The Quest for the Best Building Energy Modeling Software: An In-Depth Examination

Published by firstgreen on

When you ask, “What is the best energy modeling software?” the responses are likely to vary based on who you ask. The question itself might be seen as flawed because ‘best’ can have numerous interpretations. For some, it might imply the most powerful and flexible modern software package, while for others, it could involve a balance between functionality and ease of learning.

A common contender often proposed as the best energy modeling software is EnergyPlus. However, this assertion deserves a nuanced examination. EnergyPlus, while undeniably powerful and flexible, is not a software package in the conventional sense. It is more accurately described as an engine.

A comparison might be calling the Ford Ecoboost V6 the best car globally—it’s an excellent engine, but it’s not a car. Similarly, EnergyPlus is a superior, albeit relatively complex to learn, engine. When integrated into a complete package with a graphical user interface, it undeniably ranks among the top contenders.

So what should we consider when evaluating the best whole building energy modeling software package?

Criteria should include ASHRAE Std 140 approval, power, flexibility, feature richness, learning curve, existing user base, reports, customization, and cost-effectiveness. In terms of cost-effectiveness, the free software eQUEST certainly stands out.

Given these parameters, our comparison is narrowed down to the following software packages:

  • EnergyPlus+OpenStudio+Trimble Sketchup
  • TRACE 700
  • Carrier HAP
  • IES VE
  • DesignBuilder
  • eQUEST

And some wildcards to consider:

  • AECOsim

This certainly helps streamline the selection from hundreds of possible options that a casual internet search might throw at you.

At this point, we invite you to engage in a friendly exchange. If you have a preferred software that you believe should make the list, please share screenshots showcasing why it’s awesome, whether that’s a stunning graphic or a truly technical feature. We’d love to see these examples and learn more about your favorite software, so please post them in the comments below or email us your screenshots.

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