The Best HVAC Tools That Every HVAC Tech Need in Their Utility Belt
If you’re in the heating and cooling service industry, you understand the importance of creating an HVAC toolkit that has everything you could possibly need out on a job. Thermal heating and cooling systems demand a huge spread of equipment to regulate temperature and maintain environments, so it’s easy to understand why technicians need to come equipped with an impressive toolkit in hand.
When diagnosing a problem with an HVAC system, there are a number of possible scenarios you could encounter, so it’s important to be stocked with the best HVAC tools for quick and expedited repairs. Who wants to waste time going back to retrieve a tool you forgot? Not profit-driven business owners, that’s for sure!
You’re not alone in your search for advanced HVAC tools. Demand for HVAC equipment increase by 6.8% annually through 2019.
Don’t know what you should include within your HVAC tools list? We can help! Here, we go over the essential HVAC service tools—from training to specialized jobs—so you’ll never need to scratch your head wondering, “What am I missing?” Whether you’re just getting started with your HVAC service or want to outfit your team with the right tools they need to perform each job to standard, this HVAC tool checklist may prove integral to your HVAC business growth.
Click on a section below to get straight to the answers you need, or read our checklist end-to-end to make sure your HVAC toolkit is complete.
What Tools Do HVAC Technicians Use?
As an HVAC technician, you’ll need a collection of HVAC service tools in order to tackle your repair, installation, and maintenance projects.
Use this list of HVAC tech tools to find the essentials you’re missing.
1. HVAC Training Tools
Before becoming a master of the trade, HVAC students need to invest in must-have HVAC tools. The HVAC industry is rapidly expanding; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for HVAC technicians is anticipated to grow 15%from 2016 through 2026. To ensure success in the field, it’s important to outfit yourself with all the basics.
There’s a wide variety of equipment that may be necessary for apprentices to practice their lab exercises and diagnose/repair air conditioning or refrigeration units.
If you’re just getting started with your HVAC trade, put these at the top of your HVAC technician tool list—they’ll be absolutely essential in school (and beyond):
Working gloves and safety glasses: Start with safety standards and make sure your hands and eyes are protected while on the job.
Snips to cut sheet metal: There are three types of tin snips: straight cut, left cut, and right cut. HVAC installers and sheet metal workers will use these tools the most to cut sheet metal and insulation sheets, but service techs also may find them essential for a job.
Flathead and Phillips screwdriver: A versatile screwdriver is an important tool when you’re starting out; as you take on more HVAC jobs, you’ll likely find you need to expand your collection.
Pipe wrenches / Combination wrench set: You’ll also want pipe wrenches on-hand, as these are crucial when installing and replacing gas lines.
Pliers: You’ll need an array of pliers, but for starters, line your arsenal with lineman’s, needle nose, and tongue-and-groove varieties.
These items should be at the top of your HVAC tool list—especially if you’re just beginning a career in this trade. You’ll see them come up again in their relevant sections below, along with a more in-depth description of what they are, how they work, and why they’re needed by HVAC technicians.
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2. HVAC Hand Tools
Your HVAC duties will call for an array of hand tools. The following can be used in a variety of capacities. Outfit your toolkit with:
Thermometer: Seeing as though the entire HVAC industry revolves around hot and cold temperatures, a digital thermometer will become your best friend at any job site. In fact, you probably want to stock up on several of these, as it’s all too common to mistakenly leave one in a return or supply vent. Dependable, digital thermometers make for the best HVAC tools, but infrared digital thermometers can take recordable readings, identify overheated breakers/compressors/motors, and point out vents to customers. There are an array of digital thermometers available, including pocket-knife and folding-pocket styles, dual temperature thermometers, and solar-powered options.
Drill: Unless you want to be tethered to an electrical outlet, a cordless drill with batteries is the move to make. Boasting power, portability, and versatility, a cordless drill with a diverse set of bits—including hex, Philips, hole saws, and arbors—will become the hero of any job site.
Wrenches: Crescent wrenches and Allen wrenches are non-negotiable items on the HVAC tool list. You’ll want a variety of sizes (small to large) on deck to help you tighten and loosen a wide array of fixtures you could encounter.
Hammer: You never know when you’ll need a hammer - the short answer: often. Opt for a carpenter style hammer with a straight claw.
Electric Testers: HVAC technicians consistently work around and with live electrical power, so it’s important to take some type of electrical tester with you. Some testers can perform multiple functions, while others are more simplistic and designed to tell you only where electricity is present in your workspace.
Pliers: Like screwdrivers, you should have a collection of pliers on-hand, including needle-nose, wire-stripping, linesman, and open-face varieties.
Leveler: When installing thermostats, air conditioners, or furnaces, you’ll need to ensure the product is level.
Screwdrivers: Not all screwdrivers were created equal; outfit your HVAC toolkit with an array of sizes and types, and opt for brands with insulated handles (essential when working around live electricity). Heavy duty screwdrivers are crucial, as you can often use them to pry apart venting and handle more strenuous tasks.
