No HVAC technician wants to show up to a job site without everything he or she needs to complete the job. Not only does it look bad against you and your company, but you waste time and energy going back and forth to buy or retrieve the needed items.
This article will explain the essential items every HVAC tech needs in their arsenal. If you are looking for the most complete, accurate, and best HVAC tools, kits, and equipment for technicians, look no further.
If you have worked on one or two HVAC systems, you know that a pair of pliers and your charging manifold will get most jobs tested. However, after years in the industry, I can assure you that there will be times when you come upon a job that requires more than you are equipped with, and you will need to leave the job site to get specific items.
Let me save you that hassle and tell you everything you need to take on any job, in any condition. Just like a mechanic with their large chest of tools, or a woodworker with a garage full of equipment, your van needs to be stocked with everything you might need. Let’s see that list.
HVAC Hand Tools
Hand tools are our best friend. They go in the tight spaces with us, and we use them as an extension of our fingers when going around walls we can’t see past. These tools are essential.
Estwing Tinner’s Hammer is an important tool. When dealing with HVAC installs and repairs, you will find yourself dealing with sheet metal ducting.
The tinner’s hammer is there to help you shape the metal, pop rivets, or make chisels and cut-outs where needed.
If you are installing a UV lighting system, for example, this tool and a screwdriver are all you will need.
One thing about HVAC systems is that no matter how hard they try, there is always that one bolt or screw that is a different size than all the others.
The Klein Tools 15-in-1 screwdriver and bit set will make sure you don’t have to worry about coming across that odd duckling and not knowing what to do.
All of the common (and a few not-so-common) HVAC sizes are right here. This tool will save your bacon.
Find me an HVAC technician that has never had to crimp or cut wires, and I’ll show you a tech that hasn’t worked a day in their life.
The Klein Tools All-Purpose needle nose pliers are going to be your best friend. These little guys are easy to hold, can strip, crimp, cut, roll, fold, shape, and shear most sizes of electrical copper wiring.
You will find that thermostats and compressors are a lot easier to install with these in your belt.
Measure twice and cut once. Nothing spells disaster like cutting your AC lines too short. A proper measurement will ensure that you won’t have to reposition a heavy condenser unit again.
The Komelon Gripper is built to last, will withstand falling on the concrete slab when you go to stand up, and it has speed marks on the blade for easy identification of the exact measurement (eighth and quarter-inch marks are labeled).
If you have ever encountered a rusted bolt, a corroded fitting, or that braze cut that won’t separate, you know why you need a good pipe wrench. The RIDGID 31100 Model 818, is made from cast aluminum.
In case you don’t know, that means it is every bit as tough as those big red guys, and over half the weight. There won’t be any pant-sagging going on when you own this wrench, and you have all the muscle you need at your fingertips to get those stuck parts loose.
Unless you can see in the dark (don’t lie, I know you can’t), you will need a flashlight. Honestly, these are a dime a dozen, and you may lose a few over the course of a season. However, the Streamlight 75712 Stinger is one you want in your bag. This flashlight does it all, three beam selections, huge room saturation, and it’s rechargeable, so you don’t need to replace batteries every week.
When you drop it, it won’t break either, I know, personally. The light is bright, steady and true, and even on the highest setting (You will only need to use medium setting, even in an attic), the charge will last over 3-hours. Put this guy in your bag today.
Attaching the mounts? Screwing down that condenser casing into the concrete slab? You need a power drill — no cords, no fuss, and an impact that will bore through concrete like its butter. I’m talking about the Bosch Power Tools drill set.
You get two, a drill and driver with high torque for making your holes and fastening your screws. You also get the impact drill for mounting that electrical cut-out box to a brick wall or securing that air handler into the concrete basement.
Believe me; you won’t want to leave this set in your truck. Keep it on you at all times, and you will see your productivity increase 100%.
HVAC Safety Tools
We always want to work smart and stay safe. To do so, you need safety tools, kits, and equipment. Here are some of the best.
While a multimeter isn’t technically safety gear, it does protect you. When you shut power off to a thermostat, evaporator, or coil, you need to know it is really off. Because HVAC systems use full 220v power supplies, a single touch can be deadly. The right multimeter will tell you which lines are hot and which are cold before you start to disconnect. The Fluke 116/323 KIT can test it all.
Here is a flame sensor for gas-powered units, a built-in thermometer for all HVAC applications, even return vent air temperatures. There isn’t anything this multimeter cannot detect, and ghost signals, as well as false readings, are minimal thanks to the low-impedance threshold.
Ironclad General Utility gloves will keep your hands safe. You can protect your digits from the heat of pipes and the cold burn of leaking refrigerant. Of course they will also lower the risk of cuts, gouges, and dings from working with the metal, sheet metal, and moving parts of an HVAC system.
If you value your hands, these gloves are your savior. You won’t even know you are wearing them, either. The cozy fit isn’t bulky on the fingertips like some gloves, and you have a full range of motion without the gloves bunching up.
