For HVACR contractors and technicians, having the right tools on a service call can make all the difference. But are all tools treated equally or are some disregarded? At this year’s AHR Expo in Atlanta, Georgia, held Feb. 6-8, The ACHR NEWS interviewed six attendees about their most underrated tools.
When it comes to refrigeration, Jeff DeMassari, an HVAC lead installer and @jeffjdemhvac on Instagram, said pipe benders are often overlooked.
BENDER: When it comes to refrigeration, Jeff DeMassari said pipe benders are often overlooked. (Courtesy of REMS)
“I'm all about aesthetics. Some people just like to swoop it in, I like to make it pretty — that way, it's something to look at and you can really take some pride in your work,” he added.
DeMassari noted that using products that are time savers and require the least amount of labor is “always big” to him, which is why he is a fan of the REMS Hydro-Swing bender.
Ideal for on-site work, the Hydro-Swing is an oil-hydraulic hand pipe bender designed to accurately bend pipes up to 90°. It features an ergonomically designed thurst lever, as well as overload protection for safe working. The product can be applied to many different types of pipes and weighs only 2.4 kgs (about 5.3 pounds), which makes it conveniently light for users.
Aaron Bond, an HVAC business development professional and @bond_aaron Instagram, also highlighted pipe benders as a must-have product, although he does not have one in his own collection of tools.
“The problem with this tool for me is I'm Canadian and the Canadian regulating body, as I understand it, doesn't allow you to bend copper. So hopefully we can change Canadian code to allow that,” he explained.
Bond’s bender of choice is also from REMS — the Curvo electric pipe bender. Universally used for many pipes and tubes, the REMS Curvo features and fast creep speed operation for precise, wrinkle-free bending. The product also boasts maintenance-free gear with a safety slipping clutch and is lightweight, weighing only 8 kgs (about 17.6 pounds).
For Colton Coons, owner of Total Mechanical Solutions LLC, his vote for most underrated tool was a combustion analyzer.
“There's a lot of companies that don't use it, and it tells you a lot about a furnace that you can't see with just regular gas pressure,” he added.
Coons said that by using a combustion analyzer on the job, specifically testo’s 300 model, his company has been able to generate a lot of money. He described it as an “excellent tool” to have available throughout the year, proving useful for many applications.
The Next-Gen testo 300 combustion analyzer features intuitive measurement menus and fast-response smart-touch display. The product can be used for both residential and commercial applications, and includes O2 and CO sensors, measuring CO up to 4,000 ppm. An NO sensor can be retrofitted onto the testo 300, and for industrial use, the product can measure CO up to 30,000 ppm.
When it comes to hand tools, sometimes the simplest ones are the most underrated. According to Jessica Bannister, known by @hvacjess on Instagram, ratcheting screwdrivers can be a lifesaver. A self-proclaimed member of “team red,” she added that her tool of choice is manufactured by Milwaukee Tools.
“I'm small and not as strong as most of these guys, [so] when I'm trying to screw something above my head, not having to lift my hand off of the screwdriver helps me tremendously. Just that action, that movement helps me so much,” Bannister explained.
The Milwaukee 9-in-1 Square Drive Ratcheting Multi-Bit Driver features interchangeable power groove bits that are power tool compatible, as well as an all-metal ratchet, which encourages 2x driving speed and maximum control. The product also has wrench-ready hex shanks, providing users with additional leverage, and boasts magnetic bit retention for consistent driving performance.
PERFORMANCE: The Milwaukee 9-in-1 Square Drive Ratcheting Multi-Bit Driver features magnetic bit retention for consistent driving performance. (Courtesy of Milwaukee Tool)
AHR Attendee Brett Massie, a service technician at Martin’s Welding and Refrigeration, also listed a good screwdriver — specifically an 11-in-1 screwdriver — as one of his must-have tools.
COMFORT: Klein’s Multi-Bit Screwdriver/Nut Driver includes a comfortable Cushion-Grip handle. (Courtesy of Klein Tools)
“It’s handy, fits in your pocket, can take any kind of screw out, and saves a lot of trips back and forth to the truck,” he said.
Massie added that one of his favorite brands for screwdrivers is Klein Tools. Klein’s Multi-Bit Screwdriver/Nut Driver is an 11-in-1 tool that holds eight popular tips and converts to three nut driver sizes. The product’s blade is interchangeable, providing a quick and easy way to switch out according to need. The screwdriver also includes industrial strength heat-treated bits and a comfortable Cushion-Grip handle.
Although many of those in the skilled trades use multimeters on the job, Bailey Decker, service technician at Martin’s Welding and Refrigeration, said it is a tool that can definitely be taken for granted, especially because it is so readily available.
CONVENIENCE: Fieldpiece’s SC260 includes a backlight display for easy reading. (Courtesy of Fieldpiece)
“It helps us a lot in our field, to figure things out quick and easy. I guess I overlook it [because I] just grab the meter. But it's a pretty handy, complicated tool,” he explained.
Decker said he really enjoys using a Fieldpiece multimeter at his current job. Among Fieldpiece’s many options is their SC260 – 400A Clamp Meter Compact, which is used to test HVACR electrical measurements. The product includes True RMS measurements, which allows users to test variable frequency drives more accurately, and can measure temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. The SC260 also features a sturdy swivel magnet for hands free measurements, as well as a backlight display for easy reading.
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