By Anthony Schewitz, ECA Technical Adviser
We live in the information age, and it’s called that because when we need information, we can usually find an app for anything and everything we need or want on the internet. Ask someone a question, and you often hear them say “there is an app for that”! Using this kind of technology isn’t something to be afraid of but rather it should be embraced because it gives you convenient access to all the information you need by just clicking on an app in your phone.
Most electrical contractors always have a SANS 10142-1 file and the OHS Act close at hand, but there is other information that they need every day. They can’t carry textbooks and instruction manuals around so having these handy apps at their fingertips just makes life a little easier. Time is money and using these apps saves time and money. Showing your clients how techno savvy you are can only impress if you know what you’re talking about.
The electrical industry is complex at best so, for ease of reference, I’ve categorised the apps and listed the free versions. Most apps have a ‘pro’ version that comes with a few extra features and functionality – but they also come at a price. Lastly, there are apps for students from N1 to N6 to download past papers and memos.
Locally applicable apps
- Veti Studio
Initially, when looking at this app you may think it is a sales gimmick to specify Veti products, which it obviously is, but it’s also a useful tool that uses an Augmented Reality (AR) option and you can use the app’s functionality to demonstrate to your client what combinations of switches and sockets are possible, how that configuration will look like on the wall and if it matches the couches. It’s a tool that can be used for sales and assist you in specifying jobs correctly for your clients because the app generates a bill of quantities according to everything on the list and it calculates the total cost.
- CBI Home
This is less of a tool and more of a smart home functionality front for the CBI Astute range of energy monitoring, scheduling and control devices with load management and automation capabilities. I believe it’s crucial that, as electricians, we make ourselves wise to the use and application of these smart devices, which are going to become more prevalent as millennials begin to buy homes and adapt them to ‘smart homes’ so they can remotely control lights, geysers and pool pumps. When quoting on jobs for clients, this type of app can be used for sales and marketing – and for showing clients how their lives can be made easier. The app needs a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi with internet connection and a Smartphone or tablet.
- Design Spark
This app is managed by RS Components, an international company with a South African footprint. The app offers basic calculations and functions specific to electronics but also offers a link to the webstore. Apart from the mobile app, I have personally used the free-to-use apps for PC-based CAD drawing programs: Design Spark Electrical, Design Spark Mechanical and Design Spark PCB. You can design from scratch or update designs quickly and accurately. The app produces scaled and dimensioned 2D panel layouts with schematics and reports. It can generate a Bill of Materials, checks prices and availability and has an online order facility.
- Electro Doc
This app used to be called ElectroDroid and is probably one of the oldest apps I personally have had on my device. Basically, it’s a powerful yet simple to use collection of electronics calculators, tools, and references for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone devices. The free version is great, and the paid version is just that much better. This app has schematics, diagrams, calculators and useful pinouts and resources that can help you out when you are doing special projects like High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cables and so forth. The new 5.1 version gives more options and materials in the voltage drop calculator. A few of the functions include an Ohm’s law calculator; Reactance/Resonance calculator; voltage divider; Resistor series/parallel; Capacitor series/parallel and capacitor charge calculation; and an LED resistor calculator (with customisable database).
- Mobile Electrician (MElectrician)
This is one of the best free apps an electrician can download! it has calculations specific to IEC, NEC and CEC specifications as well as many others which are all very useful. The IEC spec calculation gives real wire size calculations, which are very close to our own due to the SABS taking a stance of moving toward the IEC specs. There’s a long list of what this app can do – a few are: Ohm’s law for DC; Ohm’s law for AC; calculation of discharge time of capacitors; conductor length/size); voltage drop; electrical resistivity and conductivity; calculate Amps; calculate power factor(three-phase); calculate motor power for centrifugal pump and fan; short-circuit current at the secondary terminals of a MV/LV distribution transformer; cable reel capacity; and power losses in cable.
- Electrical Calculations
This app offers a different view but the same as the Mobile Electrician App, this gives more data that is normally required for calculations, conversions and resources such as: fuses application categories, standard resistor values; tripping curves; tables for cables’ reactance, resistivity and conductivity, and unitary voltage drop. This app also has functionality features that can assist electricians as it also uses IEC units with sizing and calculations.
- Lighting Calculations
This app assists electricians with the calculations that are specific to lighting and, much like the electrical Calculations app (above), it calculates the quantity of luminaires, power supply size for LED and it incorporates useful converters and a basic lux meter utilising your phone’s camera. Other features include: Calculation of total flux, lighting requirements for interiors, luminous efficacy calculation, power factor correction. Converts Lumens to Lux, Lux to Lumens, Lumens to Watts, Watts to Lumens, Lux to Watts, Watts to Lux, Lumens to Candela, Candela to Lumens, Candela to Lux, Lux to Candela, etc. Resources include type of lamps, lamp fittings, table of luminous efficacy, colour temperature, Kruithof curve, visible spectrum, fluorescent tubes, colour codes of fluorescent tubes, and power supply for strip LEDs.
Specialised Installations (hazardous locations)
FlamCal is an application aimed at Master Installation Electricians (MIEs) who are sometimes required to answer tricky questions on substances on the spot and, with this app it’s easy to determine the physical properties of gas and vapour that may be needed for equipment selection (gas group, temperature classification etc) or area classification (vapour density, FlashPoint etc). It also can help to quickly verify ignition temperature, upper explosive limits (UELs) and lower explosive limits (LELs) and other relevant information.
EXCovery is an app developed and managed by explosion protection company, R Stahl, and provides information about hazardous locations, and gives guidance on zoning, EPLs, etc. Designed for operators, planners, installers and engineers who work with electrical apparatus in hazardous environments, the app explains ATEX and IECEx markings and provides a breakdown of the information encoded on the labels of explosion-protected electrical devices. The app analyses the portion of the marking specified according to the IEC 60079-0 standard, which is included in the certifications of both ATEX and IECEx devices. The operator enters a short string of characters from the nameplate of an explosion-protected device and the app responds and displays the dust or gas atmosphere designation along with the ignition protection type, gas group, temperature class and equipment protection level.
- EX Equipment
This is an IEC/IECEx managed app that gives the user access to IEC/ IECEx certificates and offers a search function, which can be used to verify whether a certificate is valid, etc.
Nated Studies (N1 to N6)
- Nated Go
This app is free and provides unlimited use of question papers and memos for various subjects, including Electrical Trade Theory, which can be downloaded and viewed offline and can be shared.
- TVET Exam Papers
Question Papers and Memos for various subjects can be downloaded freely.
These apps are available to make the lives of electricians simpler. Remember that knowing what to use and when it can be used is closely related to knowing what test instrument to use!
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