In our previous HVAC journal articles, we outlined a general overview of the potential dangers that are most often associated with working in this industry as a professional field technician as well as their respective safety practices that, when incorporated into one’s job performance, greatly mitigates the chance of serious injury or death from occurring. Now, we are going to examine another facet of workplace safety that every technician should be familiar with – using the right tool for the job. Specifically, tools and equipment used in the line of duty are designed to complete a particular job or function. Using these tools and equipment outside the scope of their designed purpose may result in them being damaged and pose unsafe conditions for the technician that is using them. When the correct tool is used for the job, this results in a safer work environment and allows the job to be completed more quickly and efficiently. Whether general hand tools or specialized installation equipment, this concept applies across the board. For example flushing solvents, while not technically a tool per se, are useful for clearing obstructions in older refrigerant lines that may have built up over time. Keeping these lines cleared maintains the unit’s efficiency and removes contaminants from it before they cause more damage over time and require extensive repairs to the unit or need for the unit to be replaced entirely.

One of the simplest yet most essential tools used in this industry are thermometers which are utilized in regulating temperature control – a critical function of any HVAC unit regardless of the unit’s actual use. Another one of the most used tools are portable electric drills. Battery-operated models are preferred due to their convenience and safety features. If you are using an electric drill, make sure that the three-prong plug is connected to a properly grounded receptacle, especially if it not double insulated. Your project may call for the use of nut drivers, which come in several shaft options and are most functional in driving hex head screws from panels on A/C, heating, and refrigeration cabinets. Occasionally you’ll need to use ratchet box wrenches, which utilize two openings on each end to allow use across four sizes of valve fittings or stems. Other times, the job may call for flare nut wrenches which are used like a box end wrench. These should be used in lieu of adjustable wrenches, which may round off corners of fittings made of soft brass. Light electrical work that is completed in the field will require wiring and crimping tools, which are useful for crimping solderless connectors, stripping wire, cutting wire, and cutting small bolts when necessary. Additionally, there may be times when a technician finds a need for an inspection mirror, when the area that needs to be inspected is behind or beneath other parts. You may find yourself needing to fasten soft materials like insulation to wood, which is where stapling tackers come into play. Technicians regularly use tubing tools, such as tube cutters, inner-outer reamers, flaring tools, swaging tools, and plastic tubing shears are all used for specific functions as it relates to tubing installation. When the tubing needs to be cut – or any other material for that matter – a reciprocating saw such as the Sawzall is the perfect tool for the job. As part of regular maintenance, be sure to replace the blades frequently to avoid using a dull one. If a project calls for duct work that needs to be completed, such as straightening and forming sheet metal, the metalworker’s hammer is the ideal tool for the job. A hand seamer can also be useful for similar tasks. Before any cuts to the sheet metal are made, making use of an awl will ensure that it is scored to allow for straight, clean cuts. Additionally, awls can be used to punch holes into the sheet metal or sheetrock as needed according to the needs of the project at hand. As part of the duct work, you may find that a caulking gun would be useful for sealing air ducts and other holes where needed without making a mess.

In retrospect there are many general hand tools used throughout the various phases of project completion as an HVAC professional, which we have briefly covered here; however, there is a litany of industry-specific specialized tools and equipment as well. Be sure to stay tuned to the HVAC Journal as our next article will delve deeper into the modern-day HVAC technician’s arsenal such as core removals, coil fin straighteners, multimeters, pumps, nitrogen regulators, leak detectors, and so much more.

If you are an experienced field technician who is hands-on and knows their way around these tools – among many others – and are looking for an opportunity to accelerate your career, Cajun Air is hiring! As one of Atlanta’s industry leaders in commercial HVAC/R, we have the tools, training, and resources you need to thrive as you work with our professional team of knowledgeable technicians who know how to get the job done safely and efficiently and keep our clients happy. Be sure to submit your application today!

Information Source: Whitman, William C., et al. Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Technology Lab Manual 4th Edition by Whitman, Bill; Tomczyk, John A.; Johnson, Bill Published by Delmar Thomson Learning Paperback. 4th Edition, Delmar Thomson Learning, 2000.