Contractors Rank Their Go-to HVAC Tools
The NEWS’ Advisory Board Selects Their Most Effective Tools for HVAC Technicians
As the HVAC industry evolves and equipment becomes smarter and more efficient, so must the tools technicians use to service, repair, and install that equipment. And, with the large quantity of tools in the market, we asked our contractor advisory panel to weigh in on their most useful and effective tools used in the field. Here’s what they had to say.
Chosen by: Keith Springstead, field supervisor, Pleune Service Co., Lansing, Michigan
About the product: The ACD-14 clamp meter works as both an HVAC multimeter and an electrical multimeter with a versatile set of features, including microamps, capacitance, frequency, and temperature with included thermocouple. The dual displays show amps and volts simultaneously.
Springstead’s take: I use an Amprobe model ACD-14 for amp readings and as a backup for my other (Fluke) meter. A volt meter for a service person is a must to find out what is going on with any problem. Meters are heavily relied upon daily for both preventive maintenance and troubleshooting. Having dependable and versatile meters is critical. The Amprobe ACD-14 is a clamp meter that calculates microamps, capacitance, frequency, and temperature; the dual displays show amps and volts simultaneously, which is useful for measuring voltage drop under load.
Chosen by: Rich Morgan, president, Magic Touch Mechanical Inc., Mesa, Arizona
About the product: Engineered for unmatched portability and ease of use, iPad Air 2 offers a beautiful, precision unibody enclosure of anodized aluminum for durability and a solid feel. The improved Retina display features a fully laminated design that brings images and content closer to the user’s fingertips, resulting in an even more personal and intimate experience. A custom-designed anti-reflective coating reduces glare by 56 percent for a clearer display in the office, the classroom, or outdoors. iPad Air 2 also delivers faster connectivity with 802.11ac Wi-Fi with Multiple-In-Multiple-Out (MIMO) technology for 2.8 times the Wi-Fi performance of iPad Air at data rates up to 866 Mbps.
Morgan’s take: I would say our go-to tool is not what most would classify a traditional tool, but most would agree is now a great tool in our industry — the tablet computer. In our case, it’s iPads and iPad Minis. As tablets are being used by all of our field workers, management, and administrative staff alike, it is easily our most-used tool. It is specifically useful, as it allows for real-time collaboration of our entire staff and is used in so many aspects of our day-to-day operations and departments.
Chosen by: Hank Bloom, owner, Environmental Conditioning Systems, Mentor, Ohio
About the product: iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus feature 4.7- and 5.5-inch Retina® HD displays and are packed with innovative technologies in an all-new dramatically thin and seamless design that is still comfortable to hold and easy to use. Both models are better in every way and include: the Apple-designed A8 chip with second generation 64-bit desktop-class architecture for fast performance and power efficiency, advanced iSight® and FaceTime® HD cameras, and ultrafast wireless technologies.
Bloom’s take: You can do everything from work orders to service reports to GPS to submittals and more. These devices tie into all our software and operating systems.
Chosen by: Bob Keingstein, president, HVAC and plumbing division, Boss Facility Services, Ronkonkoma, New York
About the product: DeWalt’s 18V Cordless XRP™ Drill features extended run-time batteries and a high-power, high-efficiency motor that delivers 450 unit watts out of max power for superior performance in all drilling and fastening applications.
Keingstein’s take: It is very versatile and useful for the obvious reasons — drilling holes and removing screws and nuts for removing panels, covers, controls, etc. It’s fairly lightweight and easy to carry to each job site. In many cases, it’s replaced the use of regular and Philips screwdrivers and nut drivers.
Chosen by: Greg Crumpton, president and founder of AirTight FaciliTech, Charlotte, North Carolina
About the product: The Fluke 376 Clamp Meter features true-RMS ac voltage and current measurements, and can read up to 1,000 V and 1,000 A in both ac and dc modes. The Amprobe TMD-53 thermometer’s dual inputs allow easy superheat and subcool temperature measurements as well as cut-out and in-temperature measurements.
Crumpton’s take: To truly have the professional approach to service, startup, maintenance, and repair requires multiple tools: A high-quality RMS multimeter to read voltage, current draw, resistance, etc., and a multi-probe, multi-read digital thermometer. This allows for accurate readings of air temperatures, line temperatures, compressor body/sump temps, and more. If you have the proper tool, you can analyze and repair any system.
Chosen by: Russ Donnici, president of Mechanical Air Service Inc., San Jose, California
About the product: Specifically designed for HVAC professionals, the Fluke 116 digital multimeter includes temperature and microamp measurements.
Donnici’s take: From a technical perspective, my most useful tool is my Fluke digital multimeter. Since 80 percent of air conditioning issues have some electrical component to them, the digital meter provides a great deal of useful diagnostic information. Refrigerant gauges are extremely important also, but, if a unit isn’t running, you need the multimeter to determine why.
Chosen by: Dustin Upmore, service manager, Capstone Mechanical, Waco, Texas
About the product: The HVAC Multimeter and Clamp Meter Combo Kit provides the ability to troubleshoot and solve problems more efficiently by providing all the needed accessories an HVAC professional would need in a compact carrying case.
Upmore’s take: As a technician, my most widely used and helpful tool would be my digital multimeter. Not only is it a necessity for troubleshooting, it’s also needed to keep you safe. We work with electricity and advanced control circuits daily. The multimeter provides us with the ability to diagnose several issues safely.
Chosen by: Rob Minnick, president and CEO, Minnick’s Inc., Laurel, Maryland
About the product: The Testo 510 Digital Manometer is an all-in-one, low-pressure measurement solution. The 510 can measure total external static pressure, differential pressure, duct velocities, manifold pressures, and airflow with a pitot tube.
Minnick’s take: It is useful for static pressure testing and zone pressure differential testing.
Chosen by: Drew Barnum, field supervisor, Thornton & Grooms, Farmington Hills, Michigan,
About the product: The Digital Clamp Meter features a soft-button interface to safely and quickly select any measurement function for full HVAC diagnostics. Dual temperature inputs are useful for measuring T1, T2, or differential temperature drops. The DL429 also features built-in wireless capability.
Barnum’s take: Two things come to mind when I think of my go-to tools. The first: My multimeter, a UEI Phoenix. This meter is specifically made for HVAC technicians, which means it takes all the necessary measurements in one device. Before I had this meter, I had to carry two multimeters in my tool bag. The second tool is actually two tools that come in one pack. It is the Klein 6-inch, ¼-inch, and 5/16-inch Magnetic Nut driver set. The extended shaft and magnetic tips allow for the removal and reinstallation of the most common sizes of hex head screws with ease. These nut drivers are a must have in every technician’s tool bag. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to replace a screw in the back of a furnace without a magnetic tip.
Publication date: 6/1/2015