Right-Suite Universal

January 02, 2009
January/February 2009
A version of this article appears in the January/February 2009 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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Steve Mann is a HERS rater, Green Point rater, LEED AP, remodeler, and long-time software engineer.

Home performance analysis, HERS ratings, and green building ratings like Energy Star for Homes and LEED for Homes all have one thing in common—they require some degree of understanding of HVAC systems. Home performance contractors usually test duct systems for leakage. HERS raters need to do a whole-building analysis of heating and cooling loads and equipment sizing, and may factor in duct testing. LEED for Homes requires a HERS rating (or Title 24 analysis in California) and duct testing.

If you are a HERS rater or home performance analyst, you can extend the quality and quantity of your services by offering room-by-room load analysis and air supply requirements. You’re already doing a building takeoff to get exterior wall areas, interior volumes, and insulation and glazing details. If you collect room sizes, you can also calculate the room-by-room requirements using an appropriate software program. With this information, you can more accurately analyze comfort complaints that may be related to air supply problems. You can also do room-by-room calculations, equipment sizing, and duct sizing for HVAC contractors.

If you are a HERS rater or home performance analyst, you can extend the quality and quantity of your services by offering room-by-room load analysis and air supply requirements.
Right-Suite Universal (RSU), from Wrightsoft, is one such program. It offers a wide array of features most suitable for HVAC contractors and mechanical engineers doing both residential and commercial analysis. HERS raters and home performance contractors can use the residential modules to calculate room-by-room supply flows in CFM. You can compare those flows to what’s actually happening in a house to pinpoint bad duct design, leakage, and undersized or oversized equipment.

RSU Modules

RSU is packaged as a series of modules that range in price from $269 to $759. The residential modules include load calculations and duct design according to methodologies from three different organizations:
  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA);
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE); and
  • Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI).

There are modules for designing 2D low- and high-velocity ducts, geothermal loops, solar domestic hot water installations, and radiant floor and snowmelt systems. There are also modules for generating customer proposals, doing sales presentations, managing customer relations, and calculating operating costs and doing energy analysis. The complete RSU suite has 19 modules from which you can choose. There is also a new module, called Right-J Mobile, that you can use to calculate block loads in the field, using the Web browser on a mobile device.

The most basic collection of modules that might be of interest to HERS raters and home performance contractors is called Basic Load. With an Internet price of $875, it includes the draw module and ACCA Manual J load calculations engine, the two most critical modules. You can get the duct design module, based on ACCA Manual D, for an additional $379. If you want to get all the residential and commercial modules, the cost is $4,866.

Creating a Building

Out of the box, Right-Suite Universal includes a Quick Start guide, an Examples and Reference manual, a CD-ROM with videos and tutorials, and the installation disk. You can use the Quick Start guide to get up and running. The installation is straightforward, including the Internet registration process.

Once you are ready to start a project, Wrightsoft provides three different options (see Figure 1). There is a menu bar, intended for more experienced users, and a navigator bar down the left-hand side of the screen, designed for new users. There is also a dizzying array of toolbars at the top of the screen that you can use instead of the menus or the navigator bar.

Within the navigator bar, there is a project wizard that walks you through starting a new project. It includes customer and project information; indoor and outdoor design conditions; building characteristics, such as stories, construction materials, and tightness; equipment and distribution preferences; and a report package. You can get a project started in minutes with the wizard.

Once you define the project parameters using the navigator bar, the best way to use RSU is by hiding the navigator bar and as many toolbars as necessary (maximizing screen real estate) and concentrating on Right-Draw. You draw building components by selecting them from a toolbox and clicking and dragging in the drawing area. You can draw rooms; windows; doors; rooflines; skylights; HVAC components such as blowers, registers, and fittings; and radiant loops and manifolds. You can drag them around as needed, easily resize objects, and change their properties. Right-Draw makes drawing odd-shaped rooms very easy (and kind of fun, too).

A building consists of sheets, which are basically floors, and layers, which are drawing layers that contain floor components. For instance, you can import an AutoCAD drawing to a layer and use it as a basis for doing your design. You can create a layer that contains appliances and lighting fixtures from predefined RSU collections called catalogs, or add a layer that includes text notes and annotations. When you define a floor, RSU automatically adds layers for the ducts, which shows duct sizes and locations, and the duct notation, which shows individual room supplies. You can show and hide individual floors and layers by clicking on the tree structure on the right-hand side of the screen. This lets you create complex structures but keep the visual clutter to a minimum.

