There are many tools out there that can do a variety of different things. From hand tools to smart digital tools, many options exist. We asked the members of our contractor advisory panel to identify their go-to tools. Here’s a sampling of their favorite gadgets.

Apple iPad/iPhone

Chosen by: Hank Bloom, owner, Environmental Conditioning Systems, Mentor, Ohio

About the product: Apple’s popular products offer connections via Wi-Fi and cellular networks. There are a variety of apps to use for both devices that make these great assets for contractors. The devices are easy to use and offer cameras on both the front and back.

Bloom’s take: It took some time for me to choose one tool, but, after some thought, it has got to be the iPhone and iPad, for sure. Just think about all the info you can get from these devices. Our technicians, project managers, and installation groups use smart devices to access all submittals — service work orders, job documents, installation instructions, service updates, temperature-controlled systems, energy reports, etc. We have over 60 people using these devices. I could go on and on about how these save time in all aspects of our daily business.

Bacharach Fyrite InTech

Chosen by: David Kyle, general manager, Trademasters Service Corp., Newington, Va.

About the product: The Bacharach Fyrite InTech residential analyzer features a combustion and efficiency analyzer, with six pre-programmed fuels, direct measurement of O2, stack and ambient temperature, and calculated measurement of combustion efficiency CO2, CO (air-free), and excess air.

Kyle’s take: All of our technicians and plumbers use the Bacharach Fyrite. It is an indispensable tool for maintenance of gas appliances and an effective sales driver. CO is the silent killer. Homeowners rarely know that they have a problem that can put their family at risk. We hear quite a bit of misinformation on the news as well. The importance of CO alarms is frequently reported, but homeowners do not hear that proper operation and maintenance of appliances reduces the risk of CO poisoning in the first place. As professional experts, it is our responsibility to inform our clients. This tool allows our technicians to diagnose system performance, evaluate our adjustments, and, where necessary, recommend replacement. We use this tool on every routine inspection of gas appliances: furnaces, boilers, and water heaters.

Flir b60 + Flir i7 Infrared Cameras

Chosen by: Rich Morgan, owner, Magic Touch Mechanical Inc., Mesa, Ariz.

About the product: The Flir b60 offers high-resolution infrared images, with a visible-light digital camera, an insulation alarm, and a dew point alarm. Flir’s i7 infrared camera offers the widest field of view of the three i-series cameras, offering a 140-by-140-pixel field (19,600 pixels). It meets Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) resolution standards and offers owners a wider view for scanning larger areas in finer detail. It can store up to 5,000 JPEG images and all temperature measurements directly onto the camera’s SD card.

Morgan’s take: What I like best about the infrared camera isn’t the fact that it gives us the opportunity to inspect, detect, and correct missing or misaligned attic and wall insulation. Nor is it how it helps us to determine infiltration and exfiltration issues in a home or building, or the number of other building deficiencies that can be detected in a structure. Why I choose the infrared camera as the one tool I couldn’t live without is the connection it creates between the technician, building analyst or sales consultant, and the customer. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, I think that makes a thermal image picture worth about 5,000 words. I teach our coworkers to go ahead and let the customer walk around and hold the infrared camera himself (then we explain to him what he’s looking at) and it makes it “click.” We call it eye candy and eye candy closes deals. Chuck-in-a-truck and his low-balling ways don’t stand a chance against an infrared camera. Our most expensive camera cost us $8,000, and I have no problem putting it in a client’s hands (it’s insured).

New Blue Heat Inspection Camera

Chosen by: Steve Moon, president, Moon Air Inc., Elkton, Md.

About the product: This furnace inspection camera, from Shamrock Industries, utilizes a high-definition, high-resolution camera and monitor intended to help the user see cracks inside of furnace heat exchangers.

Moon’s take: Hands down my favorite tool in our arsenal is the New Blue Heat Inspection Camera. It is the greatest and has made more money for our company than most of our other tools put together. It is our job to be sure our clients are safe and comfortable. This camera has a far greater resolution than any other camera we have found. Higher resolution means more defects discovered, which means greater opportunities for replacement sales.

Retrotec Blower Door

Chosen by: Rob Minnick, CEO/president, Minnick’s Heating and Cooling, Laurel, Md.

About the product: Retrotec offers blower doors in several varieties — from small room units to those you need earplugs to operate — to test for air leakage. The gauge will extrapolate to an exact target pressure, which helps operators to avoid doing math in their heads.

Minnick’s take: I love this tool as it lets us know how the house is in infiltration, helps us find where most of the leaks are coming from, and gives us our infiltration level for load calculations.

Testo 310 Combustion Analyzer

Chosen by: Rob Minnick, CEO/president, Minnick’s Heating and Cooling, Laurel, Md.

About the product: The Testo 310 Combustion Analyzer takes 30 seconds to start, features O2 and CO measurement tools, and has powerful magnets on the housing for hands-free use. It features a stainless steel probe and cone-stop for residential furnace, boiler, and water-heater applications.

Minnick’s take: I love this tool as it lets us know the CO levels in the flues as well as ambient, CO2, oxygen levels, efficiency, and it can be used as a manometer as it gives me the static pressure so I can get the airflow the system is delivering, plus it helps when we are troubleshooting airflow issues, as long as we can get to the ductwork.

Publication date: 11/11/2013 

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