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Step 1 | Review thermal-fluids
are the fundamental concepts that every HVAC
Engineer need to understand.
HVAC Engineers use their broad knowledge of
thermal-fluid concepts to combine variety of equipment and components to create
systems that control temperature, humidity, and air quality in enclosed spaces.
If you are currently a senior year student or a recent graduate of a Mechanical
Engineering program, you already know thermal fluids’ fundamentals and you can go
to Step 2.
If you got your engineering degree a while ago and forgot some of the concepts,
don’t worry! It only takes a few weeks for you to review thermal fluid fundamentals as
you only need to refresh your memory on concepts. See next page for a list of concepts
that you need to review.
Thermodynamics Fluid Mechanics Heat Transfer Preliminaries:
• Units and Dimensions
• State of Substance
• Combined Heat and Power
• Fans
• Turbines
• Compressors
Thermodynamics: An
Engineering Approach
Amazon Link Here
Fundamentals of Fluid
Young, Theodore H. Okiishi
DeWitt, Theodore L. Bergman,
Step 2 | Learn about HVAC systems
and equipment
cooling, and ventilating systems and their
components. Here is a list of the most common
systems and equipment that you need to be familiar with. Name of one or two major
manufacturers of each equipment is added in parenthesis. Make sure to google them
and check some of their equipment catalogs.
Air Systems
Air Types
• Supply Air
• Return/Circulation Air
• Exhaust Air
• Direct Expansion Packaged System (Daikin,
• Fan (Greenheck, Twin City)
Exhaust Systems
• VAV Box (Daikin, Carrier)
Hydronic Systems
• Heat Exchangers (Danfoss)
Hydronic Terminal Equipment
• Chilled Beams (York, Titus)
Step 3 | Learn building energy
transfer through boundaries of buildings to determine
the type and size of the system required to maintain
the indoor design condition. The actual calculations are very complex and time
consuming to do by hand, and the standard practice is to use an energy analysis
software which you will learn in the next step.
However, before using a software for energy analysis, you need to learn about the
followings to be able to have the right input for your calculation by software:
• Indoor design conditions such as conditions for human comfort
• Outdoor design conditions: cooling, heating, evaporation, and dehumidification
• Ventilation for indoor air quality
• Methods of heat and mass transfer to and out of buildings
• Sources of heat generation inside buildings
Step 4 | Learn load calculation by a
As mentioned in Step 3, analyzing heat transfer to and
out of a building requires complex and time-
consuming calculations. That’s why using a software
for this task is necessary for accuracy and efficiency in the design.
Currently, Hourly Analysis Program (HAP) and Trane Trace 700 (or Trace 3D Plus) are
widely used in the United States for HVAC system design. Both of them can provide
calculations in Metric (SI) and US Customary (IP) units. You can also import weather data
for any location in the world to the software. So, you can use them for any commercial
project, anywhere in the world!
Check out these links to get familiar with them:
Trace 3D HAP
Step 5 | Learn air and hydronic
distribution system design
You need to learn how to layout ducts, air terminals,
registers, diffusers, and grilles in enclosed spaces to
achieve proper air distribution inside the space. Also,
you need to learn how to calculate pressure drop in the ducting network to select the
right fan that provides the required airflow and pressure for your system.
Moreover, you need to learn how to layout pipes to provide heating hot water, chilled
water, or condenser water to HVAC equipment. You need to learn how to calculate
pressure drop in the piping network to select the right pump that provides the required
hydronic flow and pressure for your system.
Step 6 | Learn equipment selection
You need to be familiar with the process of selecting
the right equipment for the system that you design.
This is actually a very fun engineering exercise.
To select the right equipment, you need to gather all
the required data from your engineering analysis such as cooling load, heating load,
dehumidification load, air flow, water flow, pressure drop, available space, etc. and then
reach out to equipment manufacturers for a “selection”.
For a small equipment that costs less than $50,000, you can typically find the right
equipment on the manufacturer’s website. For a large equipment that can cost up to
$1,500,000, you need to contact a professional sales engineer to receive the right
Below is a list of some of the largest equipment manufacturers. Make sure to check out
their website and download equipment brochures, catalogs, and submittals.
Heating and cooling equipment
• Grundfos
• Marley (SPX)
Fans • Greenheck
• Twin City
Boilers • Fulton
Step 7 | Learn sequence of
operation (system control) design
design, includes control system design. Each
component in the HVAC system needs to operate in
coordination with other components. For example, an exhaust fan’s control damper
shall not close before the fan fully stops. Otherwise, the fan’s discharge duct gets over
pressurized, causing damage to the fan.
For simple systems such as a thermostatically controlled fans, the sequence of operation
is very easy to design. But for multi-component systems such as a DOAS with cooling,
heating, energy recovery, and dehumidification features the sequence of operation is
complex and requires study and coordination with the equipment’s manufacturer.
You need to learn how to design sequence of operation for HVAC systems. You can start
by learning about sequence of operation of simple systems such as split and packaged
heat pumps.
Step 8 | Learn AutoCAD Mechanical
AutoCAD is a software that Architect and Engineers
use to design variety of buildings and systems.
AutoCAD has been used for decades and continues
to be one of the major tools for all engineers who
work in the AEC industry. Autodesk, the company that created AutoCAD, releases a new
version of the software every year.
Since 2015, when companies around the world started using Revit and Building
Information Modelling (BIM) more often for new projects, AutoCAD has been mainly
used for existing building projects which are mostly in 2D. It is because Revit is a better
software for 3D design and BIM in new construction projects.
However, there are billions of constructed projects with only 2D drawings. Almost all of
these projects, which are now existing buildings and systems, need renovation in the
future. This means that AutoCAD will remain a key software for HVAC engineers for the
foreseeable future.
As an HVAC engineer, you only need to learn the basics of AutoCAD and its MEP toolset.
You do not need to spend weeks or even months to learn all the AutoCAD tools that you
will never use for HVAC design.
Step 9 | Learn Revit Mechanical
Revit is arguably the most popular software for new
building and facility modelling. Unlike AutoCAD, Revit
models are smart which help you to accurately and
efficiently model HVAC systems.
Revit is so widely used that almost all major HVAC equipment manufacturers offer free
Revit models of their equipment for you to use in your projects.
Revit has tools for Architectural, Structural, Interior, Electrical, and Mechanical
disciplines. Designing systems in Revit is an essential skill for all HVAC engineers, and
you definitely need to learn this skill. However, you only need to learn the basics of Revit
and its Mechanical design features. You don’t need to spend weeks or even months on
learning the tools that you will never use.
Step 10 | Aim high!
For example, Google needs HVAC engineers to design
cooling systems for their data centers, Stantec needs
HVAC engineers to design HVAC systems for modern hospitals, and SpaceX needs HVAC
engineers to design HVAC systems for rockets.
Working as an HVAC engineer is a rewarding career with many opportunities to grow
professionally and financially, especially if you work in a great company. Here is a list of
some the best companies to work for as an HVAC engineer.