Guide to the Top Tools for HVAC Students (2020)

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One thing prospective HVAC students might not know is that owning certain tools will be necessary to move through the HVAC training process. Most HVAC schools provide students with a list of the tools that they need prior to the first day of class. Some programs enable you to buy the tools you need through the school, some programs provide you with basic starter tool kits, some programs give you some tools upon graduation, and others require you to purchase the tools all on your own. It is highly recommended that HVAC students consult with peers and HVAC instructors to figure out the best toolkit to put together.

In terms of how much a toolkit will cost, the price tag can range from the hundreds into the thousands. For example, the required tools list for the HVAC program at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska notes that students will often pay between $1,600 and $1,800 for tools. It is possible to get tools at a cheaper price, of course, but, as Northeast Community College points out, “A good tool with proper care will last years longer than a cheap tool and will pay for itself many times over.” In addition to saving you money and reducing your environmental impact by lasting longer, quality tools work better and reduce on-the-job frustration.

To help you understand some of the more important tools in a new HVAC’s student toolbox, below is a short list of key tools that will last well beyond HVAC training into your HVAC career.

Safety Glasses

Safety glasses are essential to protect your eyes from optical radiation, impact, chemicals, heat, and dust.

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to buying safety goggles, Grainger provides a detailed list of considerations that will help you to pick the safety goggles most suitable for your use. For example, anti-static coating on safety glasses, can help keep particulates and dust from being attracted to your lenses which is important if you’re working in dusty, dirty situations. An anti-fog coating helps prevent fog from forming on your lenses if you’re working in high-humidity environments or if you have a tendency to sweat heavily.

Grainger’s article also helps you to become familiar with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards for glasses, including all the ways in which manufacturers must clearly mark the safety standards that glasses include. With over 1,900 different combinations of safety offerings that can be sorted by ANSI standard numbers, Grainger can be a really great resource to help you find the most appropriate safety goggles for HVAC training.

Work Gloves

Work gloves are essential because they protect the hands from injury during tasks like sheet metal duct installation, and they also protect the hands during regular HVAC repair and installation activities. You can purchase any number of brands from related websites.

Superior Glove Works offers a variety of HVAC gloves made of different gauge-knits and different materials, ranging from a nylon/stainless steel knit to a Kevlar knit with Micropore Nile Palms. Be sure to understand the ANSI rating before making a glove purchase.

Snips

Right hand, left hand, and straight snips, which are used for cutting sheet metal, should be on the tool list for any HVAC program. A blog thread on the website HVAC-Talk.com discusses what brands are the best, with mentioned names including Lennox, Midwest, Malco and Wiss. You can buy your snips individually or in a three-piece set. (As a side note, there is even a magazine called SNIPS that provides content and information for those in the sheet metal works and HVAC market).

Digital Thermometer

A digital thermometer is a necessity for HVAC training, installation, and repair because HVAC revolves around creating hot and cold temperatures. Digital thermometers come in a wide variety of styles, power-sources, and functionalities, and because this is such an essential tool, many HVAC techs will choose to have several different types around to fit the situation.

Whether you choose pocket-knife folding style thermometers, infrared digital, classic digital, solar-powered, digital remote, or dual-temperature thermometers will depend on your program and your intended use. Johnstone Supply has 45 products listed among its digital thermometer options, while Grainger has over 2,000 options for temperature and humidity measuring.

Pricing for thermometers can have a wide range, with some more heavily-featured or rare-featured thermometers costing upwards of $200. Check in with instructors to learn which thermometers offer the best combination of features and efficacy, and consider using eBay to find secondhand thermometers that may be cheaper than new ones.

Combination Wrench Set

A combination wrench set—a set of wrenches where each wrench has an open end and socket end—will be imperative to your training and to your job as an HVAC technician. Wrenches are necessary to apply the torque needed to turn, tighten, and prevent nuts and bolts from coming loose.

In addition to the combination wrench set, HVAC students may need a crescent wrench, an allen wrench set, a refrigeration wrench, or an open-ended wrench set. Homequicks.com has a useful photo-illustrated blog post that explains 23 different types of wrenches with possible uses. GearHungry curated a detailed analysis of the best combination wrench sets, and Craftsman tools has a wide selection of different wrenches and wrench sets as well.

Screwdrivers

Flathead and Phillips screwdrivers will be required for school and work, and you can choose to buy a few individual screwdrivers or screwdriver sets to make sure your tool kit is ready to go. Screwdriver sets may come in the form of several different sizes of individual flathead screwdrivers and/or Phillips head screwdrivers, or may come in the form of one handle with options for many different interchangeable head sizes and types.

Screwdrivers also have different handle widths, length, angles, and can provide options for ratcheting as well. Check out Harbor Freight Tools for a wide selection of phillips-head and flathead screwdrivers. Some programs may require you to step outside the Phillips and flathead box by obtaining pozidriv, torx, robertson (square), or hexagon screwdrivers as well.

Pliers

Pliers are going to be needed for cutting, twisting, grabbing, and holding objects firmly in place. Each HVAC training program has its own standards for the variety of pliers you’ll need. Students should consider buying needle nose pliers and lineman pliers. Himor offers a set lineman’s pliers for cutting and twisting wire, and Klein offers a quality set of needle nose pliers.

Multimeter

A multimeter will be required to help you assess voltage, current, and resistance as you learn to install, repair, and problem-solve issues in HVAC systems.

The Fluke 116/323 HVAC Combo Kit is considered an HVAC standard, but can be pricey, even when it’s marked down on sale. A clamp-on multimeter or other types of electrical meters, as available at Home Depot, may also be sufficient for those with more limited budgets. Because of the range of multimeters available, it can be helpful for students to consult with other HVAC students and instructors before making their purchase choice.

Scratch Awls

A scratch awl, which is used to scratch lines on or pierce holes into a variety of materials, including light-gauge metal, will likely be a requirement for your HVAC tool kit. Like screwdrivers and wrenches, you can purchase these individually or in kits that provide a variety of lengths and sizes. Malco offers a set of awls that provides different handle widths, lengths, and diameters for a range of uses.

Tubing Cutter

A tubing cutter will enable you to cut through metal or plastic tubes that are 1/8” thick or thicker. You may also be pleased to find that tubing cutters are cheaper than many other HVAC training required tools, sometimes priced at $40 or less.

Check out ACE Hardware, Harbor Freight Tools, and Lenox Tools for a wide range of options for cutting plastic and metal tubes.

Sandra Smith

Sandra Smith was introduced to the HVAC industry when she worked as a bookkeeper and secretary for a small air-conditioning contractor. She eventually became a CPA and started her own practice specializing in small business taxes and accounting. After retiring from business, she began writing articles for newspapers, magazines, and websites. She also authored four books. Sandra makes her home in the mountains with a rescue dog that naps on her lap as she writes.

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