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Top Tools for Beginner HVAC Technicians

on February 26, 2020

The top struggle of anyone who just started anything, whether hobby or career, is making sure that they are getting proper tools without unnecessary extra expenses for fancy tools with features that don’t bring anything into the game. HVAC is an industry that lies greatly in the functionality and quality of tools to get the job done. Although the big expensive tools are usually provided by your company it is still recommended to get your own personal tools as an HVAC technician. This article will give a list of must-have HVAC non-residential tools for those who are starting in the HVAC industry. Knowing the names of these tools will also help you impress senior technicians when they ask you to hand them “the tool” instead of embarrassing yourself by just standing there not knowing which one to pick.

Top tip: Invest in quality tools even if they cost more. They will save you unnecessary expenses and time in the future. 

General Tools Used In HVAC

These tools are commonly used in HVAC but are not limited to one specific use.

    1. Battery-Powered Drill

      Your long-term best friend in HVAC will be a battery-operated drill. It is highly suggested to at least get one with at least 18 volts, with two batteries and a charger.  This is one of the tools where you should invest in the high-end category. It will pay you well. Most of the time it comes with a Phillips bit however, you may want to purchase a ¼” hex bit as it is the most common screw used in HVAC.

      Recommended: The DCD795D2 20V MAX* XR Lithium-Ion Brushless Compact Hammerdrill Kit. This tool is perfect for jobs with limited working space as it is compact and light. Other than being rechargeable, it also comes with two batteries for jobs that take a long time to finish. Users also have more control over the speed depending on what is required by the task as it has 2-speed variations. Its comfort grip is one of the details that matter as it adds balance and control.

    2. Electrical Testers

      Any job dealing with electrical power must make safety a priority. A quality electrical tester is a must and most of the time it will save your precious life. There are some testers that can do a single function but it is recommended to have a tester that has multiple functions.

      Recommended: UEi Test Instruments DL369. It has a whole lot of features that you'll be glad you have someday. It's also very reliable and trusted by many of us in the HVAC trade.

    3. The Sawzall

      Yes, that is the name of a tool. What a Sawzall actually does is it saws just about anything depending on what blade you put into it. This also is a tool where I wouldn't suggest sparing expenses. Find yourself a durable Sawzall that will last. Blades will likely be supplied by your employer. Many prefer the quick-release blade installation but there are more to choose from.

      Recommended: DWE305 from DeWALT


      • It’s lightweight
      • The handle is comfortable and shock-absorbing
      • Blade speeds of between 0-2,900 strokes per minute
      • The speed control allows you to switch between settings easily
      • Comes with a 3-year warranty

      - Doesn’t come with spare blades or a carry case

    4. Multimeter

      Recommended: Fluke 116- Best Fluke Meter for HVAC.

      • Auto-volt LoZ:Helping you detect the Ghost voltage is its best feature. It also helps you save time during troubleshooting and as we know time is important for you and your client. The unit also has an auto-sensing function that automatically detects DC or AC voltage.
      • Hertz/ Frequency function:Yes, it can also measure the AC frequency in Herts but what’s great is you can leave the leads while testing the voltage. Checking the cycles is also a button away.
      • Min/ Max button: It’s been said that if the tool can do more tasks well, then, the better. This tool records the highest and lowest reading while measuring the limits. Talk about multitasking.
      • The temperature feature:Another built-in function of the Fluke 116 multimeter is the temperature feature. There are more accessories that you would be needing along the way but this stool can get you started. When the temperature is selected, you just need a very simple thing to do, that is press the range button for toggling between Fahrenheit and Celsius. No doubt, this is a must-have for HVAC technicians.
      • It features an ergonomic design
    5. Extension Cord

      It is without a doubt a necessity to buy an extension cord. Why is it included in the list? Because most of the time, small but important details can easily be forgotten. An extension cord can help you charge batteries and especially use your tools. Just try to keep your extension cords organized as they usually get tangled.

    6. Pliers

      The more basic the tools the more you need to find a quality one. You will be needing this tool as HVAC technicians often cut wires. For cutting heavy wires that run to or from the breaker box, you would need Wire pliers. On the other hand, needle-nose pliers come in handy for grabbing wires when working on the thermostat and for tasks that require reaching through narrow parts of the unit. You will be accomplishing numerous tasks with this set of tools.

      Recommended:  Workpro 7-piece Pliers Set.

    7. Pipe Wrench

      A pluming tool such as pipe wrench can play an important role in HVAC. There are different pipe sizes that HVAC technicians deal with and these sizes require specific wrenches. Installing and replacing gas lines, for example, are two of the main tasks where you need pipe wrenches. This task also requires at least two wrenches to get it done. The same goes for pipes attached to furnaces. As a conclusion, until machines for HVAC finds a way to function without pipes, you won’t get away without a pipe wrench.

