“Man is a tool-using animal. ... Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.”
- Thomas Carlyle

Stone tools have been used since prehistoric times. They help humans perform a task better, faster, with ease and is one of the differences between humans and the rest of the beings on Earth.

Today, we have an incalculable number of tools to do at least as many different tasks. Examples include tools for preparing our food, to making wooden furniture, to installing and fixing HVACR systems. It is this last type of tool that we honor with the 2011 Dealer Design Awards in the Tools category. Fluke Corp. garnered gold, Testo Inc. silver, and Extech bronze for this year’s award.



The Fluke 381 Remote Display True-rms AC/DC Clamp Meter with iFlex™ is a clamp meter with a detachable remote display and iFlex™ flexible current probe for easier, faster, and safer measurements.

The company stated that the unit features highly intuitive measurement selection with exactly the features an electromechanical troubleshooter needs to access: capacitance, resistance, volts, and amps.

“Modern cabinets have lots of complex wiring, much of which is outside the parameters of what the particular service technician is contracted to do, and if they break it, they have to fix it,” stated the manufacturer. “IFlex allows measurements in the tightest wiring conditions,” Fluke said.

Modern controls require advanced filtering to accurately read electrical. The Fluke 381 has state-of-the-art filtering.

According to the manufacturer, there’s an increased requirement for commercial HVAC techs to be working in 480-V cabinets, either controls or electrical, which requires CAT III 1000 V or CAT IV 600 V tools, and extremely common for point of electrical measurement to be at one end of a large piece of equipment and the controls at the other end. The wireless display eliminates the need to run back and forth or have a second person when testing operations, and the same for electrical mounted in the ceiling, etc.

One judge applauded the Model 381. “This is a breakthrough for both its mechanical value and its added safety bonus to keep mechanics from doing strange things to gather this info, including dangerous stunts of on-the-job rigging. Maybe the most simple and smartest tool change of 2011.”



Thermal Imager 876 by Testo Inc. has a large fold-out articulating display. This allows the technician to keep the display in view when using the thermal imager in hard-to-reach places. The system’s intuitive interface, easy-to-use buttons, and available interchangeable lenses make the unit a rugged and versatile thermal imager that satisfies the needs of many different applications, stated the company. According to the manufacturer, the Testo 876 includes 2GB of image storage and meets Building Performance Institute (BPI)/RESNET Infrared Imaging System Performance Standards.

The imager allows the technician to keep the display in view when imaging in any position, ensuring every corner is inspected and reviewed. Additionally, the interchangeable lenses help to ensure the technician always has the right image section in the display. Ultimately, this means a better viewing experience and more flexibility when using the unit, said Testo.

The full-feature software that is included allows the technician to conduct complete analyses and custom reports. The convenience of interchangeable lenses (wide-angle and telephoto) helps the technician to more easily focus on objects in the field at varying distances.

The USB 2.0 video output makes for easy file transfer. And, with a thermal sensitivity of <80mK, a full-sized 160x120 focal plane array, and an articulating large 3.5-inch foldout display, the thermal imager allows the technician to easily identify problem spots quickly and accurately.



The Extech HD350 Pitot Tube Anemometer and Differential Manometer is an ergonomic handheld HVACR test instrument that combines the airflow/velocity functions of a pitot tube anemometer with the air pressure capabilities of a precision manometer, plus temperature. The large backlit LCD simultaneously displays pressure, air velocity, or airflow, plus temperature. Five units of measurement are available for pressure readings. The extensive data functions include max/min/avg recording, relative time stamp, data hold, and memory for up to 99 readings in each mode. The meter’s USB port and software also permit extended data logging, trending, and analyses using a PC or laptop. The HD350 comes complete with accessories, hoses, software, and a rugged, oversized hard carrying case.

When airflow issues are key to diagnosing a problem, the HD350 simplifies airflow measurements by combining pressure, airflow, velocity and temperature into one, durable meter, said the company. Long streams of constantly changing readings are made more manageable with simple to use minimum, maximum, averaging, and relative functions that highlight key values.

The company said, “Air pressure and airflow are two critical factors affecting positive indoor air quality and occupant satisfaction. Having one versatile tool that provides extensive insights into these factors is invaluable.”

2011 Honorees: Tools

Gold Winner
Fluke Corp.
Fluke 381 Remote Display True-rms AC/DC Clamp Meter with iFlex™

Silver Winner
Testo Inc.
Thermal Imager 876

Bronze Winner
Extech Instruments
Extech HD350 Pitot Tube Anemometer & Differential Manometer

Honorable Mentions
BucketDescaler SC-DS-5

Mighty Pump™

RIDGID micro CA-100 View-Only Inspection Camera

Publication date:07/11/2011