Most HVAC technicians don’t  - but should - carry these essential tools.

HA1 hermetic compressor analyzer from Universal Enterprises Inc. (UEI)

The sad plight of most HVAC service technicians is that most must try to do their jobs without the proper tools. Why? Usually, it’s because they can’t afford them (and their employers won’t pay for them); because they will be lost or stolen; or because they just don’t know how to use them.

Listed below are 12 neglected service tools that I consider VITAL for all HVAC service technicians and the reasons why I think they are so important.

  • Compressor Analyzer  - If you check with any compressor or equipment manufacturer, you’ll find that almost half of all compressor warranty returns have nothing wrong with them. A simple check with a compressor analyzer will eliminate hours of wasted time and expense each week.

  • Incline (or Pith Ball) Manometer  - Although more than a quarter of HVAC problems are related to air flow, most service technicians carry no tool to determine if there is a problem, or where the problem is located (it’s all guesswork).

  • Refrigerant Scale  - The most common reason for air-conditioning systems not operating at full capacity (which is MOST of them) is that they are under- or over-charged. Just weighing in the charge according to the amount of refrigerant charge shown on the name plate is both fast and (usually) quite accurate.

  • Megohmmeter  - Other than cleaning, lubricating and checking system temperatures, checking and plotting compressor and motor winding resistances to ground with a megohmmeter is one of the most important preventive maintenance checks, because it is the best indicator of imminent electrical failure.

  • True RMS Volt/Ammeter  - Standard electrical meters only provide average readings. Often, incoming power readings appear normal on non-true RMS meters, when unusual power conditions are causing early failures.

  • Electronic Vacuum Gauge  - Vacuum pumps are used to remove moisture from air-conditioning and refrigeration systems by literally boiling it away at super-low temperatures and pressures. And the ONLY way to tell if damaging moisture has been completely removed is with a good electronic gauge.

  • Electronic Wet-Bulb Thermometer  - The only way to tell whether an air-conditioning system is working at capacity is through the use of an accurate (+ or - .1 degree) wet-bulb thermometer.

  • 4-Knob Manifold and Electronic Refrigerant and Gauge  - The only way to recharge an air-conditioning or refrigeration system without contaminating it again after pulling a deep vacuum is with the use of a 4-knob manifold. And electronic gages are far more accurate than old-fashioned pressure gauges.

  • Electronic Sight Glass  - There is no way to determine refrigerant flow problems without the use of an electronic sight glass.

  • Dry Nitrogen and Gauge  - Brazing a line without the use of flowing nitrogen creates massive internal line contamination. And boosting the pressure of a small amount of refrigerant in a system makes system refrigerant leaks very easy to find.

  • Ultrasonic Leak Detector  - Refrigerant and air leak detection is always a very difficult job. But after boosting refrigerant system pressures with dry nitrogen, leaks can often be located at a distance with an ultrasonic leak detector.

  • Infrared Thermometer - Checking discharge grille temperatures from a distance is an immediate check of whether a cooling system is operating properly.