Spring is a time of new beginnings, we are told, and I’m one to agree with this concept. Nothing brings this idea home to me better than the month of April and the start of the major league baseball season, where every team starts with a clean slate.

Editors also can have clean slates. Case in point: my 2009 resolution to overcome my fear of trying out CAD software. While attending last year’s ASPE Engineered Plumbing Exposition and this year’s AHR Expo, I was given two CAD programs that intrigued me like never before. I simply had to try them.

I began with Chief Architect X1 (CA), a program specifically designed for residential and light commercial professionals. I decided to try to draw out the plumbing in a two-story house.

Although my enthusiasm never waned during the initial three-hour session, it certainly was challenged. A quick call to the company’s technical help line proved very valuable and helped me create the walls necessary to install a plumbing plan. Slowly but surely I mastered the simple skill of drawing the plumbing lines of “pipe” in the room along the grid background and then placing essential fixtures (toilet, tub, sink).

Next came what was definitely the most fun for me while working with CA: Viewing my design in the overview and ground level modes separately and the 2D and 3D modes simultaneously. Unfortunately, this high point was followed by a low point - the trial version’s prevention of me saving or printing out my first ever plumbing plan.

With this first experience under my belt, I tried a more difficult (for me) software program called HvacCAD, part of the Mc4Suite. HvacCAD lets users layout/design radiant panels or plumbing systems for homes and buildings. I decided on a home plumbing system by following a video tutorial.

I started out okay by quickly adding a piping system with specific fluid properties, although the next two steps, selecting calculation type and flow curve, didn’t come so easy.

After this, I learned how to select and insert fixtures and a couple plumbing manifolds on both floors and establish their exit amounts and elevation.

Then came the coolest task of all: connecting plumbing manifolds to fixtures with pipe (see photo). I succeeded, but still wonder if digitally dragging the pipe line to each fixture isn’t more difficult than the actual installation. Also tricky was learning how to delete excess pipe from the system.

To end the tutorial I was asked to draw the service line to the house and distribution lines within the house (which I did after many attempts) and, finally, change pipe sizes/materials and perform key plumbing calculations (which I failed to do).

Part fun and part frustration, this experience has done more than enhance my knowledge of CAD. It has significantly increased my respect for the plumbing engineers’ greatest skill: Designing a winning lineup (system) for every project.