Nevertheless, manufacturers always seem to have the better mousetrap when it comes to what should be in every tech’s truck. That certainly applies to tools and test instruments, including that most vital of all items in these days of refrigerant blends and venting regulations - leak detectors and recovery equipment.
One good way to get an overview of what’s new was at the most recent Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Expo in Dallas. There, a lot of what’s new was on display.
The following is an overview by categories of some of the new stuff. It is not all-inclusive. Some manufacturers made it easy for the trade press by providing detailed press kits. Others made it a bit more of a challenge by burying the ‘latest and greatest’ products somewhere in a cluttered booth with nary a printed spec sheet in sight.
But here is a lot of what was seen. And rest assured that issues ofThe NEWS over the next weeks and months will continue to feature products that may well fit into your truck - and be a good fit for the next job you are called to.
LEAK DETECTORSThe inventory of refrigerants needed these days is extensive and newer refrigerants are always being looked at. Venting regulations are in effect and are expected to get tougher. That is why the latest wave of leak detection equipment has become so important.
A refrigerant leak detector (the 316-4) fromTesto (www.testo.com) is for a/c, heat pump, and refrigeration applications. It has a self-diagnosing, self-cleaning sensor designed to detect refrigerant leaks down to less than 0.1-ounce per year in less than 1 second. The 14.5-inch gooseneck allows positioning of the sensor close to the suspect pipe or fitting. A “zoom mode” allows for pinpointing of leak sources. It is said to be compatible with all refrigerants including ammonia by swapping sensors to convert to ammonia leak detection. The standard sensor will also detect hydrogen leaks. Other features include a backlit display that changes color to indicate alarm thresholds along with audible leak indication.
The Compass refrigerant leak detector fromInficon (www.inficon.com) has a patented heated diode sensor for residential and a/c leak detection applications. Its sensitivity was said to be up to 0.15 ounce per year. “It can pinpoint the leak source quickly through the high/low sensitivity adjustment; LEDs illuminate progressively to convey leak size,” the company said. A water-resistant filter protects the sensor from jobsite contaminants, such as dust, dirt, and oil.
Spectronics(www.spectroline.com) latest entry into how to look inside a system is Cobra-6™, billed as a slim, multipurpose borescope with interchangeable blue and white light LED flashlights. It has a 6mm diameter shaft that enables a tech to inspect and leak check normally hard to see components such as heat exchangers or evaporator coils, and to check ductwork clearance and integrity or behind the wall moisture problems. The blue light is for fluorescent leak detection and detecting surface flaws while the white light flashlight is for component inspection.
The company also had a “natural” approach to detection. Its Marksman™ ultrasonic diagnostic tool converts and amplifies ultrasonic sound into audible ‘natural’ sound so that service technicians hear sounds that signify problems, such as compressed air leaks, electrical discharge, as well as vacuum, natural gas, propane, refrigerant, seal and gasket leaks.
An eight-piece dye and leak detection kit fromCliplight(www.cliplight.com) has the Revolver™ injector charging hose that swivels 360 degrees at both ends for storage and fitting. The injector “injects the industry’s smallest, but most concentrated dose in increments of .04-oz. of dye per 7 lbs. of refrigerant,” the company said.
ANALYZERS, MONITORS, GAUGESBeyond checking for leaks, there is the challenge of making sure a system is operating properly and the most cost effective.
Several digital a/c and refrigeration system analyzers from Testo (models 523, 556, and 560) are said to be rugged meters that simultaneously measure, display, and print high- and low-side pressure, and line temperature, as well as calculate saturation temperatures, superheat and subcooling for 30 refrigerants. The 560 also measures and records system vacuum. A feature of the 556 and 560 is the ability to read two additional wireless temperature probes (up to 65 feet away). In addition, data from the 556 and 560 can be logged or viewed in real-time on a PC via a USB port.
According to Bill Spohn, Testo HVACR product manager, “The advent of higher equipment performance and efficiency standards requires improved accuracy in setups and diagnostics. The new RSAs deliver what the market demands.”
SeeSnake® LCD monitor and DVD pretty much describes the product fromRidge Tool Co.(www.ridgid.com) for use with the company’s camera reels. The total system consists of a camera that works with a push rod assembly to navigate through lines in order to see inside piping and track down a problem.