Tape Measure: An HVAC technician will constantly be reaching for a tape measure. Opt for longer tape measures, at least 25 feet in length for bigger jobs. Note: it’s a good idea to pair your tape measure with a permanent marker, so you can mark measurements as you work.
3. HVAC Sheet Metal Tools
HVAC technicians are frequently tasked with cutting, repairing, and handling sheet metal. Nearly all HVAC systems rely on sheet metal to carry cold and hot air to and from their driving unit, so it’s wise to have these materials on-hand at all times.
Shears: When it comes to cutting sheet metal, shears are one of the most common HVAC service tools. They’re ideal for executing long and straight cuts, and since they’ll probably receive plenty of use, try to look for a durable, steel construction with an insulated handle for added comfort.
Aviation snips: Sometimes known as compound snips, these are the best HVAC tools for cutting aluminum and sheet metal. Aviators are designed to make specific cuts much easier and they’re color-coded for a reason…
Rights (or “Offsets”)—Usually colored green, these snips help cut sheet metal in the right direction. They’re sometimes called “offsets” because the angle of the blade is slightly offset, allowing the blade to pass more smoothly over the end. They can be a bit awkward to use at first, but you don’t need to pull upwards as much on the metal, leading to fewer sharp, dangerous “fish hooks” hanging off the edge of a cut.
Lefts (or “Offsets”)—Red-colored snips assist with cuts made in the left direction.
Straights (or “Bulldogs”)—Straight snips are usually colored orange and reserve for small, straight cuts. They get the bulldog nickname for their impressive strength and ability to pierce and cut through multiple layers of thick sheet metal.
Crimpers: This versatile, must-have HVAC tool should be in every technician’s kit. It can be used to cut sheet metal and wires, as well as crimp connectors by squeezing on the teeth to create a wrinkled male fitting.
Hand seamers (or “Fairmonts” or “Tongs”): They go by many names, but the purpose is all the same—to bend smaller pieces of metal. Some may be spring loaded, depending on your preference, but all should be marked with ¼” intervals to make easy measurements while bending.
Awl: This must-have tool can be used for a variety of purposes; score sheet metal to ensure straight cuts, or punch holes in sheet metal, wood, and sheetrock when required.
4. HVAC Ductwork Tools
HVAC technicians that install and repair ductwork need specialty tools, including the following:
Staple Gun: A heavy-duty staple gun will be a staple of your HVAC toolkit - no pun intended. This tool can be used for a variety of tasks, including stapling insulation or sheet metal into place.
Scratch Awl: A scratch awl is a point-making tool that can be used to scribe a line, which you can then follow with a handsaw or chisel. These can be purchased both individually or in kits.
Caulking Gun: You’ll want this tool on-hand when a job calls for ductwork sealant. Look for a caulking gun that features an easy load front cap, effective seal puncturing tool, spout cutter, and ladder hook.
Tubing Cutters: Metal or plastic tubes that are 1/8th” to 1-1/8th” thicker can be cut with this HVAC service tool. They allow you to make a clean cut thanks to the cut-off grove and, comparatively, they’re not very expensive—meaning they’re well worth your investment.
5. HVAC Specialty Tools
While 28% of the HVAC industry services single family homes, you may find yourself faced with bigger jobs that call for a different set of tools.
Core Removal Tool: These tools are designed to remove and replace valve cores without sacrificing refrigerant charge.
Voltmeter (or “Multi-Meter”): This should be high up on your HVAC technician tool list, no exceptions. Knowledge of voltage present isn’t just a job requirement, it’s a safety precaution. Because HVAC systems are connected to electrical systems, it’s crucial that you or your techs are outfitted with testers that can indicate the presence of live wires, measure the amount of voltage, indicate resistance level, and complete an array of other electrical tasks while in the field.
Psychrometer: These might not see much day-to-day use on your average job sites, but they’re incredibly helpful when you’re trying to nail your target superheat.
PVC Cutters: If you’re tackling a PVC project, you’ll need more than a handsaw. PVC cutters can help you cut clean lines with ease, and these tools are relatively inexpensive.
Saw: You may have heard your HVAC friends swear by the amazing SAWZALL® mainly because it really can saw almost everything. If you don’t go with SAWZALL® find a similar saw with reciprocating blades, meaning the cutting is achieved through a push-and-pull motion. They might only be used for specialty projects, but if you’ve ever tried to cut material with a dull blade, you know how valuable this tool will be when it comes time to shine.
Dead Blow Hammer: This specialized mallet features an abrasion-resistant, non-marring face that delivers a dead blow effect when struck.
Extension Cord: A heavy-duty extension cord with a good length is handy when connecting tools out in the field.
Leak Detector: Used to sense any leaks and locate where the leaks are.
