Smartphones and tablets aren't just for fun anymore — large corporations and independent contractors alike can now leverage the power of mobile devices to streamline business operations. Canadian electricians have a host of choices when it comes to estimating, reference and calculation apps, but here's the thing: Many are just useless little things wrapped up in great marketing, meaning you're out $10, $25 or even $100 for something you'll never use on the job. That's where we come in: We jumped headlong into electrical forums and review sites to give you an unbiased look at some of the best apps available for your business. Here's our top five.
This is the big one, the basic, and essential to have on hand. Many contractors still carry this around in hard copy or as a PDF file, but the CSA Group now offers it as an interactive app for Android and iOS devices. It's not cheap — you're looking at $259 for the year, but it's indispensable. A thread on the Electrician Talk form describes the app as “epic” on the iPad, and it's not hard to see why: It scales to any mobile device, provides access to rules, explanations and rationale along with a search function that supports rule, topic or keyword. You can also eMarkup the CEC document however you want and set bookmarks for future reference. All in all it's a superstar and well worth the cost for any Canadian electrical contractor.
This one costs $10 at the Google Play store but according to reviews is well worth the cost. The app lets you calculate any transformer size to get KVA, FLA, pipe, fuse and breaker size and calculate the allowable ampacity of any wire type. You can also calculate any box fill in any situation along with easily completing voltage drop calculations. Reviews are largely four and five-star, with users praising the app's simplicity, ease of use and wide range of features. Occasional issues do crop up, however, with some electricians reporting that wire sizes aren't updating from older versions in transformer calculations. The general consensus, however, is that customer service is on the high end with fixes and updates coming often.
Apps don't always have to be complicated — or costly — to be useful. That's the case with Feet Inch Calculator Free, which does exactly what you'd think: Lets you quickly convert from feet to inches and from metric to Imperial, along with giving you tools to calculate area and volume. Why is this one a must-have? It's easy; metric is the de facto standard here in Canada, but that doesn't stop most construction measurements from showing up in Imperial. No one uses the metric conversion for a two-by-four, meaning electricians are often stuck with multiple sets of measurements just to get a simply job done. Grab the Feet Inch Calculator and you've got the answer in your pocket.
Continuing the trend of “not so costly” apps is the Dual Level Pro, which comes in at just $1.99. Again, the function here is simple: Make sure things like conduits are level before you call a task complete. Reviews call out the app's focus on function over form — in addition to standard horizontal and vertical levels, you can also rotate the center vial in five degree increments allowing you to easily compare multiple angles.
The original version of this app — ES2 Flat Rate — always comes up in forum threads about sales and estimating software. Just last month the developer released a new version, CS2 Flat Rate, which is available for both iOS and Android operating systems. It's worth noting that this app is optimized for tablets, not smartphones, but is already drawing big praise on the forums thanks to its comprehensive flat rate database and the ability to build out unlimited options for clients.
That's our top five, culled from hundreds of apps out there thanks to reviews from Canadian electricians in the field. Got a favorite app of your own that didn't make the list?