Like any other trade, there are specialized tools needed to perform our task as fire sprinkler designers. Since most of our time is spent behind a desk or looking over building prints, our tools are in the form of computers, software and reference materials.
The first decision you need to make is selecting the fire sprinkler design software you will be designing with, this is also the largest investment money wise. The three major software companies are HydraTec (HydraCAD), SprinkCAD, and AutoSprink. All of them have their strengths and weakness as well as steep learning curves. Full disclosure: I have had 20 years of experience using HydraCAD and no experience with SprinkCAD or AutoSprink. So, rather then pretend like I know what I am talking about regarding the other two companies, I will leave other websites and blogs to address the advantages/disadvantages of it and focus my discussion around HydraCAD.
If you chose HydraCAD, first you must purchase a copy of Autocad. HydraCAD is actually a 3rd party program that runs on top of the Autocad platform. Note: you cannot use Autocad LT with HydraCAD, it must be the full version of Autocad. One advantage of HydraCAD running on top of the Autocad is that if have experience with Autocad, the majority of tools and commands you will already know and the rest should be fairly intuitive. The second advantage of HydraCAD running on Autocad is that you can customize and create your own tools and routines via the VB.NET programming language. This allows for more efficiency and flexibility in the designing of fire sprinkler systems.
So what is the cost of the two software programs? HydraCAD will cost around $5,000 if you choose to purchase the calculation program, HydraCALC, and stocklisting program, HydraLIST, in addition to HydraCAD. Note that this is a one-time fee. In addition, you can also opt for a yearly subscription which will allow you free updates to all HydraCAD software. As of this writing (April 20th, 2017), the yearly subscription cost is around $1,000 a year. Autocad is in the process of changing how it charges for their software. When I purchased my copy originally, it cost around $3,300 for the software package and $500 per year as a subscription fee. However, now they are changing to a rental type fee rather then allowing individuals to own copies of the software. Each month you will pay “rent” to Autocad to use the software. As of this writing, I do not know what the yearly rental fee will be.
The last major advantage of choosing HydraCAD is that HydraCAD is the most common fire sprinkler design software used in the industry today. If you are a company looking to hire designers, or you are a freelance designer looking to exchange drawings with others, you will more then likely find that HydraCAD fits in most scenarios. There is nothing more frustrating then having to convert drawings from one program to another…it never works seamlessly.
In conclusion, I highly recommend HydraCAD for your fire sprinkler design needs…..in my highly biased opinion. Its flexible, easy to use, and the most widely accepted program in the industry.
Do you have experience with SprinkCAD or AutoSprink? If so, leave a comment below and let me know how your opinion of them.