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The most recent task Acree automated was the drawing of floor plans and ductwork. Jack Westenbarger, operations manager for Acree, noted that a recent Florida law requiring HVAC companies to submit drawings to a county reviewer for new installations has turned out to be a good requirement rather than merely burdensome as so many other state regulations have become.
Westenbarger noted that “at first the requirement to produce a drawing was really onerous. Manual drafting is so hard and tedious to do. And when I played around with some of the big name CAD (computer aided drafting) packages, they were so difficult to learn that it was faster for me to continue drawing by hand. All that time to produce a drawing to the satisfaction of a county inspector was truly adding a lot of cost and time to our work.”
One side benefit Westenbarger found from making manual drawings was that his installers could use them to help ensure the location of the furnace, ductwork, and registers. Builders and customers were also impressed to see drawings of the HVAC system. Given that the drawings were required and that they also served a useful purpose to his company, Westenbarger continued to search for a way to automate the drawing process.
After reviewing a number of high-end CAD packages along with some lower-cost basic drawing packages, Westenbarger decided to give Elite Software’s Drawing Board package a try in the summer of 2001. One aspect of Drawing Board was that it promised to allow him to perform HVAC load calculations and duct sizing from his drawings. Westenbarger had seen that claim before from other software, but nothing had worked to his satisfaction. So he arranged a trial use of Drawing Board.
Westenbarger started slowly. At first, he drew only his smallest projects with Drawing Board. He quickly grasped the basic concept of dragging whole room shapes and then dropping them onto the drawing page and adjusting their dimensions as required. But soon he was interested in optimizing the process.
Westenbarger began working with Elite to learn the most efficient way to draw everything he wanted. But Westenbarger wanted more. Was there any way to add new symbols like a bathroom exhaust fan? What about options to make the registers appear round or rectangular? Any chance of having arrows to indicate whether a register is one-, two-, three-, or four-way?
He found this could be done. The drawing software progressed to where it became an indispensable tool. Now Westenbarger draws all his projects with Drawing Board and is able to do automatic HVAC load and duct sizing calculations from his drawings. Westenbarger explained, “The state requirement to create drawings has ended up saving me time over my previous process where I didn’t draw anything, but rather manually entered data into a load calc program. Now I can create a drawing and get automatic load calcs and duct sizes faster than when I didn’t have to submit drawings.”
Westenbarger noted that he has drawn a 4,800-sq-ft house using three different systems and 16 zones with Carrier’s ComfortZone controls. Westenbarger said, “When I first started trying out CAD packages, I was wondering what was the importance of advanced concepts like layers and sheets. But now that I am drawing large custom homes with multiple stories and complex HVAC systems and ductwork, it is really great to have those big CAD features in an easy-to-use, HVAC-specific drawing program.”
He added, “Acree has come a long way since our beginning where manufactured housing HVAC installations were the mainstay of our business. That is still a good and welcome part of our current business, but we are able to do so much more now. Using the latest technology has helped us excel in all aspects of our business.”
For more information, contact Acree Air Conditioning at 813-620-1666 or visit its website at www.acreeair.com; visit the Elite Software website at www.elitesoft.com.
Publication date: 06/10/2002