The HVAC contractor is just one element of the entire design process, but it’s the HVAC system that is the heart of any building. That is why the HVAC contractor must make sure to specify the correct and most reliable system for the job.
Bill Wright, owner and creator of Wrightsoft Software, says that by using design software, contractors can ensure that their projects are finished correctly. He says it can guarantee greater productivity and profits.
The News spoke recently with Wright and with contractors involved in new construction projects about the benefits that come with being familiar with design software.
SAVING TIMEIn 1986, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) released its Manual J residential load calculation method. The method was presented in a paper booklet format. ACCA decided that a new approach was necessary, one that would not only save time, but help in the quality of systems selected and installed in design projects.
To accomplish this, Wrightsoft was brought in to develop a software program for the Manual J method. This software program became known as Right-J, and it was the beginning of a line of software programs that became more advanced over time.
ACCA has approved several Wrightsoft programs, including Right-D for residential duct sizing, Right-N for light commercial loads, Right-Gas Vent Plus for gas vent sizing, and several others.
In recent years, the company has developed Right-Suite, software programs that integrate a number of building design applications into one program. These programs can even include pricing applications, such as Right-$, which helps with equipment selection and cost comparison.
Wright says that as software adds more and more easy-to-use features, the value to contractors increases.
INCREASING PRODUCTIVITYWright believes that there are four main areas in which contractors can benefit from design software. They are productivity, sales, quality, and documentation.
Arnold Zapatero of A-Z Heating and Air-Conditioning Corp. in Orlando, FL, has been in business for over 20 years. The bulk of his business in residential new construction, and according to Zapatero he uses design software “365 days a year.”
Productivity is the number one benefit for Zapatero. The contractor says that Wrightsoft has cut his work time in half when working with a general contractor. He explains that the builder e-mails him the CAD drawings of the blueprints. Zapatero takes the CAD drawings and transfers them on to the software program. He can then immediately begin to run load calculations and design ductwork to accommodate the building structure.
Zapatero says that the program saves him so much time that he can prepare more than one option for the builder to choose from. These choices can then be taken to the end user.
“If I couldn’t use the software, I’d close my business,” said Zapatero.
Wright adds that over time, the software helps to save several hours. The time saved by using the software is money saved, and Wright says that this will eventually pay for the cost of the software.
MAKING THE SALEBesides cutting down the time it takes to complete a project, Wright believes that using software can help with making sales and with choosing the best equipment and systems for the project.
“Our customers can interact with the builder in a different way,” said Wright. “The software is so fast that it enables the contractor to say, ‘What if ...’.”
Wright says that the software allows the user to easily make changes to the system or to the proposed building itself. Contractors can drop in systems with different efficiency ratings or change the locations of vents and ducts. All these separate plans can then be presented to the contractor.
“In a presentation to the builder, he wants to know about energy savings. In turn, he can take the proposed plans to the owner,” said Wright.
He explains that this offers the contractor and the end user with the opportunity to approve the design and price that is best suited for the project. He also says that this allows the HVAC contractor the opportunity to be a knowledgeable source throughout the project — not just at the end.
Finally, as far as the sale is concerned, the software can help in creating graphs and pie charts, which can better present the general contractor with the costs and efficiency ratings of the project.
INSURED QUALITYWright says that cost is not the only aspect that builders are concerned with. Cost can be of little consequence if the equipment used in the project is not of the best quality or if the system is altogether wrong for the building.
“As a builder, I would want to know about quality,” said Wright. “I would be afraid of callbacks.”
He explains that if a system is installed incorrectly or doesn’t do the job, the builder looks bad and future business could be lost for the HVAC contractor.
“Ductwork is the principal villain in design projects,” said Wright. “Other major areas of concern include oversizing and undersizing.”
He points out that some contractors who are not using a software program are going by “rules of thumb” or nothing at all. This can cause problems down the line when a construction project is completed.
For example, Wright said that in some cases where ducts have been sized incorrectly, installers will have to come back after the home or building is completed to put in new ducts. This is a major undertaking and can cause dissatisfaction for the building owner and the general contractor.
Design software can help to eliminate this problem by verifying that calculations are correct. It also helps in having actual documentation that can be presented to building inspectors if needed.
For John Pirkl, owner of New Age Dimensions in Summerfield, FL, this is absolutely necessary.
Pirkl says that in the state of Florida, an HVAC contractor must have documents detailing the placement of ducts in a home or building, as well as the correct J calculations.
Pirkl explains that mistakes are made because contractors sometimes assume that calculations are the same for most homes.
He says that one his customers wanted to duplicate a home in Texas and build it in Florida. The builder had already purchased the parcel of land and was ready to start construction. But Pirkl ran the calculations for the existing home and took into account factors of the new location. He explains the differences in weather between the two locations needed to be taken into account. Pirkl was able to redesign the system for the proposed home to make it more efficient and more compatible with Florida’s wet heat.
For Pirkl, the software has enabled him to design plans faster and more efficiently. In fact, Pirkl says that design software enabled him to create his own business.
Before using the software, Pirkl worked for an HVAC contractor and performed load calculations and designs by hand. Over three years ago, he started using the Wrightsoft design programs. The software improved the design process, and Pirkl decided to start his own company. He now designs system designs for both HVAC contractors and builders.
“Everyone needs to be competitive, and this software helps contractors to be competitive,” said Wright.
For more information, visit www.wrightsoft.com (website).
Publication date: 10/28/2002