“This latest addition to the SeeSnake family answers the industry’s need for digital recording,” said Tim Montbach, product manager for diagnostic products at Ridge. The product weighs 25 pounds and operates from a 120V power supply. There is a water-resistant touchpad. The unit comes with an instructional DVD.
The Yellow Jacket® digital refrigeration system analyzer fromRitchie Engineering(www.yellowjacket.com) has a system modulation bar graph, rather than a vibrating needle of a typical pressure gauge. “You see pressure dynamics to readily know if the system’s thermostatic expansion valve is modulating properly, if liquid is flooding back into the systems, and more,” said officials.
For low level continuous monitoring of CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs, and ammonia, the industry continues to produce new products. Showcased as new at the expo was the HGM 300 multizone fixed refrigerant gas monitor fromBacharach(www.bacharach-inc.com). The unit connects to 4- to 20-mA output for remote readout capabilities. The operating temperature is -40° to 176°F with relative humidity of 0 to 90 percent noncondensing.
The Vision™ refrigeration manifold (pressure) gauge from Cliplight has a magnified see-through sight glass and Firefly™ combination backlight-UV. The configuration is used for module illumination and dye detection of refrigerants. It has 2x magnifying sight glass. The see-through feature illuminates the sight glass with ambient light.
The FireFly module upgrades the Cliplight Vision with a combined white backlight and blue UV LED light feature.
In terms of charging scales, one of the newest editions is the Atlas refrigerant charging scale fromJB Industries(www.jbind.com). It has a solid-state load cell designed for sensitivity and accuracy.
Two-way brass manifolds fromRobinair (www.robinairhvac.com) have new gauge combinations that measure up to three different refrigerants with the manifold.
RECOVERY MACHINESHas it really been more than 20 years since the first recovery machines came on the market? And were there once more than 50 companies producing such units?
Industry veterans remember those days and some of the newest editions in this still necessary product come from companies who have long, established and respected histories.
Promax(www.promaxrecovery.com) announced the release of its RG5410EX next-generation refrigerant recovery machine, incorporating many of the features of the predecessor RG5410A model and said to provide the fastest overall ARI-740 certified recovery rates in its class.
“HVACR professionals understand that time is money, and the more time they can save doing a job, the more money they make at the end of the day,” said Tim Wagaman, a/c tools and equipment product manager. “The new RG5410EX refrigerant recovery machine is specifically designed to meet those needs and furthers our commitment to setting industry standards for innovative, high-quality products.”
Designed for recovery of all commonly used CFC, HFC, and HCFC refrigerants, including R-410A, the new machine has a redesigned “oilless” compressor capable of handling both liquid and vapor, which allows technicians to save time spent on each recovery job by increasing volume flow by 20 percent. Heavy-duty components embedded in the system allow for fast recovery in high-temperature environments, Wagaman said.
The automatic low-pressure cut-off switch shuts off the machine at 15 inches of vacuum and helps prevent excessive operation, eliminating unnecessary wear and tear and increasing the lifetime of the refrigeration equipment, he added. Additional features include an autopurge that helps clear any residual refrigerant, leaving the machine “ready to go” for the next service call and a padded handle grip for easier handling.
The Yellow Jacket® RecoverX™ family of refrigerant recovery systems from Ritchie Engineering features a single valve control for changeover from liquid to vapor to purge; as well as shut-off at 15 inches of vacuum and automatic restart if pressure rises. The RecoverXLT™, for example, has a built-in constant pressure regulator valve to regulate the refrigerant input to protect the compressor. The unit is designed to prevent slugging.
THE VACUUM FACTORPulling a good vacuum has long been a challenge for technicians with several methods suggested including deep vacuums and triple vacuums. The industry continues to produce what it considers better versions of such basic tools as well as support material.
Vacuum pumps from Robinair are part of the VacuMaster® Series. The company said a technician has a choice of 1.5, 3 to 5 cfm pumps for jobs ranging from small appliance, to residential air conditioning to commercial refrigeration. The units are designed as two-stage, offset rotary vane with intake filters used to prevent foreign matter from entering the pumping chamber. An internal exhaust filter separates oil vapor from the exhaust flow.
Tigar Mic™ is a mechanical analog display micron vacuum gauge kit from Cliplight that increases measurement accuracy because, said the company, it connects directly to a refrigeration system’s low-side pressure valve without hoses.
