Everyone wants to be comfortable. Whether it’s summer or winter, when a home or business’s temperature control is off, it can get uncomfortable quickly. In these times, the HVAC field technician is called upon to figure out what’s going on and get the customer’s system back in working order. While many service calls are fairly straightforward, others will require some more advanced equipment for effective diagnosis and service.
HVAC technicians want to make their customers comfortable and happy, but it takes more than a technician with the right attitude to get things done. Equipping field technicians with the right tools and equipment is a crucial piece of the equation.
So, what kind of tools do HVAC technicians use? This blog will cover three specific categories: safety equipment, common hand tools, and common power tools.
Before jumping in to the on-the-job tools, we’ll address worker safety first. A number of basic items will ensure worker comfort and safety. In fact, organizations must comply with industry-relevant OSHA regulations and must provide safety training, display OSHA documentation including employees’ rights regarding workplace safety, provide safe equipment, and more.
The essentials include:
- Hearing protection
- Face protection
- Eye protection
Quality gloves will protect technicians against cuts and abrasions, electrical shock, and burns. The best gloves will provide good grip while also being breathable and comfortable enough as to not interfere with the work at hand. There are a number of specialty gloves available as well that may be necessary in some cases, such as chemical-resistant or antistatic gloves.
The work of an HVAC technician is loud, especially when you consider the power tools they use within closed quarters, making industrial-caliber ear muffs or plugs are a must. When selecting the right hearing protection, consider utility as well as comfort.
Face masks offer basic protection against physical debris like metal shavings. Respirator masks specifically prevent technicians from breathing in hazardous materials (such as chemicals), as well. A variety of respirators are available, running the gamut from disposable, one-time-use masks to full-face, supplied-air respirators.
Safety goggles or a face shield are necessary to protect against debris (when drilling through sheet metal, for example). Again, consider durability and comfort.
The right footwear for the job will alleviate and even prevent foot pain—which goes home with a technician when they clock out). Considerations include arch support, cushioning/insoles, water resistance, breathability, and fit. For added protection, consider steel-toe boots or rubber-soled options as safeguards against injury and shock.
HVAC workers frequently find themselves working in confined or difficult-to-access environments. A reliable, quality flashlight is often necessary to assess the job. Headlamps free up technicians’ hands, often a necessity.
What are the best HVAC hand tools?
What are common HVAC tools used manually? The standards include:
- Measuring tape
- Torpedo level
- Staple gun
- Caulking gun
- Cutting tools
- Gauges and meters
A lightweight hammer will be preferable, especially when you consider that the hammer is but a single tool on the technician’s tool belt. Fiberglass is a good choice, as it is both lightweight and durable. It’s also important to consider the hammer’s grip.
Many HVAC systems are assembled using hex-head screws and bolts. It’s important to have a range of screwdrivers and nut drivers available, so the right driver for the job is always an option. Consider a full set of both flathead and phillips-head, or a multi-purpose driver with a collection of bits. Drivers with insulated handles provide added protection against electrical shock.
Various types and sizes of pliers provide versatile utility. Wire pliers are used for cutting wire, needle nose pliers prove useful for extracting wire from within a narrow wall opening, and wire-stripping pliers are used for stripping and reconnecting wire segments. Since these are used in dealing with wire, insulated handles are strongly recommended.
Several different types of wrenches are used to perform installation, maintenance, and repair of HVAC systems. Among others, the wrenches needed for this work include fixed wrenches, adjustable/crescent wrenches, pipe wrenches, and allen wrenches. Adjustable (or crescent) wrenches are versatile, so you don’t need an overwhelming number of these.
Since different HVAC systems are built with various sizes of pipe, a set of pipe wrenches will equip a technician with the right tools to attach or remove the pipes they encounter on a specific jobsite.
While a 25-foot measuring tape is a foundational piece of the technician’s toolbox, longer or shorter tapes are worth having on hand for different situations. Many measuring tapes offer self-locking and self-retracting capabilities, as well as a magnetic tip.
HVAC systems need to be level when installed; a simple level removes any guesswork. Consider a magnetic level to free up the technician’s hands.
Technicians will use staple guns in a number of situations, including ductwork assembly and securing various insulation materials into place. A heavy-duty staple gun also comes in handy for securing joists and foil lines for improved air flow.
HVAC technicians will need a caulking gun for sealing vulnerable openings, including sealing ductwork or even holes in a house. Consider a dripless caulking gun for less mess.