6. HVAC Repair Tools
If you specialize in HVAC repair, the world of tools opens up that much wider. Consider outfitting your own tool bag and your tech team with the following items:
Step ladder: Simple, but essential. You’ll encounter many jobs that require some height, and a lightweight, 4-foot step ladder will typically suffice.
Wet/Dry Shop Vac: If you need to vacuum out clogged drain lines, you’ll be happy you brought a wet/dry shop vac along.
Refrigerant Scale: If you’re ever tasked with charging an air conditioning system with refrigerant, a specified scale is a must-have in order to effectively maintain the temperature of a system’s assigned space. A refrigerant scale measures the weight of refrigerant as it’s added to or removed from the unit’s compressor, so that you can ensure the system has just the right amount to run efficiently.
Refrigeration Gauges: As you work with cooling systems, you’ll need a set of trusted gauges that can read and hold pressures, as they pertain to varied types of refrigerants. These HVAC gauges help you determine if a cooling unit has a leak or if you need to complete evacuation and recharge. Multiple sets of gauges might be useful.
Micron Gauge: These can be used to determine if an air conditioning system has an appropriate level of vacuum, prior to charging with refrigerant.
Coil Fin Straightener: These HVAC service tools are cheap and useful. Bent coil fins restrict airflow through the condensing unit, which can cause the unit to run harder, decrease efficiency, increase electricity use, and in some cases, cause the entire unit to fail. A coil fin straightener, also known as a fin comb or coil fin tool, can be used to straighten the bent fins of a condensing unit.
Vacuum Pump: Vacuum pumps are used to suck and remove moisture and air from air conditioning lines. They’re helpful when it comes to making repairs, as lines must be pulled into a vacuum and tested for leaks before the system can be charged with refrigerant.
Recovery Unit: Refrigerant recovery from an HVAC system has been mandatory since 1995, so make sure you or your techs have a trustworthy recovery unit in their arsenal. A recovery unit must always be used to make sure the refrigerant is recovered from a cooling system before you can begin the vacuum process.
Megger: As an HVAC technician, you’ll likely need access to a Megger, a measuring instrument used to measure an electrical system’s insulation resistance. This is important for HVAC quality control, as an electrical system degrades the quality of insulation resistance over time; this timeline may be shorter depending on the environmental conditions the unit goes up against every day, especially in areas with extreme temperatures, humidity, and the presence dust or dirt.
7. HVAC Safety Tools
When you or your employees are on the job, safety is the number one priority. The following must-haves are designed to safeguard you and your team, no matter the task at hand.
Work Gloves: Protect hands when dealing with live electrical systems. Heavy-duty work gloves (and a spare or two) should always be available, and you can find gloves designed specifically for HVAC jobs, featuring wet/dry grip technology, protective coatings, and more.
Safety Glasses: Don’t opt for the cheapest set of safety glasses available. There are plenty of considerations to take into account when shopping for this HVAC tool. Anti-fog coating helps prevent fog from building up when you’re working in humid conditions, while glasses with anti-static coating can help keep particulates and dust from sticking to your lenses.
Durable Shoes: Carrying heavy equipment, climbing up and down ladders, and working both indoors and outdoors means your feet take a beating. Be sure your team has durable, steel toe work boots.
Ear Plugs: It can get loud on the job in any service capacity, especially for an HVAC professional. Using power tools in small spaces can strain your ears more than you might expect. Opt for industrial-strength ear plugs or muff to protect your hearing.
Flashlight: When crawling in dark spaces, you’ll want to see exactly what’s in front of you. Keep a small flashlight attached to your toolbelt, and a larger one in your HVAC toolkit within arms’ reach.
8. HVAC Business Tools
HVAC tools aren’t just for field service. There are essential business tools every HVAC business owner should have in his or her professional arsenal, including:
Communication capabilities: When your techs are out on the job, you’ll want to keep an open line of communication to ensure everything goes smoothly, and that customer satisfaction is achieved. Work phones can be an important aspect of communication, but it’s important to use a field service program that incorporates in-app chat capabilities so that you can keep your team aware of any changes.
Mobile HVAC Software: A mobile HVAC software solution can play into your business success just as much as practical field tools. Housecall Pro field service software is designed with your needs in mind, giving you the ability to:
Schedule your team
Provide logistical information your technicians need to get the job done
Optimize service routes
Communicate with customers
Create estimates, and avoid common HVAC invoicing mistakes
Investing in HVAC service management software can help you streamline your day-to-day operations, so that your time is freed up to do what matters most—build your business.
Some Final Notes
HVAC professionals are tasked with a variety of work, and you and your team will need a great deal of equipment to ensure they can tackle any project that may come up. Outfit yourself and your technicians with the tools required to provide quality service each and every time.
HVAC technicians have a variety of tools at their disposal, and the above must-haves are an essential part of running a successful HVAC business. If you’re building your own dream HVAC tool kit, use the above checklist to guide your selection.
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