It seems everything in HVAC is getting smarter. The tool segment of the industry is no different, as manufacturers are releasing products to make the lives of technicians and contractors easier.

Advancements in technology have brought a lot of opportunity to the tool market, with items like reporting, mobile apps, and wireless data transmission.

“All of which can be applied when using diagnostic tools during service calls,” Andrea Halpin, the director at Diversitech who oversees the hilmor brand, said. “Additionally, tools that integrate with digital technology are reducing the guesswork and calculations, which enables technicians to be more precise.”

Cloud-based mobile technology has become a common part of the HVAC world as smart homes have become a major selling point for contractors. For the first time, this has opened up an opportunity for tool manufacturers to deliver more features to a product even after it has been purchased — translating to productivity gains for contractors.

“The tools market is getting smarter,” said Carolyn Cushwa, marketing and communications specialist, Testo. Based on the smart tools used in conjunction with smart device apps, the trend is going toward tools that are not only going to tell the contractor the measured values, they are going to tell results and the current system conditions. Furthermore, the smart tools are giving recommended actions to improve the system and make troubleshooting easier. The future will be not only smart tools, it will be a system where different smart probes are talking to each other and giving recommended actions.”

One example of a smart tool entering the market is the ONE-KEY product line from Milwaukee Tool.

“ONE-KEY integrates tool electronics with a custom-built, cloud-based program to provide a new level of control and access to information,” said Corey Dickert, vice president of product management for Milwaukee Tool.

Some of the features and benefits of the program include:

  • Simplified tool and equipment management allows users to create a central place to manage all their tools and equipment across their network of jobs and operators. This system lets companies keep detailed records of each tool, so they can build a budget, track receipts, and manage their annual spend on equipment. The cloud-based solution lets managers access and share data in real time throughout all levels of their organization.
  • The unlimited tool customization allows users to use predetermined setups for specific fasteners and materials or completely customize their own profile with torque and speed settings for the application at hand. With a touch of the button, users will be able to go back and forth between these saved profiles so that each application is done with the most accurate and productive settings. Consider the number of fasteners that require different speeds and torques, or the sheer amount of users who need to perform repetitive applications throughout their day ... this feature offers several benefits.
  • Integrated tool tracking allows users to identify where and when their ONE-KEY compatible tools were last seen. Tool records and locations are updated when any device with the ONE-KEY app comes within 100 feet of a compatible tool, allowing the user to pinpoint missing tools quicker.

Another trend evident in the tool segment of the industry is the increased focus on ergonomics. Ergonomics plays an important role in the design of HVAC tools. With the greying of the HVAC industry, decreasing the wear and tear on technicians is of great importance.

“The industry is trending toward tools that are smaller and lighter,” said Rob Trefz, director of business development and marketing, Ridgid.

An example of this is the RP 241, which is the newest Ridgid compact press tool. It is approximately 25 percent smaller and 10 percent lighter than its predecessor. It has the same force output but in a smaller frame.

Diversitech — which recently purchased hilmor — believes that user-centered design is key in the tool world.

“Energy efficiency in homes and buildings is also driving the tools market to accommodate the latest refrigerants, accurately measure system performance, and use real-time data analytics when beneficial,” Halpin said.

The company recently introduced the Valve Core Removal Tool.

“It is a tool that makes it easier for HVAC technicians to change or remove valve cores with simplicity and ease,” Halpin said.

Whether technicians are changing out a leaking valve core or removing the valve core for faster, unrestricted recovery or evacuation, they can work confidently with a core gripper. A common sense feature of the Valve Core Removal Tool is the built-in rare-earth magnet on the back of the plunger.

The plunger can be placed on the unit to reduce the issue of losing parts. A ¼-inch vacuum gauge port side flare featuring a leak-resistant double O-ring ball valve offers easy connection for vacuum gauges and accurate readings. The tool is vacuum tested to 20 microns and 800 PSI working pressure, and it is available in ¼-inch and 5/16-inch sizes.

The shift from corded to cordless continues to be a major trend in the industry. Lithium-ion, along with advancements in motor technology and electronics, has allowed manufacturers to pack a massive amount of power and performance into a more compact structure. Because of this, users are now able to focus completely on finishing the job at hand without the distraction of cords or worrying about losing productivity when searching for an outlet.

In fact, many of the technological advances surrounding cordless tools have led to the ability for cordless products to meet and surpass corded products. Along with this shift to cordless, contractors are also seeking out battery systems that are compatible with the breadth and depth of work they need to do.

“Even small innovations, such as wireless digital readouts and increased portability, are trends that make work faster, safer, or more convenient for the HVAC technician,” Halpin said.

Publication date: 11/5/2018

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