If you plan on being an hvac technician and servicing air conditioning units for a living then you will need the proper hvac tools to do so. Before you want to get any of these tools you will have to become HVAC certified, otherwise known as EPA 608 certified, well not all of the tools but most of them. So let me get you started with some hvac training on the tools that you will need day to day. This is assuming that you will be troubleshooting and replacing hvac systems that are in residential homes or apartments.
You will need some gauges, this is necessary to know the pressure of the hvac system, and also necessary to remove or recover refrigerant, as to add refrigerant to the system if it is necessary. Make sure that you have a set of gauges that will be able to detect the pressure of the type of refrigerant of the system you will most likely to be working on. There are gauges made for residential homes and there are ones that are specifically made fro refrigerators, cars, chillers etc.
For residential air conditioning units you will have an hvac tool setup in your gauges that will consist of 2 gauges and three hoses. The left side gauge will be colored blue, and it will also have a blue hose, this indicates the low pressure side of the hvac system. The right side will consist of a high pressure gauge that is colored red, and will also have a red hose and it is used for measuring the pressure of the refrigerant that is leaving the condenser. The normal pressure in Florida is around 250 for the high side and around 70 for the low side. On R-22 systems of course. 410A you can expect higher pressures.
410 Gauges and Hoses – In my opinion low loss fitting are a must when you are dealing with 410A, just because the operating pressures are much higher than that of R-22. Though some 410A gauges and read multiple types of refrigerant, I recommend having a set of gauges for each type of refrigerant you will be working with, just so you don’t accidentally mix any of the oils together.
There will also a hose that is in the middle that will be colored yellow, and this is the charging hose, which you will use if you are either charging an hvac system or you are recovering refrigerant from an hvac system. Now air conditioning gauges can range from a 100 dolloars or more for a full a set up. Some options that you might consider are low loss pressure fittings for your gauges. Not only do low loss pressure fittings help save the atmosphere they also prevent you from freezing your hand, which happens when you release the fitting on the high side of the gauge, refrigerant will go everywhere.
Now you will also need a recovery tank, and another option is to have a recovery machine, they can be pricey bit if you are in this as a business you have to have one. You cannot just simply bleed the refrigerant into the atmosphere, if you are certified then you should know this, that you have to recover it and recycle it as it screws up the stratosphere.
Some other good hvac tools to have are the shraeder valve tool, this will allow you to remove the valve on the high and low side of the compressor, which is necessary when replacing a condenser or removing liquid from an hvac system. You will have to have this, they can range from a couple dollars up to 50, it is an investment and I use my shraeder valve tool almost every day.
A vacuum pump will also be necessary for the HVAC technician as when you are replacing a condensing unit or air handler, you will have to get all of the non condensable gases out of the lines where the refrigant hangs out. Another good tool to have is called a gallo gun, it is another way to clean out condensate lines other than carrying a nitrogen tank around. They are not as effective as nitrogen tanks and the cartridges can be a bit pricey but they are both good for cleaning out condensate lines.
Hvac Torches with Oxy and Acetelyne Tanks – You will also need a good pair of torches, which can also be a bit pricey but they are a must as the copper piping that is in hvac systems is connected by means of soldering. A torch set will consist of an oxygen tank and a gas tank, along with hoses, gauges and regulators. To get a good hvac torch set you can expect to spend 300 dollars and up. Some of the things that I like to keep in my hvac torch set up are copper tube cutters, sandpaper, soldering sticks, inspection mirror, shraeder valve allen wrenches, and various copper fittings. Some Hvac Technicians also prefer brazing … and would also keep some flux in their torch set setup.
Some other tools would be a 5 in 1 screwdriver, a refrigerant leak detector (soapy water can be used for this also), fin straightener for the evaporator coils and condenser coils, and a spray bottle along with a type of coil cleaning solution. Thermometers are also essential when trouble shooting a heating or cooling system, they make ones that are specifically designed for HVAC systems. Last but not least you will need a wet dry vacuum, which can also be used to clean out condensate lines.