Let’s face it, working in close proximity to open machinery, motors, and your own equipment can be rough on the ears. Anyone ever had to be face-first next to your vacuum pump while it’s running full bore? It isn’t fun, and the ringing can last for days.
Mack’s ear plugs give you the highest-rated hearing protection (-33dB) you will find. At this price, you should buy some for the whole crew. Just make sure to get yourself a few pairs first.
Steel Toe Work Boots
It isn’t often that you need steel tow boots when working on HVAC equipment. Unless you are doing installs or removals, the condenser units aren’t going anywhere. However, that one time you need them and don’t have them, you will wonder why you skipped this detail.
Caterpillar Men’s steel toe work boots are among the most comfortable boots I have worn at a job site, and you will not be disappointed. Even if they aren’t a requirement by your company, they should be a personal requirement. If not by yourself, then by your spouse. Get them. Wear them. Keep all your piggies intact.
HVAC Sheet Metal Tools
Working with sheet metal isn’t going to be an everyday job for most HVAC technicians. However, there will be a day when you are expected to jump in and cut out some ducting, rebuild a fan shroud or install UV lights or other equipment into the ductwork.
These tools will make sure you are ready for that day.
ABN Sheet Metal Hand Seamer I sone of those tools that will stay in your bag until the one day you need them. These guys will do the trick. You won’t even need to bring out your tape measure! Each 3-inch plate is measured with 1/4-inch increments (a total depth of 1-1/4 inches).
All you have to do is line up the edge, grip the comfortable-to-hold handles, and bend. You will have a straight line bend at the perfect depth in no time. Your foreman will be impressed enough to give you a raise, too (probably not).
Tin snips & Shears
Of course, after you get that perfect bend, you will need to cut the sheet metal to size. Left-handed, right-handed, or straight off-set tin snips will be your tool. The MIDWEST Aviation Snip Set gives you all three to choose from. Each one designed for accuracy, longevity, and ease of use.
Throw them in your tool kit, and no matter what comes up, you’re ready for it. They are extremely helpful in demolition removal of old ductwork, too, as you can snip right around (or through) those rivets.
So, you made your bends, you cut to size, and now you have to fit a square peg into a round hole. You could always use the tin snips and push the edges together. Of course, you are a professional and not some weekend DIY warrior. Instead, you’re going to use the MALCO C5R Crimper, and not just because I told you so.
These bad boys put crimps in sheet metal like they were made to do it (they were, actually). Your sizing will match, and your finished duct will slide tight in place, ready for riveting. Be the pro, get the crimpers.
Do you know what’s harder than putting rivets into duct-work at awkward angles? Doing that without rivet holes. Believe me, you can muscle a rivet through sheet metal without boreholes.
Also, believe me when I say not to do so. Instead, use the Klein Tools 650 Scratch Awl. This pointy little beast will stay sharp through thousands of scratches, bores, drills, and punctures.
Make your rivet holes first, line everything up, and then you can zip through with your gun later. Don’t be the muscle-boy hero. Save your hand fatigue for lifting an after-work beverage.
Let’s be honest with each other here. You are the HVAC pro, and your HVAC tools all have a job to do. When you are finished in the attic, you’re going to replace that batting of insulation the way it is supposed to be done, right? I thought so.
Bust out your BOSTITCH stapler and make quick work of a tedious task. When you are finished, your job will look more professional than you ever thought possible. Your mom will be proud to, so take pictures.
HVAC Specialty Tools
Now we get to the fun stuff. HVAC specialty tools are designed for near-daily use. The ones on the list that aren’t are there because they are fun. Take a look.
How cold is the air at the point of the vent? Is it within range because you say it is, and you are ready to go home? Or did you use the Fluke 561 HVAC Pro Infrared thermometer, show your customer that the air is blowing well below standards because you are the best? I thought so.
When you pull this thermometer out, no one argues with you. If you say it is 34 degrees, it is 34 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course). You will be able to spot variances in the intake and vented air, too, so let’s try to keep that variance lower than 16 degrees, okay?
When you just want to make a mess of things, whip out the Makita JR3070CT AVT reciprocating saw. This bad boy will move those pesky mounts out of the way and allow you to get down to the copper piping to seal that leak once and for all. It is also handy for removing piping, cutting out the old compressor, and of course looking super cool in front of Mrs. Doe-Eyed Customer.
Seriously, the reciprocating saw will make your life so much easier. If you don’t have one in your truck, click the buy button now. I’ll wait for you to get back before I continue.
What do you call an HVAC tech without a Yellow Jacket 42004 Series manifold gauge set? Unemployed. If you’re going to be the best, you have to have the best. When it comes to the best HVAC gauges and manifolds, nothing is better than Yellow Jacket.
The 42004 series will let you test, empty, and refill R-22, R-410a, and R-404. The gauges are easy to read, simple to operate, and the manifold is smooth as butter on a hot biscuit. Get them, test them, use them, love them. You can come back and thank me later.
