Looking up "boilerplate" in the American Heritage Dictionary yields the following definitions: "1. A steel plate used in making the shells of steam boilers. 2. Journalistic material, such as syndicated features, available in plate or mat form." OK, so maybe both of those could use a little updating, but "boilerplate" still remains a unique intersection of HVAC terminology and publishing vocabulary.

Our goal here is to give you an overview of what the various boiler manufacturers supply in the way of tools to make your next boiler project easier. Some have software programs, others have literature and CAD libraries. Some offer downloads, some will mail you a CD-ROM. We focus first on the opportunities to download sizing software or to use a program right there on a company's website. After that, we'll review several other websites, a few of which put their own twists on the usual information.

So take a quick look to see who might be able to save you some time the next time you have to do some boiler / hot water heater investigation. Some of these tools consider a wealth of different commercial applications, review the company's line of products, then provide some quick and targeted guidance. And when the success (or worse, the failure) of a project could rest on the ability to select the best equipment for the job, you can't always afford to fall back on some dusty boilerplate approach, can you?

SOFTWARE / ONLINE TOOLS

Beyond the conventional technical library, users can go to the AERCO (www.aerco.com) site and take advantage of the Selection Wizard, designed to guide users to the right equipment for their projects. Users select the application (domestic hot water, laundry, hydronic space heating, and beyond), input the type of fuel, and inspect the subsequent recommendations.

Weil-McLain (www.weil-mclain.com) does allow visitors to purchase video instruction for a number of topics and units, including hot water and steam boilers and zoning hydronic heating systems. The company also offers Radiant Expert 2000, a downloadable program. This in-depth design program is a fairly large file, so users can also order the software for delivery on CD-ROM if they wish.

Taco (www.taco-hvac.com) dedicates a page to explaining the benefits of its downloadable LoadMatch® Hydronic System Solution (HSS) software, currently in version 3.2. It educates designers about the manufacturer's recommended one-pipe hydronics design, replacing various valves with LoadMatch circulators, which the company says results in improved performance and occupant comfort.

Engineers can use the RightSpec® sizing software from Bradford-White (www.bradfordwhite.com) on the site itself, no downloading involved. It offers a whopping 22 choices for commercial application type, from dairy barn to resort motel to coin-operated car wash. Users select the application and then enter data accordingly. Three options for sizing tankless water heaters also await.

Engineers can go to A.O. Smith Water Heaters (www.hotwater.com) and order its Acc-U-Size® CD-ROM for commercial sizing in food service, multiple dwelling, and other environments. The program facilitates sizing on applications with tank heaters, tank heaters with storage tanks, and boilers with storage tanks, considering the expected variety of heat sources as well. Drawings for dimensional and piping functions can be printed or exported to other PC programs.

State Water Heaters (www.statewaterheaters.com) produces a StateSize sizing guide. Visitors can select this page under the "Customer Care" page, then either call or fax info to the company to order a copy of the program on CD-ROM.

Burnham Hydronics (www.burnham.com) offers not one but two software programs. DesignPro is a new program dealing with heat loss calculation, heat distribution design, and material list creation. Meanwhile, the SmartDesign program aids specifying engineers in project documentation prep, via info about boiler ratings, spec sheets, piping diagrams, and more. Find these by clicking the "Boiler Basics" heading and then clicking on the "Software" option.

Hurst Boiler (www.hurstboiler.com) does not feature sizing software but lets users order its interactive CD-ROM catalog. The site also includes an inventory of CAD data as well as an interactive point-and-click parts guide, where users can get info and even order specific parts for various models.

OTHER RESOURCES

Lochinvar (www.lochinvar.com) doesn't offer software per se, but the site hosts a library of various resources. Visitors can select from the usual literature but also from options including diagrams, drawings, a system integration guide, a designer's guide, and sequencing charts for multiple boiler use.

Bryan Boilers (www.bryanboilers.com) has an "Engineering Data" page featuring both a downloadable "Conversion Factors" Excel file that considers various design parameters and a simple calculator. Visitors can also view a video tour.

Buderus (www.buderus.net) posts a PDF of a 48-page commercial product selection guide. The same page includes a fairly handy series of dropdown menus, where the user can select a variety of manuals and literature on company products from large boilers to heated towel racks, even including discontinued models.

Camus (www.camus-hydronics.com) website doesn't include software, but the users can select one of the manufacturer's models and review control panel features, dimensional specifications, and other info.

Lattner (www.lattner.com) does not offer software or other tools, but it does provide an extensive amount of literature and instruction, from the typical model-related info to less common niche-oriented support documents such as "Suggested Steam Piping for Drycleaners."

Nationwide Boiler Inc. (www.nationwideboiler.com) faces a slightly different range of tasks, since it deals with equipment rentals and leasing. Visitors can download a set of "guidelines for preparing a temporary steam plant," and order the company's "how-to primer" on the boiler rental process.

The website for Triad Boiler Systems, Inc. (www.triadboiler.com) houses downloadable three-dimensional CAD drawings for their Series 300, Series 900, and Series 1600 units. The site also offers an "Applications Advice" section, with pages including "Useful Steps From System Design To Installation," "The Importance Of Water," "Venting and Breaching Information," and more.

Parker Boiler Co. (www.parkerboiler.com) doesn't offer software either, but the site hosts a lengthy CAD library for reference. Unusually, it also lists not only the names (and pictures) of its service team, but also the members' amount of experience.

RBI (http://rbiwaterheaters.com) a Mestek company, has a page set up for an RBI Water Heaters Specifier piece of software, but the actual program is pending and not available as of press time. In the meantime, users can settle for the literature library, sorted by product line and type of literature desired.

HydroTherm (www.hydrotherm.com) and Smith Cast Iron Boilers (www.smithboiler.com), also Mestek companies, both serve up the usual library of model information and manuals, and a page for each model, but no sizing software or other online tools.

Unilux Boiler Corp. (www.uniluxboilers.com) hosts product specification ifo for its various bent watertube boilers, but the site does not include any online engineering tools or software.

Thermal Solutions (www.thermalsolutions.com) provides a wealth of PDFs covering product info, submittals, and more for all of the company's models, but the site does not include any interactive sizing tools or software.

Penn Separator Corporation (www.pennseparator.com) does not offer any electronic materials for order or download, but the company spreads a number of reference charts throughout the site for accurate sizing and specification.

Likewise, Riello Burners (www.rielloburners.com) offers no software, providing data leaflets on the various burner series instead.

Finally, Rema Dri Vac (www.remadrivac.com/about_rema_br.asp) does provide info about the company's boiler return systems, but no software or interactive elements.