Gather Your Tools, Pt.1 — The Fire Sprinkler Design Software

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… 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.


3 Replies to “Gather Your Tools, Pt.1 — The Fire Sprinkler Design Software”

  1. I would say you overlooked a third industry standard. AutoSprink. We purchased this product a year ago and while the learning curve was a bit extreme, it’s paid off in spades. We can draw much quicker, it’s in 3D, we own the software so there are no reoccurring fees and it’s a stand alone program so AutoCAD Isn’t needed.

    One drawback that I am experiencing is that the calculation package isn’t a separate module. If I need to run some calcs on an existing building or blue print, we essentially have to draw it up first. (which is relatively fast, but annoying all the same).

    We just purchased our second seat.

  2. The rental cost is $1,300 per year if paid up front. It gets more expensive from there if you try taking it out for a shorter period. I think this is geared to the large user who can add or remove seats as large projects come and go.
    This is not helpful for the design contractor who is by him or herself or has a couple of designers. If you rent other Autodesk programs the price goes up.

    I started out on SprinkCad in the 1980’s and switched to HydraCad over 20 years ago when the program was made available to contractors for free (if you bought enough product) and they charged an exorbitant rental and support fees to design contractors. I did attend the AutoSprink school when it was still in its infancy and under development. Since I had suffered through the SprinkCad development process with all its warts I was not going to repeat that with AutoSprink.

    I have been very happy with HydraCad and don’t intent to change.

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