When you have a system disconnected from the power source so you can work on it, do you know how bad it is to keep going back to the breaker, testing, going back to the breaker, switching it off, repeat for hours? It is horrible.
Here is a trade secret, plug the unit into a PowTech extension cord and leave it nearby. When you need to test, plug it in. Ready to go back to work, unplug it. You don’t even need to move your Caterpillar steel toe work boots (see what I did there?).
When you are ready for the finishing work, you’re going to need a caulking gun. The SolidWork gun uses a 26:1 leverage to make sure all of your 10-inch caulking tubes flow easily. You will use this to seal the areas where the piping enters the home, around any areas that have air or water travel, and in many other places.
Believe me; you want this caulking gun. You will find so many uses for it that you won’t believe how you ever survived without it.
When it comes time to pull the refrigerant from the system, don’t be one of those shortcut takers and pull everything into the compressor. You’ll just end up back at the site next year replacing the seals. Instead, use the Yellow Jacket 93580 Superevac and a recovery tank.
This lightweight vacuum pump has a built-in gauge, easy access ports, and will pull a negative vacuum faster than you can say Huckleberry Hound. Well, maybe not that fast, but it is still fast. It is easy to drain the oil, and with the sight glass, you will know when it is time to do so, too. Get it. It looks great with your manifold set.
How do you locate a refrigerant leak that doesn’t want to be found? With the Fieldpiece Heated Diode SRL8 leak detector, of course. No joke, this thing would find Jimmy Hoffa if he were to have left off any gasses. It will find your pin-hole leak in no time.
You will still need to use the soap and bubble test. That will confirm the exact location and show the customer why your “yellow hand-held doohickey” was screaming so loud. Cut your search time in half and get this leak detector.
How much refrigerant did you use on that last job? Do you have enough left for the next job? If you used the Mastercool 98210-A refrigerant scale, you would know. This scale has a leveling eye, so you know it is on level ground. You can adjust the feet to make it level ground if any isn’t nearby.
You can also set the scale to read before and after or program it to a specific weight. Once set, the scale will set off an alarm when the set weight is approaching so you can have time to shut off the valves before you run the tank empty.
Tool Care & Maintenance
Tool care is one of the most essential parts of your career. While it may not seem like it, taking care of your tools will keep you working. If you let your tools fall into disrepair, you will spend more money than you want to maintain your livelihood. There are some things you can do to prevent this from happening.
- Always wipe down your tools after every use.
- Remember that refrigerants and other chemicals you are in contact with are corrosive.
- Always carry cleaning rags in your pocket.
- Relieve the pressure built-up in your charging hoses before storing.
- Remove any moisture, dirt, grime, grease, etc. from your tools as soon as possible.
- Use proper solvents for cleaning your tools at least once a month.
- Store your tools in a clean, dry place when not in use.
- If your tools come in carrying bags or containers, use them.
- Cover any openly stored tools or equipment to prevent dust buildup.
- Always check connections, including screws and bolts, hinges, nozzles, etc. before and after use.
- Once a year, have your gauges, monitors, and meters professionally calibrated.
- Keep desiccant packets in your tool drawers, bags, or pouches to remove excess moisture.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I keep moisture away from my tools?
Regular cleaning of the tools will help prevent moisture damage. Wiping down the tools and properly storing them directly after use will help too. After cleaning tools that get wet, put them in your drawer or bags with packs of desiccant. This will help to remove any excess moisture in areas your cleaning rags couldn’t get to.
Do HVAC technicians need to carry all these HVAC tools when repairing HVAC systems?
No, you don’t need to carry the tools when doing repairs. However, it is recommended that you have easy access to them on the job site. Because every job is different, you don’t know what you will be dealing with for testing, leak locating, brazing, etc. Having all of these tools will help you be prepared for any situation that arises.
How do I disconnect AC lines without the tool?
If you don’t have a spring lock tool (or yours breaks), you can use a hose clamp. Just use snips to cut the screw portion off so you are left with the band part only, slide it under the spring lock housing, and press until it clicks the spring. Maintaining pressure with one hand, you can pull the AC lines off with the other.
What type of work do HVAC technicians do?
An HVAC technician is the person responsible for the removal, installation, and maintenance of home and commercial heating, cooling and ventilation systems. Cleaning, maintenance, repairs, and leak detection are a part of the duties of a qualified technician.
HVAC technicians need a lot more tools than it may seem. While the primary tools of the job, manifolds, pliers, and temperature gauges are easily recommended, it is the specialty tools that will set you apart. If you are looking to make a name for yourself in the HVAC trade, performing quality work, on time, and without having to leave the site are crucial.
The right hammer, tin snips, and tape measure are going to get the job done without requiring you to leave the site. Make sure you take care of your tools and have everything you need from this HVAC tool list to perform your best.