“Better tools equal more efficient technicians and less warranty calls on newly installed equipment.”
These thoughts from Steve Moon, owner, Moon Air Inc. in Elkton, Maryland, summarize the importance of having the finest possible tools at an HVAC technician’s disposal on the job site. Whether it’s a new digital multimeter, a pressure gauge with digital readouts, or a versatile refrigerant recovery system, technicians crave the best.
The fact remains that hand tools are essential to HVAC and they’re not going to lose that distinction any time soon. In 2014, the hand tool market boasted a global value of about $14.3 billion, per Statista, with that number forecast to climb to $17.7 billion by 2020.
When it comes time to upgrade a company’s fleet of tools, many factors go into that decision, including price, brand loyalty (see more on Page 10), and everything in between.
Randy Hamilton, trainer, GAC Services, Gaithersburg, Maryland, highlighted that brand preference is something that matters with meters and not as much with hand tools. And, while everyone tends to prefer a specific type or brand of meter, not everyone can afford one, he said.
So what if factors like those Hamilton highlighted were removed?
What if you, as a technician, could add any tool to your bag with no concern for price, brand, or market condition? It’s an intriguing prompt. And, when shared with HVAC contractors and technicians, the question brought forth plenty of differing opinions and responses.
THE FUTURE IS NOW
First things first, it’s clear that iPads and other tablet devices are highly desirable devices for technicians across the country. While tablets are not traditional HVAC tools, a countless number of techs said they’d add iPads to their tool bags if they could because most certainly help them do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.
Ed Bouchard, sales engineer accounts manager, Victory HVAC, Bellingham, Massachusetts, said that when he first got started in the industry, everyone was still using CB radios. Eventually, those were replaced with beepers, pay phones, cellphones, etc.
“[I would want] an iPad or some type of device with total access to controls, websites, invoicing, etc.,” he said.
Greater access, control, and diagnostic abilities are consistent desires throughout HVAC. As prices continue to fall on these devices, Bouchard and other contractors lacking iPads are likely to obtain them sooner rather than later. There are currently 1.1 billion tablet users worldwide, per Statista, and 24 percent of the U.S. population uses iPads on a daily basis.
Outside of the burgeoning tablet marketplace, tools that have been essential for decades are being upgraded, updated, and modernized to meet the needs of users who constantly expect more.
Matthew Pillius, owner and CEO of Royal Class Service in New Windsor, New York, deemed electronic diagnostic tools a real asset.
“I’d like to have something that aids in the knowledge required from prior or past experiences to fast track proper diagnosis the first time.”
Christopher Dion, senior service technician, Prestige HVAC/R, Weeki Wachee, Florida, said he would love to upgrade his digital dual-port manometer so that it would not only check his delta T readings but also integrate into his digital manifold.
“The ability to email or export a report would be awesome, as well,” Dion added.
Jeremy Begley, home-performance specialist, National Heating and Air Conditioning Co., Cincinnati, focuses in the field on commissioning, testing and balancing, and third-party verification. Begley said he would like the ability to upgrade his test probes to the TSI Airpro® Bluetooth set.
“These tools are wireless and work with a really cool reporting application,” Begley said. “The future is here.”
Begley specifically referred to tools with reporting capabilities that utilize Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to communicate wirelessly in real-time with the AirPro Mobile Application software that runs based on the user’s preferred mobile handheld device, per the company website.
This speaks in part to why so many contractors and technicians have interest in adding tablets to their arsenals as nearly all manufacturers have accompanying apps to help with a variety of different aspects of their products, including troubleshooting, manual readouts, and the emailing and exporting of reports that interest both Dion and Begley.
On the more traditional tools front, Dean Harold, cascade refrigeration technician, Enviro-Aire Mechanical Services, Gaithersburg, Maryland, said he would like to find a better tool to re-thread ¼-inch refrigeration access valves, which is something that has been difficult to find in the past.
In speaking about the functionality of tools, Moon noted it’s important to keep in mind that if a technician is not truly trained on their functions and how to use them, then he or she will use them incorrectly and form a distrust with the tools.
“If an individual is unsure how to use certain tools, they will likely be left in his or her tool bag lonely and abandoned,” he said.
Steve Ignoffo, president, Unique Indoor Comfort, Chicago, took the question in a different direction, highlighting that if he could make one upgrade, it likely wouldn’t come from a tool at all but would instead focus on the number of technicians looking for work.
“Employment opportunities exist in our industry, but the big problem is finding technicians who want to work, understand customer service, and are qualified,” he said. “Our goal is to provide the best possible experience for our clients, which is hard to do with the existing conditions. Keeping people motivated [is also important]. Providing service and understanding what it means is lost, but somehow it has to be part of training in addition to the technical and mechanical training while in school learning our industry.”
Publication date: 6/5/2017