustments, the vendor says, can bring that down to as low as 1%.
A manifold design feature simplifies connecting of circuits to manifolds. For example, in a large room where there are three circuits and six loop ends — and therefore perhaps 20 to 30 possible combinations of paths — the software lets users quickly define the desired path and all lines are then drawn automatically.
When drawing circuits in freehand mode, the software uses intelligent snap settings and maintains consistent tube spacing. In larger regions, the designer can click and drag to fill the area quickly.
An updated version of the software, anticipated for this summer, will include 3D CAD views of single- and multiple-level buildings and radiant panel structures, for easier visualization of the entire layout spanning multiple floors. It will also be able to automatically calculate heat losses, surface and fluid temperatures, air temperature, temperature drops, flow rates, and head losses and, through color shading, show warm and cool regions on the floor plan as an aid in balancing the layout.
Service management software
Designed specifically for service contractors, Bottom Line Service System for Windows (www.blss.com, 918/492-7548, $595 single user, also available in network version) offers a full complement of office-based functions. The software handles dispatching and job scheduling; preventive maintenance tracking and scheduling; quotes for T&M and flat-rate billing; work orders; invoices; on-the-fly job costing on each invoice or quote; sales tax calculation; phase billing; accounts receivable; warranty tracking; and unlimited multi-site inventory control.
Keeping up with a trend toward streamlining communication via remote computing, the solution offers an optional remote user system for exchanging work order and invoice information with users equipped with a laptop in the field or using another PC or via e-mail, eliminating double entry and expediting invoicing.
At the jobsite, the service technician can enter parts and labor expended. If the technician has access to a printer, it is possible to print out invoices to leave with the customer. All completed work orders and invoices can be transmitted back to the office network through docking or by e-mail. The completed invoices received by the office network are posted into the Bottom Line Service System on the network and blended with the data files on the network in the same way as if keyed in on the office computer. The program offers password protection on a need-to-know basis.
Several dozen types of reports are available, including accounts receivable statements; 30-, 60- and 90-day aging reports; and reports that detail (taxable and nontaxable) sales, labor, billing, invoicing, dispatching and service agreements. It can report scheduled maintenance dates by customer and date range, as well as warranty tracking, service person productivity, profit/loss and job costing and flat-rate billing comparing actual hours worked to projected labor hours.
Another optional interface allows export of data from the solution into any of several popular third-party accounting programs. A third optional interface enables integration with any of several third-party flat-rate billing solutions.
William and Patti Feldman provide Web content for companies and write for magazines, trade associations, manufacturers and other companies on a range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].