While you create your building in Right-Draw, the program silently builds an energy model in the background, using whatever method you specify for the project (you can switch between the various calculation methods). For instance, if you decide you want to use ACCA Manual J and D for calculating room loads and duct sizes, the program creates a worksheet with heating and cooling loads for every room, zone, and floor. It factors in glazing, wall, and roof assemblies, and other Manual J-defined requirements on the fly, recalculating with every data entry step. Changes  are updated automatically across all modules, minimizing data entry.

Once you enter the building data, you select your equipment type. There are separate lists for cooling, heating, and water-heating equipment. You can either enter generic equipment features, or select heating and cooling equipment from libraries containing manufacturer’s specifications. Wrightsoft updates this equipment database from the database of the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). This organization was formed from a merger of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) and the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (GAMA). You can load the updates into RSU via a menu command if you have an Internet connection.

You finalize the Manual D duct system by entering the system static pressure. Right-Suite can automatically calculate the duct layout for you, using one of the program’s five predefined methods, or you can do it yourself. If you let the program do the layout, you can adjust the register locations, the duct topography, and the drawing style, and you can override the default duct properties.

RSU offers a variety of reports. Some are suitable for the HVAC analyst; others are designed for managing the sales process. For the user, there is the building layout as entered in Right-Draw, a duct system summary, radiant and snowmelt design and manifold summaries, several load reports, parts lists, and more. For the customer, you can print proposals, quotes, purchase orders, and fuel cost estimates. There are also some reports that can be used by a sales manager to track the progress of each salesperson.

Additional Features

So far, I have briefly described how to enter the design of a building and obtain load calculations and a duct system design. RSU does a lot more. You can, for instance, customize the   appearance of the program to include your company logo, or change the background and other visual characteristics. When you sit down with a customer, RSU appears as though it was your company’s own application, making your presentation more professional. You can also define multiple PowerPoint presentations and digital video clips that you can show during a sales presentation.

Like most programs that involve energy modeling or calculations, RSU has a set of predefined libraries for building assemblies, weather locations, indoor conditions, building types, building materials, duct sizes, equipment, utility rates and schedules, and various preferences. You can export and import library files and exchange libraries with other RSU users. You can also import parts and equipment data from Excel spreadsheets, so that your duct library, for instance, has the latest sizes and prices.

If you have a lot of similar projects, you can define project templates that help you minimize data entry. Each template contains much of the same information that you enter in the project wizard. To create a template, you just save an existing project as a template.

RSU can export a design to REScheck or REM/Rate. The export file contains the building parameters, such as floor area, materials, insulation, and so on, that you’ve already entered for the load calculation, preventing unnecessary duplication of work. Additionally, using some of RSU’s load breakdown tools and reports, you can better analyze improvement recommendations. Providing a breakdown of the load per each major component in an easy-to-read pie chart, you can quickly see the biggest problem areas.

As I’ve already mentioned, RSU includes a printed Quick Start guide and a manual that contains extensive tutorials and a brief reference section. There is also online help that mirrors a lot of the content in the manuals, plus a set of digital video clips that cover small, manageable topics about using the program. Wrightsoft has designed the documentation to assist a wide variety of users. The best documentation is the tutorials, which cover more than 300 pages. I recommend working through as many tutorial chapters as possible.

Heavy Hitter

RSU is definitely a heavyweight program that can do pretty much anything an HVAC contractor or mechanical engineer might want or need. Home performance analysts and HERS raters don’t need to buy an entire suite of modules—just the Basic Load package—unless they want to expand their business into doing mechanical system design.

Because the program is intended for multiple applications, and for users with various skill sets, Wrightsoft has developed numerous ways to assist its customers. In addition to its documentation, the company offers free technical support to its customers and conducts trainings throughout the country. The company also hosts solution-based workshops, and offers advanced one-on-one Webinars for advanced instruction.

I’ve only covered the most essential features of RSU. If you think RSU might be a useful tool to add to your professional arsenal, the best way to check it out is to download the demo version from the Wrightsoft Web site. You can try out all the program’s features, for all the modules, with some modest limitations.

For more information:
Steve Mann can be reached at steve@green-mann.com.

For more information about Right-Suite Universal, visit www.wrightsoft.com.
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