Tin snips and aviation snips are used to cut through metal sheeting, with precision, to ensure proper fit of system components. These are especially useful when working on ducts and ventilation. Tin snips work like scissors, with one blade pivoting against the other, while aviation snips (a more versatile tool) give a mechanical advantage by featuring compound action. Not all snips are the same—typically, their grip colors indicate their intended purpose, which is a matter of which direction the technician needs to cut.
HVAC technicians use sheet metal shears to cut holes in metal ductwork. Like tin snips, there are specific shears for cutting sheet metal in different directions. For tasks like safely cutting cables and stripping insulation from wires, electrician’s shears are worth having on hand.
A tubing cutter does exactly what it’s name indicates. Standard, quick-adjust tubing cutters are designed to cut a variety of materials, making them versatile and efficient. These come in various sizes, so a small set of cutters will equip technicians with the right tool for the job.
Gauges and meters
Working with HVAC systems requires a variety of gauges and meters.
Temperature control is obviously essential in the HVAC industry. A handheld or pocket thermometer or infrared temperature sensor is great for taking quick readings to monitor changes in temperature, so the technician can diagnose refrigerant levels and determine whether installed equipment is functioning properly. For increased functionality ,consider a high-quality digital thermometer with sensor probes or an infrared thermometer.
A psychrometer measures relative humidity by taking dual temperature readings (“dry bulb” and “wet bulb”). Some psychrometers have the conversion built right in, while others will require the technician to consult a separate chart.
An electrical tester lets you know where electricity is present as well as its voltage, helping to ensure a technician’s safety. A multimeter performs multiple functions (such as measuring temperature), making it an HVAC must-have.
Manifold gauges are used both in diagnosis and service. They measure the pressure of the different liquids and gasses within an HVAC system. A wide variety of manifold gauges are available, generally with 2-4 individual gauges.
These might be digital or analog. Digital gauges are popular for their rapidity and reliability, but analog gauges will continue to be many technicians’ preference. Because HVAC systems use different refrigerants, it is important to make sure the right gauges are being used on each job.
What are the best power tools for HVAC?
Common HVAC power tools include the cordless drill and reciprocating saw.
Cordless drills are arguably the most essential tool in a technician’s toolbox. They are routinely used in a number of different situations (not just drilling holes). Particular attachments and bits open up a wide range of uses (offering a “powered” alternative to many of the hand tools discussed above, for example. Invest in a high quality cordless drill, at least two batteries, and a charger.
Another versatile, often used tool in HVAC is the reciprocating saw. Like the drill, look for a good reciprocating saw (or “sawzall”) that is cordless. By using different blades in the saw, technicians will be ready to cut through various system components, drywall, sheet metal, pipes, or wood. Again, having at least one back-up battery will ensure that this essential tool is always ready to perform.
HVAC Tools list
HVAC field technicians don’t need to carry an entire hardware store’s worth of gear and equipment to do their jobs well. And while some specific tools do require quantity (like a collection of wrenches rather than just one wrench), it’s worth considering quality over quantity. It’s true that you often get what you pay for.
When considering which hand tools and power tools to invest in for your business, keep versatility and durability in mind. This way, technicians are set up for success, ultimately to the benefit of your customers.
As a recap, here’s a tools list to begin building out your toolset:
- Hearing protection
- Face protection
- Eye protection
- Flashlight, headlamp
- Screwdriver(s), nut driver(s)
- Measuring tape
- Staple gun
- Caulking gun
- Cordless drill
- Gauges, meters
- Cordless drill
- Reciprocating saw
While this is not an exhaustive list, it provides the foundation. For specific situations, advanced or specialized tools may be needed, including the following:
- Coil fin straightener
- Core removal tool
- Hand seamers
- Leak detector
- Nitrogen regulator
- Vacuum pumps
Bring it all together with Acumatica’s complete end-to-end software for HVAC service providers
When customers need their HVAC systems serviced, they expect a technician equipped with the right tools for the job. Use the provided tools list to either begin building a tool set or taking inventory of what you’re sending technicians out working with. Do your research, and understand that you often get what you pay for.
To that end, one of the best HVAC tools for 2021 is powerful HVAC field management software that provides technicians and customers alike with a smooth experience on the jobsite. Acumatica Field Service Edition, offered through Circle City Software Solutions is one more powerful tool that empowers field technicians to better serve your customers by enabling them to review appointment details, get travel directions, take photos and record notes, prepare invoices, collect payments, and more. By handling these items in a single, accessible interface, technicians can spend more of their time doing what matters most—offering excellent customer service.
Schedule a demo today to see how our robust software offerings can round out your HVAC team’s tool set.