Testing, Monitoring, Tools / Meters & Gauges

HVACR Tools Changing with the Times

January 21, 2013
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As the state of HVACR technology continues to evolve, so does its tools. Various innovative HVACR manufacturers are touting new tools geared toward making equipment installation and maintenance easier for contractors, thus vastly improving the quality and quantity of their work.

No More Wires

The advent of wireless technology is sweeping the nation, altering the way business is conducted everywhere, including the HVACR industry.

“Without question, the hottest tools in the industry at this moment are all wireless,” said Tony Amoroso, president, HVACR-Tools.com, a distribution subsidiary of The Relipro Co. “These items include wireless digital multimeters, wireless clamp meters, and even a wireless, digital refrigeration analyzer. This technology is reducing a technician’s overall time spent on a job which, needless to say, has a positive impact on a service-and-installation company’s bottom line.”

Bill Spohn, CEO and co-owner of TruTech Tools Ltd., said, “Wireless connectivity is emerging as a driving force. This wireless connectivity will offer advanced tech support for applications and troubleshooting, which is an important aspect to point out.”

Russ Harju, product manager, Fieldpiece Instruments Inc., said that contractors who implement wireless capabilities into their everyday lives will produce better work.

“Before wireless tools were introduced, technicians had to do a lot of walking around, and would often cut a lot of corners,” he said. “With wireless measurements, techs now know they’re doing the job correctly and it doesn’t take a whole bunch of steps and time to do it. The end result is improved job performance, quicker results, more money in the bank, and a more successful company.”

Trending Tools

A growing number of manufacturers are unveiling highly innovative digital manifolds. These instruments offer numerous in-field advantages, including the ability to automatically calculate target superheat, subcooling, saturated temperature, actual temperature, and more. These automatic readings save the technician the hassle of manually configuring measurements, thus saving time and increasing accuracy.

Many of the recently released digital manifolds also perform a linear adjustment of the pressure sensors based on refrigeration type, temperature, and pressure. Micron alarms allow a user to sound a notice when a vacuum reaches a certain level, and bold LCD screens eliminate needle bounce and missed vacuum readings.

“Guys are accustomed to using analog manifolds on a daily basis, but the digital ones just do a better job. It’s like comparing an iPhone to a rotary phone,” Harju said. “Analog users have to look at charts, while the digital manifolds offer built-in calculations, and the digital offerings are more accurate and just flat-out cooler.

“The Fieldpiece manifolds can measure six measurements at the same time and use all six measurements in various calculations,” he said.

Spohn said TruTech has also noticed an increase in digital manifold sales. “We’ve seen an uptick in the sale of digital air conditioning manifold gauges all year long, all the way through December,” he said.

General Tools and Instruments vice president of marketing, Peter Harper, noted that IAQ instruments have become a hot commodity as of late.

“With the popularity of energy audits, facility managers and homeowners are tightening up their buildings to conserve energy, resulting in the possible degradation of air quality,” said Harper. “Instruments that measure and monitor CO2 levels, air temperature, humidity, dew point, and wet bulb temperatures help technicians maintain safe and healthy IAQ. General Tools’ IAQ monitor (CDM77232) has the ability not only to measure all of those conditions, but if CO2 levels exceed a preset level, the device can trigger an exhaust fan.”

Knipex Tools LP president Alan Sipe said the company’s 73 71 180 TwinForce pliers continue to be a top seller. “Because of its unique offset twin rivets, this 7-inch diagonal cutting tool has the cutting power of a 10-inch tool,” said Sipe. “In HVACR, technicians are often working in very confined places, where a small tool that does the job of a much larger tool is a welcome addition. This tool is especially useful for a person with smaller hands, who can’t quite squeeze a bigger tool.”

Tom Muncey, channel sales manager, HVAC, Klein Tools Inc., said their 11-in-1 screwdriver/nut driver – schrader valve core tool, the 600A ac clamp meter with temperature, the ergonomic journeyman™ offset snips, and the tradesman pro™ organizers tool bag line are in high demand.

“Most of these professional-grade tools are hot because of their ability to perform multiple functions at a cost-effective price,” said Muncey. “A user can buy and carry one tool to do a variety of tasks. This saves money and reduces fatigue by minimizing the number of tools that have to be carried on the jobsite. It also assures you have the tools you need to do the job at hand. Furthermore,
because HVAC trades people are on the go, lightweight, yet durable bags and backpacks that keep tools organized and make transportation easier will be popular.”

Forecasting the Future

Muncey noted that the tools of the future will serve multiple purposes, offering superior accuracy, durability, and comfort. He referenced Klein Tools’ 10-fold screwdriver/nut driver valve core tool, which offers eight interchangeable bit-styles and two nut drivers. “Very simply put, high quality tools designed to increase speed and workplace productivity will attract interest,” he said.

Harju predicted that the future will be driven by full-system analysis and standardization.

“Once guys adopt the wireless philosophy, they’ll want all the measurements in the palms of their hands,” he said. “This is very similar to phones. Once calling became wireless, emails, texts, and Internet access was quick to follow. Now, people want the ability to send and share everything wirelessly.

“Right now, the ‘cool factor’ is what’s selling these advanced tools. However, once the head honchos catch wind of what these tools can actually do for the contractor, and the company as a whole, you’ll see the contractor institute standardization, making sure each guy has the same set of tools.”

In the next 10 years, the industry will experience immense growth in energy assessments and audits, followed by an increase in the production of tools supporting this, said Harper.

“Auditing technology will be enhanced and new tools and instruments will be developed to monitor the results of these efforts,” he said. “Homeowners will increasingly want to conduct energy audits of their residences with the goal of saving both energy and money. General Tools offers a series of thermal imaging cameras (GTi10/20/30/50), infrared thermometers (IRTC50), and video inspection systems (DCS 200/300/400) that help auditors identify leaks, inspect ductwork, and find missing insulation.”

Amoroso also predicts a short- and long-term rise in the thermal imaging market.

“Fluke recently released its VT02 visual IR thermometer and I anticipate it will be very popular in 2013,” he said. “Basically, it’s a mash-up of an infrared thermometer and a thermal imaging camera that allows you to get extremely accurate temperature data by capturing close-up images in visual and thermal heat-map formats.”

He said the tools that withstand the current state of affairs will be the ones that help define the industry’s unpredictable future.

“There are veteran technicians that don’t yet trust or utilize the latest and greatest tools of the trade, and there are green technicians that rely on it entirely,” he said. “The tools and test instruments that stand the test of time are those that will be the most invaluable to both groups. It’s only a matter of time to find out which make the cut.”

Publication date: 1/21/2013

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