If you are a HVAC service technician you should always have plenty of pvc piping and other types of pvc couplings in your truck or van. Along with that you are going to need a good pair of pvc cutters also. Some people like to use glue to put together pvc piping, but I never use it as it makes it more complicated to take apart should you have to in the near future.
High End Hvac Tools
Refrigerant Recovery Machine – According to the EPA, all refrigerant must be recovered if you have to, for whatever reason remove refrigerant from a system. In order to do this you are going to need a recovery machine. These are anything but cheap, but in order to be in compliance you need to have one of these in your work van. Expect to pay $600 and up for an Hvac recovery machine.
Hvac Vacuum Pump – whenever you open up an Hvac system, you need to pull a vacuum to remove any type of debris or non condensables that may have entered the system when the lines were open. Hvac vacuum pumps are generally classified by how much CFM’s they can put out. If you are an hvac technician that works a lot on commercial hvac equipment or systems that have extremely long line sets, then you are going to want a higher CFM rated hvac vacuum pump. If you are only doing residential air conditioning and heating systems, anything above 5 CFM will be more than efficient for your job. The higher CFM on you vacuum pump the quicker the vacuum will take.
Volt Meters – There are many types of volt meters that are out there, but being in the hvac field, I would recommend one that can read amps, Dc voltage, microfarads,continuity, resistance, and also have a K-Type thermocouple input so you can hook a temp probe up to it and measure temperature, which will be needed to measure your superheat for piston type metering devices and sub cooling for TEV type metering devices. If you are someone that is serious about this trade then don’t go cheap, go out and buy a Fluke, they may be more expensive than all the other volt meters that are out there, but they are reliable and get the job done.
Micron Gauge – The only way that you can actually tell if a system is properly evacuated, is by measuring how many microns are in the system. Most manufacturers recommend that you evacuate a system to 500 microns when pulling a vacuum. Micron gauges are relatively cheap compared to some of the other Hvac tools out there, and will ensure that you are doing the job right when out in the field.
By utilizing a micron gauge you can ensure that if you have a leak in the system or not. If there is a leaking evaporator or condensing coil, you will not be able to pull a vacuum to 500 microns. Some of the old school air conditioning technicians would just pull a 29″ of mercury on their gauges and hold it there for 30 minutes, but with out a micron gauge you can not efficiently now if you have a deep vacuum on the Hvac system or not.
Digital Sling Psychrometer – You don’t need a digital one, I just find that the digital sling psychrometers are much easier to use, plus you are not scaring the customer when flinging around the non digital psychrometer. They are mainly used for measuring the humidity in the air, and some will also tell you the web bulb temp, as well as the dew point. Definitely a must have for the professional hvac technician.
As many systems that use piston type fixed metering devices require the exact superheat to get the charge right, and to do this you need to know what the wet bulb temperature is inside of the area being dehumidified. The “beer can cold” refrigerant charging method works but it does not help you get the exact charge that your air conditioning system requires for optimal performance.
Copper Tubing Bender and Copper Tube Cutter – another must in the Hvac technicians arsenal. Especially if you are someone that does a lot of installations. Though bending copper tubing by hand is possible, it gets extremely hard when you get up to 1 1/8″, and you definitely do not want any kinks in the copper tubing as that can result in a pressure drop, which can effect the performance of the systems operation.
Hvac Leak Detector – A major must have for the field service technician. When you are purchasing a leak detector, don’t go cheap, you get what you pay for. There are several types of hvac leak detectors that are out there, from ones that sniff out gas in infrared, to dye insertion kits that light up the refrigerant in the dark so that you can pin point the smallest of refrigerant leaks. Ranging from $100-$700, this is something that every Hvac service technician must have to make proper diagnostics of leaking Hvac systems.
You will also want to make sure that you have a box of fuses handy, as some air handlers use fuses that range from 5-15 amps or more for those with electric heaters. Wire cutters and various tools that electricians use will also be sure to come in handy. Last but not least, you will need a damn flashlight.
There are many other hvac tools not mentioned here that you will need sooner or later, but these are the tools that I am constantly using day in and out on the job. If you know of any other hvac tools that should be listed here please feel free to let me know, and I will edit them into this post.. This concludes todays lesson in hvac training.