As a new HVAC technician, the first few months can be a bit overwhelming.
Applying your new skills to real-world scenarios.
Working for the first time to help customers resolve their heating and cooling issues.
Making repairs in challenging environments - from attics to crawlspaces and in weather both hot and cold.
In addition to your training, one of the critical aspects to making your acclimation to the job easier is having the right set of tools. And as an
, you’ll need plenty of them.
The below list will help take the guesswork out what’s important on day one and what you can add over the course of your first few months on the job. Of course, depending on your circumstances, some of those “every so often” items could be necessary during your first few appointments.
Even if you are an experienced tech or sourcing supplies for an established business with the basics to
already on hand, the following guide can serve as a handy checklist to ensure you keep yourself or your technicians well outfitted for the next job.
Before we get into the
needed to get the job done, we must cover the items that will help keep you safe.
Yes, HVAC work isn’t high on the list of most dangerous professions, but there are plenty of risks and opportunities for injury. This handful of necessities will ensure your protection.
Arguably the most critical item in your tool kit, goggles ensure debris and foreign material stay out of one the most vital organs in your body - your eyes. Make sure to test several pairs to guarantee a snug fit and clear vision.
Hand protection is always a tricky consideration as you’ll need gloves to protect your hands, but bulkier options sometimes make the job cumbersome. Try on plenty of different pairs to find the right combination of protection and workability.
In the course of your career, you’ll have to use a power tool more than a few times, often in tight spaces and with the tool only arm's length from your ears. Plugs or commercial grade earmuffs will keep your hearing intact.
Heavy Duty Work Boots
Being on your feet all day, yet having the risk of heavy objects dropped on your feet makes the right combination of lightweight, yet protective, safety-toe footwear crucial.
Maybe not an essential item for everyday jobs, it's still a good idea to keep a hard hat handy. Low beams in attics can be painful, and calls to sites under construction are always a possibility.
Heavy Duty Knee Pads
There is no end to the squatting, bending and kneeling that comes with being an HVAC technician. To limit wear and tear on your knees and to protect from scrapes and cuts, you should consider a pair of commercial grade workman knee pads.
In general, you’ll rarely require the use of a respirator. If, however, you work on industrial units or handle an unusually high amount of dangerous chemicals on your jobs, a respirator is a must.
This may go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway - always dress for the job. If you work for an HVAC business, they will more than likely
. If not, workwear is perfect. Be sure to cover exposed skin as well.
No matter the job, no matter the location, these are the essentials that you’ll use over and over. Make sure they are always part of your tool kit, and you replace worn out items on a regular basis.
The one tool you’ll use above all others is a screwdriver. Access to any part of an HVAC system requires undoing some form of a screw. Make sure to have a variety of sizes in both Phillips and slotted, or flat head, versions.
It may not be immediately apparent, but a hammer will be necessary on an almost daily basis. A standard fiberglass hammer is perfect for any job, and a small mallet is a nice extra to have, just in case.
Pulling, pinching and cutting wires is an absolute in practically every HVAC job. Make sure you have a variety of pliers, including needle nose, slip joint, diagonal, linesman and groove joint.
Inevitably, you’ll face infinite nuts, bolts, and piping, so a complement of wrenches will simplify almost any task. A set of crescent and combination wrenches should be part of your toolset as well as a heavy-duty pipe wrench.
Stripping and reconnecting wiring is the norm for HVAC work. A heavy duty set of wire strippers will make the job far more manageable than a pocket or utility knife.
Nobody wants to work in the dark, and the conditions you’ll sometimes work in will be far from optimal. A standard flashlight is serviceable, but to be most effective, invest in a headlamp.
You’ll need it far more often than you think, and when you do, it is beyond helpful - especially when measuring ductwork inside an attic. A retractable, 25-foot measuring tape is great for any job.
You'll find HVAC systems, ductwork, and vents in all manner of locations, so when you have to access those spots up high, a 4-foot step ladder will accommodate most areas.
There will be a few times when new holes will be needed, or painfully tight screws need some extra power to undo. Early on, a cordless drill with various bits is more than enough for most issues. Later on though, add a more powerful corded drill, which is good at handling tougher tasks.
Ultimately, as your experience and tool kit grows you’ll add specialty tools that can’t run purely on battery power. Make sure you always have an extension cord close by. An industrial-grade cord any length between 50 and 100 feet will fit most any job site.
Tools of the Trade
Throughout the course of your daily schedule, many HVAC calls will end up being routine. But not all problems are solved with a screwdriver and a set of pliers. The complexity of HVAC systems means they require their own set of tools to make the right fixes.
The following list of gadgets and gear are your specialty items; the equipment that helps address even the most difficult of HVAC concerns.
This very easily classifies as a safety tool, but a multimeter is an absolute requirement when working with electricity. In HVAC that means every single day. It checks for voltages around outlets, switches, and wires and is a must for all technicians.
Obvious, yes, but an HVAC technicians job is all about keeping the hot, hot and the cold, cold. A handheld, digital thermometer specific to measuring HVAC should be one of the first acquisitions you make.
Leaks are a fairly common problem with HVAC systems. To find them, a manifold gauge will be necessary. A digital version will be the easiest to read and will also be useful when removing refrigerant or charging up a condenser unit.
Excess moisture is a common issue with working with HVAC lines. To efficiently clear system lines, a vacuum pump is required.
If you ever need to measure the mix and flow of air and determine relative humidity, a psychrometer is a must.
Extras to Keep in the Truck
Finally, these are the items that you won’t always need but will be glad your truck or van has the room to accommodate them. Basically, these hyper-specific tools complete an HVAC technicians toolbox, meaning no matter the scope of the job, you’ll have everything necessary to finish it.
You’d be surprised at what you’ll need to cut or cut through to accomplish your job as a tech. To make sure this doesn’t hinder any repair, we commended a Sawzall as it can cut through most simple materials including drywall, sheet metal, pipes, and wood.
Once you finish working on a system, the final step is to close and seal everything up. A caulk gun makes the finishing touches easy to apply.
There will be times when poking a hole is more efficient than drilling one. An awl or punch will assist you in doing just that regardless if the material is drywall, metal, wood, or piping.
A multipurpose tool, crimpers help you cut and manipulate metal and wires, especially when you need to make highly precise cuts or connections.
You might not use it regularly, but a seamer is a far more useful (and precise) way to shape ductwork and related materials than using your hands.
Sometimes a screw is more than you need or too heavy duty to fasten joists, insulation or metal. A staple gun will fill the gap.
Ductwork is not always the easiest material to manipulate. To make trimming it a snap, keep a few tin snips close at hand.
Cutting pipes are commonplace in HVAC work, and if you’re an installer, it's a requirement. A tubing cutter will help you make precision cuts through several types of material.
Sure it's a cumbersome piece of equipment, but you never know when a small problem will become a big mess. If you can fit it in your truck or van, you should add it to your list of tools.
One More Thing
Beyond having the right tools, you must always be diligent that everything you use is in excellent working condition. Not only does a poorly maintained tool delay your work, but it also poses a threat to your health and well-being.
With the right tools, you’re certain to make quick (and safe) work of any HVAC job you face.