Free Building Management System Software Tools

Written by HVAC Guy

This blog will give you an honest insight into the day-to-day process of being a BMS Engineer. I will be talking about all different aspects of the job from software strategy planning to on-site hiccups and frustrations.

17 July 2021

Often the controls manufacturers provide you with all the tools required to get the job done, but there are certain situations where you need to use 3rd party software or websites for certain tasks.

I have a go-to set of trusted software solutions that I use time and time again when the manufacturer’s package is not suitable for the job.

An example of where this would be necessary is testing a Modbus electricity meter. If you simply want to prove that the device is outputting Modbus values you can plugin locally and connect to it directly with your laptop, no need for manufacturers software or even a BMS controller. It is worth mentioning that the correct cables/converters would be necessary to get it to work. But this is a useful test to carry out when you want to take any potential wiring issues out of the equation.

This list is not just limited to software for practical on-site solutions as described above, there are other apps/sites that I often access to complete the task in hand.

Modscan32

Modscan is a free software package that allows your laptop to work like a Modbus master to communicate with slave devices via a 2-wire connection or an ethernet connection. This can be any slave device as long as it talks in Modbus.

The interface is quite dated now but it is free and very simple to configure. In order to connect to an ethernet device, you will need an ethernet cable and nothing more. To connect to a 2-wire device you will likely need a converter to convert the Modbus RS485 output to a language which your PC will speak. This often involves a couple of additional parts, Check out my post on essential BMS engineer gadgets to see my recommended converters.

Image of Modscan Modbus software

The software is simple and with few adjustable settings, it can be configured and set working within minutes.

I will provide a full tutorial of the software in a future post. In short, you set up your connection from the top menu: Connection > Connect.

This then brings up a pop-up box to configure the communication settings. You need to know which comm port you are connected to and what speed settings are required for the device.

Modscan can be downloaded for free from the following link:

https://www.win-tech.com/html/demos.htm

Youtube

This is a great learning tool for almost anything!

Whilst the information regarding building management systems and associated industries is quite limited there is still a bit out there. Most recently the introduction of the Tridium N4 training videos by One Sightsolutions has proven to be a great success. I often find myself referencing them to check best practices and to refresh the brain if it is something I have not looked at for a while. You can find the entire library of videos through the link below!

https://www.youtube.com/c/OneSightsolutionsLtd/videos

Image of OneSight Solutions Youtube Channel

Aside from the One Sightsolutions videos, you can find other bits and bats related to building management systems but to be honest, the information is a little bit scarce and often dated.

BACnet Discovery Tool (BDT)

The BACnet Discovery Tool is provided free of charge by the guys over at Contemporary Controls. I find it to be the most reliable BACnet testing tool provided that you are communicating BACnet via IP, it does not support MSTP as far as I am aware, later versions may prove to do this down the line.

The software can be accessed free of charge by filling in the form on the attached link.

https://www.ccontrols.com/sd/bdt.htm

Image of the BACnet discovery tool for BMS BACnet networks

BDT is a very straightforward program with little to bamboozle. You simply select the port you wish to use (Field marked “your IP address”) and then your search.

All connected BACnet devices will appear in the white space on the left where you can then double click into them to check the points available and see the real values.

This is a really great tool to quickly scan a network for BACnet IP devices.

Picresize.com

This is a great web-based tool that comes in very handy for creating graphics.

Most graphics packages that I have worked on within Building Management Systems software programs do not allow for simple picture resizing within the software, when you include an image it shows it in the exact size it is saved. This is where this website comes in.

I particularly like this one because most web-based services like this either cost money or require you to have some form of log in, this does not. You simply select your file and choose what you want to do with it. There are some further edits which can be achieved like colour filters, crops and rotations but it is very basic. I only use it for resizing images which works perfectly and to top it off, it works with PNG’s maintaining transparent backgrounds too…. Excellent free web tool.

Screen shot from the PicResize website

https://picresize.com/

MBCONF & MBSHEET – MBUS

MBUS is another communication protocol which is mainly found on metering devices in the BMS world.

MBCONF software is an application tool which will allow you to connect to a single device and change the configuration if necessary. It is particularly useful if you have a device in front of you and you are not sure of the address. You can connect to it using address 254 within the software and it will search the connected network for devices, if only one device is connected it will return with the device settings and the primary address. From here you can record the address or change it if necessary.

Screen shot of the MB-CONF MBUS software before connection to a device

MBSHEET software scans the network and pulls in all connected devices at the same time. Once all devices are found you can then scan the devices for the output values. This is particularly useful when you are having issues reading the MBUS on your Building Management System. You can bypass the BMS with this software to prove the devices and the wiring of the network.

Screen shot of the MB_Sheet software connected to a device

In order to use the MBCONF and MBSHEET software you will need some additional hardware. I use a PW relay module to test with. This module acts as a gateway between your computer and the MBUS network.

Image to show connection from a laptop to MBUS devices using a PW relay module

Download link for MBCONF – https://www.relay.de/en/products/software/mbconf/

Download link for MBSHEET – https://www.relay.de/en/products/software/mbsheet/

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