Jim Wheeler: New HVAC tool technology
I guess I’m a “real man” because I love to look at and buy new tools.
And of course, the AHR Expo is where you’ll find them all on display. They don’t have to be really complicated to get my attention. They just need to be practical and inventive. For example, among the many other new tools I saw at the MA-LINE booth was a simple knit hat with a very bright rechargeable light attached, which would be a useful item for any service tech working in a cool environment. Even the person I talked to at the booth expressed his surprise at the amount of interest and sales this simple item generated for them. And what do you do when (and if) you want to wash the hat? Answer: The light is removable.
Probably the best of the new tools I saw at the show wasn’t really anything new, it was just something every HVAC tech needs but hasn’t been at all affordable until now. What I’m talking about is an air-flow measuring hood that you place across a return-air or discharge grill to read the air volume blowing through it.
Why do contractors need such a device? Well, how can they know if the air blowing into a room or the air blowing through a unit meets specifications if they can’t measure it? And until now, not many (especially residential) HVAC contractors have been able to do this because the equipment is way too expensive (many thousands of dollars). However, at the show, CPS displayed its new ABM EasyHood that is very accurate and very easy to use, and has a contractor cost of well below $1,000. Yes, I like this and I would highly recommend it to all contractors.
Another couple of good-sense tools I saw at the show and wondered why such simple ideas have taken so long to reach the market were the PRO-FIT Precision flaring and swaging tool bit kits from RectorSeal. Having worked in the field myself in bygone years, I am familiar with what it takes for a technician or installer to create a flare for use with a brass fitting or to swage a piece of soft-copper tubing so that another piece of same-size tubing fits into it. I can tell you both jobs take a bit of time and the use of some very awkward (but common) tools. And it’s also easy for someone to get hurt as they use a hammer to drive a swaging bit into a piece of copper tubing with one hand while they’re trying to hold the tubing they’re swaging in a clamp with the other hand. However, these bits are just spin-type devices you must use with a battery-operated hammer drill to do the forming. Fast and easy!
I also liked RectorSeal’s Desolv Cleaning Kit that includes a five-gallon plastic bucket, a bottle of noncorrosive coil cleaner and a plastic bib made to be mounted around a mini-split air handler in order to clean the coil with a minimum of damage to the surrounding wall and floor. And though there’s nothing innovative about noncorrosive coil cleaners and plastic buckets, the bib is well-designed to protect the wall and has a built-in funnel to carry all the coil cleaner back into the bucket.
Of course, I saw many great vacuum pumps and vacuum gauges at the show. However, a particular feature I noticed on the TEZ8 vacuum pump from Appion really caught my eye. They have a visible replaceable oil cartridge located on the side. One of the most common problems with vacuum pumps is techs don’t notice how contaminated the vacuum pump oil becomes as they use this tool so it often never gets changed.
This not only causes the vacuum pump to start wearing out, but the accumulation of moisture in the oil causes the pump to have to work longer to pull a proper vacuum. Contaminants in the oil are easy to see in this pump and the cartridges are easy to replace.