Timing is everything — especially when technicians are working in the heat of summer. A tool breaking means that it must be replaced, which can delay one project from finishing and another from starting. A tool that is outdated and hard to use will mean that the job takes longer — and that time adds up when that tool is being used in the summer business rush. Here’s a look at the trends in today’s tool technology, along with what features technicians and contractors should be looking for in the tools they purchase.
Internet of Things, and Comfortable Tools
Scott Mieras, product line manager at DiversiTech, said that new technology is moving into categories that historically relied heavily on analog gauges and traditional methods of diagnosing issues.
“As technology advances, the upward trend has been the implementation of different technology into the core tools used by an HVACR technician,” Mieras said. “The advancements have allowed technicians to monitor systems with a vast footprint from one central location and make the necessary adjustments to optimize the system.”
COMFORT: Scott Mieras said that technicians should prioritize purchasing tools that are ergonomically comfortable, like the hilmor ratcheting 9-in-1 multi-tool.
He explained that the hand tools market is incorporating IoT technology into products that should have the tools’ actions logged and tracked for the benefit of the technician and owner.
“The benefit of this is that it can provide a detailed summary of what actions are completed with the tool,” he said. “This would provide to the customer a ‘before, actions taken, and after actions’ summary of the work performed. It has the potential to reduce liability if there is an issue with a system shortly after maintenance is performed, and the maintenance steps need to be reviewed to see if the maintenance performed has any correlation to causing the issue.”
He also explained that this can create a database of work so that a technician could download a detailed historical list of actions performed and determine the best path for optimization for a given customer’s system.
Mieras said that it is critical that HVACR technicians purchase the correct tools for the jobs they will need to do, regardless of which tool it is.
“When purchasing hand tools, the technician needs to ensure that the tools are ergonomically comfortable in their hands and are made from a material that can withstand the heat of direct sunlight, as well as have a chemical resistance to some of the more corrosive chemicals used in the industry,” he said.
Mieras explained that he is excited to see even more developed HVAC tool technology, since technology tends to grow exponentially.
“We have just started implementing technology into the HVACR tool industry, which means it is poised for some very radical and advanced tools in the not-so-distant future,” he said.
Connected and Lighter Tools
Steve Rutherford, vice president of NAVAC Inc., said that tools are trending toward greater connectivity as well as higher capacities to service high-efficiency equipment.
WIRELESS TECH: One example of technology improvement is cordless technology, such as wireless vacuum pumps that remove the need to run extension cords long distances.
“We’re seeing more and more connected tools, interactivity with cell phones, and digital devices,” he said. “We also see the manufacturers coming out with more and more high-efficiency equipment requiring tighter tolerances and lower microns. Our job as tool manufacturers is to make servicing that equipment easier.”
One example is cordless technology — for example, wireless vacuum pumps that remove the need to run extension cords long distances, such as up to roofs. In addition to this, he said that DC inverter technology allows the speed of tools to be varied, as well as making them smaller
“We can take 10 pounds off a vacuum pump,” Rutherford said. “When you’re climbing the ladder, that’s a big deal. When you’re hauling your tools back around the back of the house, 25 pounds versus 35 pounds is pretty nice.”
In addition to this, he said that better-performing tools can reduce callbacks, saving the contractor money.
“One of my best examples is our cordless flaring tool,” he said. “The flare is always the weak point on a mini split. If the flare can consistently be done, every time, exactly the same, automatically, you will not have the failure of flare.” He also noted the advantage of a torquing tool that can ensure torques are done correctly, even recording the data of the technician’s torque.
Smart tools also help provide accountability to the technicians. Tools can record measurements and record what was done to the equipment, ensuring and verifying that installations occur correctly the first time.
“We’re linking the tool to the technician and the technician to the service manager through the cloud,” he said.
“With more accurate tools, higher tolerances, and better performance, we’re able to improve the installation,” Rutherford added. “Make sure the connections are proper and record it.”
Advanced Tools and Bluetooth
Gary Lampasona, vice president of sales and marketing at Ritchie Engineering Company (Yellow Jacket), said that a significant trend in the marketplace is more advanced tools.
“People are looking towards the tool to provide more than just measurements and information, but also with directional analysis,” he said. He explained that the newest tools are also helping newer technicians (who may be less tech-savvy) by offering digital, non-analog measurement readings.
Because of this, he said that technicians and contractors must go beyond the instrument and look for an app-based program that can provide more power, information, and flexibility to the instrument. These programs reach from simply providing measurements to offering analysis of the data.
When looking for tools, he advised buyers to first look for quality devices that are robust, high-quality, and long-lasting.
“You also want product that you know is going to be supported,” Lampasona said. “If the app isn’t supported by the backbone of a company, you’ll find yourself out in the cold if there needs to be an update.”
The need for quality extends to hand tools. He said that some companies offer cheap tools that bend too easily or dull too quickly.
“You have to feel confident that the brand that you’re buying is the brand that’s going to last,” he said.
Lastly, Lampasona said that tool technology is also advancing in the realm of handling distance.
“When you’ve got all the information coming to your smart device, whether it’s a phone or tablet, I don’t have to be standing right next to the system; I could be somewhere else,” he said. “And I could be 400 feet away.” This technology uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, allowing technicians to perform other tasks at the same time.
“Innovation is where manufacturers can help a technician in every facet of what they do every day,” he said.