Software estimates, designs HVAC systems

In our last column we talked about PC-based software for managing projects ( January, pg. 28 ). Here are some industry-specific PC software packages that save time and effort in designing and estimating residential and commercial HVAC projects. Each of the programs focuses on at least one task that can either aid in selling the customer in the field or designing the project back at the office. Freedman's

In our last column we talked about PC-based software for managing projects ( January, pg. 28 ). Here are some industry-specific PC software packages that save time and effort in designing and estimating residential and commercial HVAC projects. Each of the programs focuses on at least one task that can either aid in selling the customer in the field or designing the project back at the office.

Freedman's Quick Quote 1.2 Proposal software for residential HVA Ccontractors (Freedman's Quick Quote, www.fqq.com, 877/535-1173, $575 for single user plus $85 for each additional user, free demos available) offers contractors an easy way to put together professional-looking proposals in short order (five minutes or less, says the developer), using a laptop while sitting with the customer.

The proposal can include up to 19 different categories (e.g., boilers, furnaces, condensers, line sets, gas piping, coils, parts and labor), and up to six upgrade categories (e.g., higher efficiency furnace or adding a humidifier or electronic air cleaner).

Data is pre-formatted. The software user customizes many of the details prior to any working session with a customer and then enters specific data on the fly while sitting down with the customer. The contractor (with a portable printer) can print out a proposal for the customer on the spot.

Back in the office, the contractor can print out a pull sheet for the parts department or the installer without prices on it, or can print a work sheet for the office with costs and profit projections.

MeMate HVAC 2000 Design and Estimate Solution (Energy & Mechanical Systems Consultants, $1,795, www.memate.com, 310/829-4272) is a design and drafting tool, aimed at the design/build market for projects 5,000 sq. ft. and up. MeMate works within AutoCADR14 or AutoCAD2000.

The application calculates the cooling and heating loads of an unlimited number of spaces, using ASHRAE-approved methods. It sizes and draws an unlimited number of air distribution devices and sizes and draws various types of air terminal units, such as variable air volume box, fan-coil unit, or water source heat pump. It also sizes and draws single- and double-line round or rectangular main and branch duct with respect to available clearances.

The program also can perform material take-offs and create precise bills of material for each design. Equipped with a customizable price database, it also has cost estimate capabilities.

The designer inputs basic facts about the building, points to the exterior walls and windows, marks rooms by pointing to the corners, and specifies the internal heat gain sources. The program obtains the location and characteristics of building components and rooms directly from the drawing, where all data is stored.

The software handles ductwork design deftly, converting the single-line layout of a ductwork system that the designer develops into precisely drawn ductwork with fittings, flexible connectors and accessories.

HVAC Solution ($2,500, www.HVACsolution.com, 801/492-3666) is a Windows-based program for designing commercial HVAC systems using "intelligent" air flow and hydronic components (fans, boilers, chillers, pumps, etc.).

Software users connect components schematically. Components share information with one another. Inputs and schematics may be updated and saved for quick retrieval or for new projects. The software allows quick and accurate evaluation of design options by design and construction team members.

While the program does not perform load calculations or support export of the schematics into a CAD program, users can plot or print out the schematic drawings for reports or construction documents. HVAC Solution automatically prepares equipment schedules for bidding and construction documents.

Pre-loaded with (overrideable) design conditions for several hundred North American cities, HVAC-Calc Residential 4.0 ($389, HVAC Computer Systems, www.HVAC computer.com, 888/736-1101), a heat loss and heat gain calculation program, calculates the size of residential furnaces and air conditioners. It includes duct sizing and baseboard sizing.

The user proceeds through a series of screens logically, adding appropriate data on each screen, in turn, from setting design conditions to adding infiltration, adding floors, rooms, walls and windows throughout the house.

The software speeds up playing what-ifs, either for whole house calculations or for room-by-room calculations. Change any values and the results are reflected on screen immediately.

At any point, users can see the entire structure of the house, so you can spot any missing components, and view the whole house load as components are added.

Several concise reports, including summary room-by-room, details and duct sizing, are available. On-screen help is easily accessible (along with is toll-free technical support 12 hours a day, seven days a week).

The company also offers a similar program, HVAC-Calc Commercial 4.0, (also $389 or $289 each if both titles are purchased), which performs the same tasks for commercial installations using pre-formatted data. Trial versions of both are downloadable from the company Web site.