Load Up for Success

June 12, 2008
A few years ago, I realized that I had landed in a great situation. It became clear that I was dealing with the cream of the crop in the HVAC industry.
Load calculation software makes the big jobs — such as this $5 million home — much easier to measure.

A few years ago, I realized that I had landed in a great situation. It became clear that I was dealing with the cream of the crop in the HVAC industry.

Thinking about it further, I decided that it’s no surprise that HVAC contractors who use load calculation software are always striving to deliver quality, are driven to do it right, and see the connection between company success and getting it right the first time.

Although it always feels right when you don’t cut corners, the irony to me is that, after learning a few things, it’s also easier, faster, and more efficient to do a Manual J load calculation on every job. Once you make it part of the process, the net result is that you make back your time by not having callbacks, and only having to put a system in once. It’s become so evident to me that I almost forget to list all the advantages.

I think the most important advantage to load calculation software is the marketing gain contractors realize from happy customers. A comfortable customer is a happy customer who likes to give word-of-mouth referrals — also known as “higher margin” referrals. If the customer knows that they’re going to get a flawless system, and that their spouse will love it, they’ll also pay a little more. Getting the load and duct configurations right means even temperature distribution, good moisture control, and a low-noise system — all which spell happiness for a homeowner. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when you also show a prospect that you’re not the source of the most common HVAC problem the U.S. Department of Energy has identified – oversizing.

Contractors Increase Sales by Providing Precise Comfort
Kiley Palmer, Kiley Palmer Services, LLC, uses load calculation software to evaluate customer homes for every job. Recently, when a homeowner called about hot and cold spots throughout his house, Kiley was able to easily complete a Manual J load calculation and prove that the system was oversized, and the main reason for his discomfort.

“We got the job, replaced his system, and rebalanced the airflow. Now, temperatures are consistent, and the homeowner has seen dramatic savings in his utility bills,” Palmer says.

Since I first started in this business, computers have changed from being a source of anguish and ridicule to being the heart of our new world, and I think all of us have come to see computers as one part of doing things right. More than ever, consumers today respect a vendor who can show them that he’s up-to-date and knowledgeable. Doing loads and system design on your computer not only increases your own confidence, but your prospects’ and customers’ as well.

John Dubose, owner of Dubose Heating and AC, Dayton, OH, says load calculation software has doubled his sales and improved his reputation as a quality comfort provider

“I’m able to prove to the homeowner that by properly sizing equipment, I can help lower their cost and keep them comfortable,” Dubose says. “The program helps me to differentiate myself from other contractors, and has enhanced my reputation so that I can not only charge more per hour, but get better quality jobs, too.”

No More Guesswork
Twenty years ago, most HVAC contractors were either guessing at the size of equipment or doing some very painful manual calculations only when they had to. Today, by the thousands, they’re quickly and efficiently making sure that equipment, ducts, and entire systems are properly sized and installed.

It seems clear to me, especially since the last few years have brought very productive, reliable and efficient software to market, that we’re entering an era in which every HVAC contractor does a load calculation on every job. Focusing on increasing automation in designing systems, software is taking us from just doing Manual J loads to an even stronger position of providing nearly automatic designs for the entire system.

It’s no longer a debatable matter whether you should be doing loads. It’s just a matter of time, until it’s as common as putting air in your tires.

William Wright is president of Wrightsoft Corporation, Lexington, MA. He can be reached by calling 800/225-8697.

Load Calculation Specifics Help Contractor Win Big Projects

Martin Edwards works on load calculations.

Air Comfort, Inc. Beaumont, TX, has been successful in residential, commercial, and industrial HVAC for 54 years.

Now a $10 million company with 60 employees, Air Comfort starts by making accurate load calculations to properly size equipment, for better results. Air Comfort uses Wrightsoft’s Right-Suite software.

“We’ve seen a 20% increase in our productivity in the residential changeout market, and our sales have increased about 30%,” says Martin Edwards, residential and light commercial sales manager.

Air Comfort selected only the functionalities they needed, with the option to purchase additional modules in the future. Edwards also gained an advantage over other contractors when he bid on a $5.3 million home. Edwards got the job after two other contractors bid the home using a simple sq.ft. per ton estimation instead of running a load calculation.

“I was hired because I was able to show them my load calculations, tonnage, and recommended equipment,” Edwards says.

Correct System Sizing is Vitally Important

Sample screen view from Nitek’s Load Wizard.

In today’s trying economic times, the pressure on the typical HVAC contractor has become overwhelming, as prices for new heating and cooling systems to homeowners have accelerated at an unprecedented rate.

Today’s contractors are using efficiency, and the potential for substantial energy savings to help minimize the impact of an expensive, unexpected system replacement.

However, selling and installing a new high-efficiency system is no guarantee that the homeowner will actually save.

This was proven by a study done by Excel Energy, Minneapolis, MN.

Excel faced mounting consumer complaints that homeowners who purchased new highefficiency equipment were actually experiencing higher energy bills. It did a study of several hundred homes, and found that if a 13-SEER system was oversized by only 15% (one size), the net performance to the homeowner was actually closer to 8-SEER. A 95% AFUE furnace oversized by only 15% performed closer to 68% AFUE in actual gas consumption.

What that says it that it’s absolutely essential that a load calculation be performed on every replacement sale, to ensure that promised savings can actually be achieved. And, given the small margin of error (one size air conditioner or furnace), the accuracy of that load calculation is equally important. Most manual load calculations are neither fast nor accurate. Only a computer can master the complexity and provide the accuracy, consumer confidence, and speed needed to support the sales process.

— John Heilbrunn, president, Nitek Software, Riverview, FL. He can be reached by phone at 888/648-3525, or by e-mail at [email protected].

Software Shortens Search Time

A sample screen shot from Elite Software’s Rhvac MJ8 program.

Contractors who use a rule-of-thumb for sizing equipment will admit that performing a load calculation using ACCA’s latest Manual J 8th edition (MJ8) procedures is definitely the best practice. But when asked why they resist doing it, many will say, “Have you seen the latest MJ8 book? It’s as large as a telephone book, and it’s filled with just about as many numbers. Who has the time to work through all that?”

It’s true that the latest MJ8 manual is quite thick and loaded with all kinds of factors. But with today’s new construction methods, and materials so wide-ranging and diverse, it takes a lot of data to cover all those materials. Would anyone want to make the manual smaller, but not cover new technologies like insulated concrete forms, open and closed cell spray foam, SIPS panels, radiant barriers, unvented attics, and many other beneficial materials and techniques?

While the MJ8 manual does instruct on how to manually calculate HVAC loads, there’s no denying the process requires a great deal of page flipping and looking up of load factors from scores of tables. It’s this lengthy process that puts off so many contractors from performing HVAC load calculations in the conventional, manual way.

The greatest benefit of using software for MJ8 is that all load factors are automatically “looked up” and applied in the necessary equations. The math is quickly and accurately performed with nicely formatted reports. The designer need only select material types and enter dimensions of the building.

All MJ8- based software makes load calculations much easier, faster, and more accurate than doing them by hand. ACCA has approved four MJ8 computer programs. All use the same MJ8 load factors and procedures, but each organizes the data differently, and each has a very different look and feel.

Start doing fast and efficient load calculations on all your projects. Try out the functional demos of these ACCA-approved programs and see which one suits you best.

— William W. Smith, president, Elite Software, College Station, TX. He can be reached by phone at 800/648-9523 or by e-mail at [email protected].