Mechanical contractors have unique needs when it comes to creating price estimates for jobs. And these needs vary based on what type of work the company performs: heating, ventilation, air conditioning and cooling; plumbing and piping, refrigeration, fire suppression, or waste water work. A general estimator system, such as those covered in our construction estimate & takeoff guide, will suffice for contractors developing high-level pricing across multiple divisions. However, a mechanical estimator will need a system that is specific to his trade. We’ve profiled about a dozen top-rated cost estimate technology solutions that address the mechanical market.
While the HVAC, mechanical and plumbing trades are closely related, the features in cost estimating programs will vary for each of these divisions. For example, vendors offering tech solutions for commercial and industrial mechanical contractors will provide labor and material pricing for piping, plumbing fixtures, valves, fittings and more. Sheet metal estimating software will have cost information for fabricators and sheet metal companies, including pricing for round duct work, rectangular ductwork, hangers and other accessories.
Mechanical pricing estimate solutions are typically offered as standalone tools for piping work or sheet metal work cost estimates. It is also possible to get a system designed for both types of jobs. Specialty vendors might also offer separate HVAC scheduling software or HVAC dispatching software as add-ons or standalone products. HVAC dispatch software allows companies oversee services from work order to balance sheet. The product finder page provides a robust comparison of HVAC software providers.
Key Requirements for Mechanical Cost Estimate Programs
When assessing which HVAC management software solution best meets your company's unique needs, estimators should evaluate the following top programs with mechanical-specific capabilities. The best HVAC software available to build a company will have all of these options, but businesses just needing to learn how to bid HVAC jobs should go for something more basic. Beginners can also ask vendors for the best mechanical software courses to learn how to best utilize the system.
|Item database||The system should offer a large database of mechanical-specific parts and items, including fittings, valves and piping, as well as light gauge, heavy gauge, and industrial sheet metal materials for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and cooling. The database should have more than 100,000 items.|
|Assemblies||The system should offer a large library of pre-built mechanical assemblies. This will allow the estimator to more quickly build their estimate and not have to build their own library of assemblies. Of course, the system should also allow for easy creation of custom assemblies.|
|MCAA or PHCC labor tables||A mechanical-specific or air conditioning estimating software should have integrated labor tables from the MCAA or PHCC. These tables help the estimator determine the types of labor that will be required to perform a specific task. That is then matched with current labor rates.|
|Mechanical-specific pricing services||There are well over 100,000 different materials and items for plumbing, piping, sheet metal, ventilation and other mechanical work. The best accounting software for HVAC business manages more accurate item cost databases by integrating with a mechanical-specific pricing service such as Ferguson, Harrison, Trade Services, or Porter.|
|BIM integration||Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology is gaining wider use in large projects and is especially relevant to mechanical work. If your commercial HVAC maintenance estimating software integrates to BIM tools, the BIM models can pass detailed takeoff data directly into the system. Estimators will benefit from eliminating the takeoff process through this integration.|
|Mechanical-specific reports||Estimators want to run a variety of reports, including historical win rates, job costs, actual costs versus estimates, etc. While many of these reports are similar to those offered in generic price estimate systems, the data they present will be unique to mechanical work. Buyers should evaluate available reports to ensure they meet their needs.|
Recent Events in the Industry
In efforts to alleviate recessionary pressure, construction companies now more than ever need methods for cutting costs without sacrificing productivity. Specialty HVAC technology and construction mechanical estimating software makers have responded to this opportunity with upgrades, applications and other improvements. Below are recent news items from four of the most active software for hvac and estimating mechanical work makers.
Maxwell Systems Estimation. Maxwell Systems garnered three industry awards this year for its ProContractorMX construction industry suite. The HVAC business software includes tools for takeoff, costing, job cost accounting and data management and analysis. The company was recognized with two “Top Trusted” titles from Constructech for commercial and residential, as well as one “Hot Products” 2012 award from Construction Executive. The best-of construction suite includes advanced modules for HVAC cost estimation and calculations for mechanical, plumbing and electrical firm needs. These tools are integrated with project management and HVAC accounting software so users can simultaneously track materials, oversee contracts and forecast jobs.
Wendes Systems WenDuct and WenPipe. In an effort to support paper-free solution seekers, Wendes Systems released New Screen Takeoff System for creating mechanical estimates. The new “Wendes Screen Drawing Takeoff” eliminates the need for paper prints by providing takeoff on your computer display. An HVAC estimator can use on-screen takeoff templates with duct, pipe, equipment and accessories to efficiently import engineering drawings.
Sage Timberline Estimating. Field service application maker FieldConnect in March released three new add-ons for Sage Timberline ERP, which includes HVAC software programs. The new service platform is meant to streamline field staff communication with office administrators and customers, while replacing paper intensive work order systems. Field workers estimating HVAC in the field can use the add-on with HVAC dispatch solutions, as well as with payroll and invoicing functions. FieldConnect’s products adapt to companies of all sizes and needs, including those bidding residential HVAC jobs.
ProEst Estimating. ProEst officials enhanced their estimating software for HVAC maintenance this year by enhancing their partnership with Trade Service Co. The agreement allows ProEst HVAC cost estimating software users one-click integration with Trade Service Co.’s TRA-SER SX - a pricing database with more than 2 million items from 650 manufacturers. The addition complements the ProEst tool’s built-in digital takeoff capabilities by offering the most up-to-date pricing information available in an instant.