TORCHESSince soldering and brazing are necessary tasks for a technician, the industry continues to come up with what it says are quicker and safer ways to deal with that job.
P. Spark-Key™, a torch igniter from Cliplight is a 5 1/2-inch-long lighter that is water-resistant, and corrosion-proof and doesn’t require batteries. Unlike flint-style lighters, sparking is directed at an arm’s length away from the user.
From Goss (www.gossonline.com) are what the company calls MaX tips with shorter secondary flame, adjustable tips designed to not overheat, a rosebud flame holder producing quieter, more concentrated hot turbine flame, and a snap-in design that allows for the product to be interchangeable with other manufacturers handles.
TurboTorch(www.turbotorch.com) has a new torch kit with Mapp® and propane. The STK-31 kit combines the STK-9 hand torch with a ST-1 as a second tip, the latter for use with smaller jobs. Also new to the product line is the Combo Accessory ProPak that includes air acetylene tips, a striker, and a torch shield.
When soldering and brazing caution needs to be exercised to prevent not only injury to oneself but also to reduce the danger of fire to surrounding surfaces such as studs, drywall, and insulation. A new tool to help in that effort is CoolGel™, a heat barrier spray fromLa-Co Markal(www.laco.com). The chemical is sprayed on and the gelling formula sticks on surfaces without dripping or running off. It is a nonstaining gel that is said to leave no residue.
OILS AND TEST KITSAcid test kits were created as easy and inexpensive diagnostic tools to confirm the acidity level of compressor oil is for safe operation. Recent editions to the market in that category are fromParker/Virginia(www.virginiakmp.com). Its TKO is a single bottle test kit designed to give visual indication of the acid content of mineral and alkylbenzene lubricants. The ETK acid test kit is a single bottle test kit designed to give visual indication of the content of polyolester (POE) lubricants. In both cases, the technician places a sample of oil in the bottle, shakes the bottle, and looks at the color.
If it remains purple, the oil is safe. If it turns orange, the oil is marginal, if it turns yellow, the oil is acidic, letting the technician know that the system is at risk.
THERMOMETERS, TESTERSNoncontact infrared thermometers continue to draw interest in a range of industries including HVACR. One example is the MicroRay™ IR-100 from Ridge Tool Co. It has a sensitivity reading from -22° to 932° within 1.5 percent of accuracy.
“For perspective, this means a user could accurately measure a 2-inch spot on a heating vent from 2 1/2 feet away,” the company said. And rather than use tape or paint on the object being measured in order to standardize readings, the MicroRay allows users to adjust emissivity settings, via the tool’s menu bar.
Amps and volts shown at the same time is the ideal of the dual-display of a meter fromFieldpiece (www.fieldpiece.com). “It is like having two meters in your hand,” goes the promotion.
Supco’sSmartTester (www.supco.com), an ignition controls analyzer, has added two new interface kits, one for Honeywell 2nd Generation and the other for UTEC ICP/Carrier. The product is said to simplify the troubleshooting of controls systems for gas-fired heating equipment.
PUMPSA new Pivotrol® PTF4 high-capacity pressure power condensate pump fromSpirax Sarco(www.spirasarco.com/us) is said to be capable of pumping up to 40,000 lb/hr in rapid cycling process environments and under elevated pressure and temperature conditions. The PTF4 incorporates dual pumping mechanisms. A pressure balancing body is designed to ensure both mechanisms share the pumping load equally.
WHAT YOU WEAR AND CARRYThere are also those even more basic things that are often carried almost automatically by a tech to a system needing analysis - even before the tech heads back to the truck or van for more tools and test instruments.
A couple of the most recent really basic new products come fromKlein Tools(www.kleintools.com) and are various types of protective eyewear now in three lens colors: dark gray, amber, and gray. The first is designed for outdoor work with strong sunlight and glare. The amber is for indoor and outdoor low-light applications where contrast is needed. The gray is for outdoor applications where outdoor glare needs to be minimized.
To help in those hard-to-see places, a company calledLujan (www.lujanusa.com) has a product called PODLight®. It is a three-in-one work light, flashlight, and flashing safety strobe light. It is cordless and rechargeable. To allow for hands-free use, it has a repositionable collar with a magnet as well as a rotating nylon hook for hanging.