Sales, estimating software and a diagnostics solution

Three industry-specific estimating programs — FastPIPE for mechanical contractors, FastDUCT for HVAC contractors and FastWRAP for mechanical insulation contractors (www.fastest-inc.com) — give commercial contractors the ability to perform takeoffs from digital plans directly on the computer screen using the on-screen digitizer. The on-screen digitizer supports a wide variety of digital plan formats. Each of the programs has a comprehensive database of material and labor for all the piping, ductwork and insulation items an estimator might need. Many of the take-offs are point-and-click, saving a lot of time in the preparation of estimates.   

The programs support building a custom library of specs, eliminating the need to build them each time from scratch. When creating a new job, a user can choose to begin with a pre-defined template, which automatically loads in a set of specs and job items upon creating a new bid. The user can make minor job-specific changes using the Spec Editor. 

Data for FastPIPEincludes piping, fittings, valves, flanges and hangers from major manufacturers, including Tyler, Nibco, Gruvlok, Viega, Anvil Intl., Weldbend, and Swagelok. Monthly pricing updates are provided. Industry-standard MCAA and PHCC labor rates are also available as a catalog option. FastPIPE also includes hundreds of pre-made HVAC and plumbing assemblies. The assemblies can be modified.

To takeoff an item, the user selects the size and appropriate pipe, valve, fitting, flange, hanger or specialty item. After clicking on the on-screen plan or entering the quantity, the item is automatically added to the takeoff list in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

FastPIPE supports the download of labor and material takeoff to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for the final bid summary. The standard spreadsheet includes equipment, fixtures, labor rates, rentals, taxes and other job related costs. The spreadsheet is also customizable.

FastDUCThas the capability to calculate takeoffs of rectangular, round and oval ductwork and sheet metal and HVAC equipment. The database includes data for rectangular, round, and oval duct and fittings, accessories, hangers, and specialties from many leading manufacturers, with up-to-date pricing and industry-standard SMACNA labor rates for each of the items. Specs can be customized to match a company’s standards for duct construction or can be set up for purchased duct.

FastDUCT ships pre-loaded with specs, customizable for each duct system within a job. The specs allow for sheet metal, duct liner, joints, stiffeners, tie-rods, duct accessories and hangers to be automatically generated as you takeoff duct and fittings.

To takeoff an item, the user selects the size and appropriate duct, fitting, hanger or specialty item. After dragging or marking the length of duct or item on the digital plan, or entering the quantity, the item is automatically added to the takeoff list. Users can easily toggle between rectangular, round and oval menus.

FastDUCT calculates pounds of metal, square feet, material costs, shop and field labor hours in with a single click of the recalculate button on the reports tab. Material adjustments and job factors can be applied directly to any report. The program supports download of a labor and material takeoff to a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for the final bid summary. The program's standard spreadsheet includes equipment, fixtures, labor rates, rentals, taxes, and other job related costs. The spreadsheet can also be customized.

FastWRAPprovides insulation support for mechanical, industrial piping, plumbing, HVAC piping, HVAC duct and industrial duct. It includes the same estimating features and export capabilities as FastPIPE and FastDUCT. It includes a large database of insulation materials for piping and ductwork, as well.

A diagnostic solution

HomeAdvice by Air Advice (www.airadvice.com) is a subscription-based diagnostic solution that enables residential HVAC contractors to identify and resolve indoor air quality and energy efficiency issues in a home. It includes portable diagnostic equipment, web-based software, and reports generated from the measured variables that provide IAQ and energy analysis.

The contractor places an AirAdvice monitor in the home for three to five days. The monitor measures dust/particles, chemical pollutants, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, temperature and relative humidity. Information that can show need for filtration, ventilation, and other IAQ solutions.

With its built-in modem, the monitor sends data every 15 minutes to the HomeAdvice servers when connected to a phone line. (When not connected, the monitor can store data for up to 14 days.) The software generates assessment reports that show homeowners problems in their homes which could compromise health, comfort, and/or energy efficiency, including issues with heating/cooling, humidity, carbon dioxide levels and carbon monoxide. It also proposes corrective recommendations, including high-efficiency furnaces, high efficiency air conditioning, heat pumps, ventilation, filtration and humidifiers/de-humidifiers.

The reports serve as documentation for and validation of well-targeted proposals to retrofit a home with a high-efficiency heating or cooling system that would save the homeowner money on energy costs, along with a proposed service contract to maintain the systems. The reports also provide estimated savings on other services, including duct work, insulation, and high efficiency water heater installation, as well as weatherization of the home.

Bill and Patti Feldman write articles and web content for trade magazines and manufacturers of building products. They can be reached at [email protected]

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