Input File Creation Tools

A number of tools are available to create EnergyPlus input files (IDF). These include Easy EnergyPlus, ECOTECT, EnergyPlugged, EP-GEO & EP-SYS, ESP-r, and jEPlus. Tools for creating, editing, and running input files that come with EnergyPlus include IDF Editor and EP-Launch.

Easy EnergyPlus

Screen shot of Easy EnergyPlus interface in Chinese for creating and running EnergyPlus input files.

Easy EnergyPlus is a Chinese language interface for EnergyPlus that is being developed by the School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Tianjin University in China. The beta version of Easy EnergyPlus can accept input data required by EnergyPlus and run a simulation with the EnergyPlus engine. Nearly all of the interface is in Chinese, including menus, toolbars, labels, and lists. Entering input data in Chinese characters is also supported. The interface also lists the common construction materials in the Chinese market and allows the selection of popular HVAC systems in China. Easy EnergyPlus was created to acquaint more Chinese people with EnergyPlus and help improve energy consumption calculation and analysis in China. Easy EnergyPlus is currently only compatible with EnergyPlus version 1.4. To download, visit www.airfilter.org.cn, or for more information contact energyplus.chinese@gmail.com.

ECOTECT

ECOTECT from Square One couples an intuitive 3D design interface with a comprehensive set of performance analysis functions (visualization, solar and daylighting analysis, shadows and shading, lighting design, thermal performance, UK building regulations, ventilation, and acoustic analysis) with interactive information displays. It also can export an EnergyPlus IDF file.

EnergyPlugged

Screen shot of EnergyPlugged plugin for AutoCAD for creating EnergyPlus input files.

EnergyPlugged is an Autodesk AutoCAD plug-in to create and edit EnergyPlus input files. EnergyPlugged was conceived to improve and speed up EnergyPlus model creation without loosing control of it, preserving EnergyPlus flexibility and allowing errors to be found.

With EnergyPlugged you can:

  • draw your tridimensional building in AutoCAD or import it from your favorite CAD program
  • select each surface with a click and get the geometry data
  • check potential relations between objects and select the one you need
  • continue adding and editing EnergyPlus objects in the editor
  • import datasets objects (schedules, internal gains, ...) in the same or in different layers
  • exchange objects between layers
  • convert values into SI and IP units
  • add and edit comments to objects in the editor for future revisions
  • save an .idf file from each layer
  • explore EnergyPlus simulation output files (.eso and .mtr)
  • load only the EnergyPlus output variables you need
  • graph each variable, navigate on the timeline, get each time step value into SI and IP units
  • get maximum, minimum and other statistical data
  • export variables in comma-separated values format
  • compile reports to graph multiple series in each chart from the EnergyPlus output variables
  • combine variables coming from the same or different files using series formulas
  • save each report and re-use them to get same charts and data tables from different simulations

EnergyPlugged requires Autodesk AutoCAD 2007 or later to run. You will also need the dictionary file (usually called Energy+.idd) that comes with the EnergyPlus installation and is located in the EnergyPlus root directory. EnergyPlugged can be downloaded from http://www.energyplugged.it

EP GEO and EP SYS

NaturalWorks has developed two spreadsheet-based interfaces that can complement the simple interface tools that are included in the standard EnergyPlus installation.

EP GEO: A simple spreadsheet that uses a set of simple macros to create rectangular building geometry, windows, shading, infiltration, internal gains and temperature control (using 'purchased air'). Rectangular zones can be automatically created in an idf file by simply entering zone height, width and length. An offset in zone origin can be used to insert multiple zones in an existing file.

EP SYS: This spreadsheet allows for creation of Purchased Air, Fan Coil And Variable air Volume systems in a large number of zones. The list of zones in an existing IDF file can be automatically imported and individual zones selected for insertion of one of the three basic types of systems available in the tool.

Screen shot of EP-Quick software for creating EnergyPlus input files.

EP-Quick

EP-Quick creates input files for many different buildings using built in templates for the shape and zone layout. By using templates for commonly shaped buildings and zone layouts, the time needed to create an EnergyPlus input file is greatly reduced and it works for any sized building building. Version 1.0 was released in April 2005. EP-Quick is available for download at no cost.

Start by pressing the "NEW" button, selecting a template and the types of floors. Once a template is selected, zoning and shape are fixed but the overall dimension of the building can be changed. The buildings are "prismatic" and are the same shape and size on all floors. Windows and doors may be added and constructions and schedules may be modified.

Use main "tree" interface to examine and modify the many different details of the building. The main parts of the tree are:

  • Overall Geometry - depth, width
  • Building - roof, floor, interior constructions
  • Defaults - default values used in "Floorplans"
  • Internal Gain Types - lighting, people, schedules
  • Floorplans - zones, exterior walls, windows, etc
  • Corners - locations of the building vertices
  • Roof corners - locations of special roof vertices

ESP-r

In keeping with the philosophy of linking the ESP-r simulation suite to other modelling systems, users can now export to EnergyPlus an ESP-r model with materials, constructions, surfaces (all three and four sided surfaces as well as those including one window or one door - more complex surfaces are currently filtered out) and solar shading devices.

Boundary condition attributes are translated and the parent/child relationship between opaque and transparent surfaces established. The exported models usually pass the EnergyPlus parser with no errors or with minor warnings.

Currently, approximate optical properties are established and schedules are not yet included. We anticipate updating the geometric filters to match the current EnergyPlus release as well as including casual gain schedules in the near future.

Those wishing more information about ESP-r or to download the standard distribution can go to www.esru.strath.ac.uk/Programs/ESP-r.htm Those wishing more information about the capabilities of ESP-r can go to www.esru.strath.ac.uk/Programs/ESP-r_capabilities/index.html

Screen shot of jEPlus for running EnergyPlus parametric simulations

jEPlus

Parametric analysis is often needed for exploring design options, especially when a global optimization method is unavailable, or the optimization result is in doubt. Parametric analysis can also be applied to all design variables simultaneously, which forms an exhaustive search approach that, providing that the search grid is fine enough, will guarantee the global optimum solution. This is potentially a very useful method.

In order to perform complex parametric analysis on multiple parameters with more than a handful of alternative values each, a tool to generate commands for the simulation model to run, and to collect results afterwards will be needed. jEPlus has been developed as a parametric shell for EnergyPlus. It is written in Java, therefore supports all Windows/Mac/Linux versions of EnergyPlus. Some useful features of jEPlus include:

  • Complete GUI provide all controls needed to setup a parametric run
  • Unique parameter tree for defining dependence between parameter
  • Flexible syntax of specifying alternative values
  • Supports multi-processor/multi-core systems by threading
  • Simulation results are collected in CSV format (using ReadVarsESO) with index files
Screen shot of jEPlus parameter tree

Briefly, to use jEPlus, user prepares an IDF template file by putting tags (special search strings) at the places of the parameters. jEPlus chooses the next set of values for the parameters according to the information provided by the user. It then searches the IDF template for the tags, replaces them with the new values, and saves it as a new IDF file. EnergyPlus is called to simulate the model. Results are post-processed with ReadVarsESO.exe to produce selected output in CSV format. jEPlus finally adds indices and tags to the results, so they can be searched or imported into databases. EP-Macro will be supported in the future.