      Recommended:  Tradespro 14-Inch Heavy Duty Pipe Wrench

    8. Screw Drivers

      Most probably you did not forget to put the screwdrivers in your list, however, how many screwdrivers would be a good start? Well, we recommend getting a set of 8 screwdrivers for a start. Why you need them is not news even for beginner HVAC technicians. Your job requires a lot of screwing and unscrewing screws of all sizes. Whatever unit you are working on you will be needing a screwdriver.

      Recommended:  Craftsman 9-47136 Slotted Phillips Screwdriver Set, 8 Piece

HVAC Tools Used For Sheet Metal Work

Other than wires, pipes, and screws HVAC technicians also deal with metal sheets. Metal sheets are used by almost every HVAC system for the ductwork which mainly drives the unit’s system. Here are the tools you can start in dealing with metal sheets.

  1. Three Types of Tin Snips or Aviator

    There are three kinds of tin snips, also called “aviators”. Knowing their differences will take you to places.
    • Lefts (or Reds or Offsets): By the name itself it is easy to get that this type cuts left in direction. They usually, if not always, come in red color. Of course, if you are not used cutting left in the direction it would be quite awkward and uncomfortable. Why you might use this tool, you ask? The offset angle of the blade allows the metal to pass much easier over the end. You wouldn’t be needing to pull the metal up that much and the best part, a lot fewer sharp “fish-hooks” hanging on the edge of the cut.
    • Rights (or Greens or Offsets): You guessed it right. These aviators cut in the right direction and typically comes in a green color.
    • Straights (or Bulldogs): Nope, not blue, but commonly comes in orange. Many prefers calling it bulldog in relation to its strength to cut on multi-layer and thicker gauge sheet metal. Their straight-cut direction is perfect for tasks requiring smaller cuts.

    Recommended: Wiss METALMASTER M3R 9-3/4" Snips. You are dealing with a low carbon rolled steel? This is the tool for you. They have the strength and sharpness you are looking for. In addition, you can level up the force up to five times thanks to its well-designed serrations. However, there are reports that this tool does not last that long which is something to consider.

  2. Hand Seamers (or Tongs, or Fairmonts)

    Hand Seamers or Tongs or Fairmonts (a brand name): The main purpose of a tong is to bend smaller pieces of metals. Most of the time, it is difficult to measure metals when they are bent. Tongs usually are marked at ¼” intervals at the ends to make it easier to measure.

    Recommended: Fairmont MT14000 straight handle. Fairmont tongs, with forged hand seamers as its nickname, are power-tools that you can add to your starter kit. Some of the tasks you can use them are HVACR, metal roofing, and many other sheet metal applications.  Another thing that buyers love about the forged and plated Fairmont tongs is the fact that it is fully guaranteed against manufacturing defects. Its cushion grip handles provide a softer and more comfortable grip.

  3. Crimpers

    Many people don’t know about this tool and what convenience could it give an HVAC technician. Here is how it works. Insert the sheet metal, usually round piping, in the teeth of this tool and create a crimp, a wrinkled male fitting, by squeezing down. Then insert the male fitting into the uncrimped female side of another pipe to join them.

    Recommended: Has a wide installing range of #8-#2 copper and #10-#6 aluminum lugs and splices. In addition, it has a rotating and embossing crimp head. To ensure positive compression, this tool is designed with a rotary color-coded (red, gray, blue brown and green) wheel and is equipped with a ratcheting Shure-Stake device. This tool did not escape the automation system, it comes with an automation function that embosses the corresponding die code onto the crimped connector, documenting a proper crimp. Want more? This tool comes with an ergonomically designed handle. It reduces 25% handle force to complete the crimp cycle compared to its rivals in the market. This also adds to the comfort the tool generally gives. It comes in a 1.5 lbs weight and 10 1/4" length.

  4. Awl or Scratch Awl

    Awl or Scratch Awl: The main function of this tool is to puncture round metal piping to give way to dampers installation. Another use of this is to scratch markings on the sheet metal.

    Recommended: Dasco Pro 431-0 Scratch Awl can be used for starting holes on softwood and sheet metal. The manufacturer of this product has been known for its reliability for years. It comes in a handy case that you can carry around work.

  5. Staple Gun

    Staple Gun: You will be needing one of these for securing "Thermo-Pan" or other brands of foil-create enough space intended for the return airflow to an HVAC system.

    Recommended: Stanley Heavy Duty Steel Stapler. Many HVAC technicians would need any additional comfort at work as possible. This tool features an easy-squeeze handle that greatly reduces hand fatigue. It is also adjustable to properly matched hard and soft materials. There is also great appreciation towards its durable, heavy-duty aircraft aluminum housing.

    • Manual stapler ready for heavy-duty fastening
    • Works with up to 9/16 in. T50 staples
    • Quick-change jaw that can quickly convert into a spreader.
    • 1-piece, shatter-resistant handle for long-lasting use