If you’re just getting started as an HVAC service technician, you’re going to need tools. Here in the NYC area, it’s customary for employers to provide the most expensive items, such as a reciprocating saw, cordless drill, vacuum pump, refrigerant recovery machine, refrigerant scales, and leak detectors. These are standard equipment items on a service tech’s truck.
However, technicians are expected to purchase a set of basic hand tools and a few additional items. That said, you should know that most employers will provide replacements or reimbursements if your tools get broken or damaged on the job.
It’s important to purchase only what you really need so you’re not lugging around an unnecessarily heavy tool bag all day (especially working in the city where you may be parking blocks away from job sites).
So, what exactly do you need to get started as a service tech? Here’s the essential HVAC technician tool list.
HVAC technician tool list for new service techs
TIP: use the numbers to identify the item in the photo above.
BASIC HAND TOOLS
(17) Utility knife. This tool will come in handy every day for everything from cutting insulation to cutting open boxes of parts. Don’t forget to include extra blades.
(16) Service wrench. This is an indispensable tool that’s used to open and close refrigeration valves on compressors as well as settling tanks for torching.
Inspection mirror. It’s common for technicians to need to read numbers or inspect welding joints on the back of a pipe that are impossible to see. This handy tools solves that problem. Hold an inspection mirror behind what you need to see and tilt it to see the reflection in the mirror.
Sheet metal shears. Service techs don’t usually build or install ductwork, but they do need to cut holes in metal ductwork. Red and green sheet metal shears allow you to make cuts in different directions. We recommend 12” long shears with a 3” bite.
Tube and pipe cutters. HVAC service techs need to cut copper and PVC pipes and tubes. You’ll need a small cutter for pipe diameters below 1 ¼ inches, and a larger tubing cutter for pipes up 1 ¾”.
Cordless drill set. Even though your employer may provide this item, you’re probably going to want one for personal use. If so, be sure to get an impact/hammer drill combo with 12V or higher lithium-ion battery with a 1-hour charger. You can get everything in a kit that includes various chucks, drivers, and bits such as Phillips head, 1/4” and 5/16”.
Combo (3) linesman or (4) needle nose pliers with wire strippers & crimpers. Why carry pliers PLUS extra tools for cutting, crimping, and stripping wire (5) ? Instead, get a linesman or needlenose combo tool that can do all those jobs.
(10) 11-in-one screwdriver. Again, this is a no-brainer. Instead of multiple screwdrivers and other one-task tools, get this handy 11-in-one tool. We recommend one with an insulated handle for safety when working with electronics.
(9) Long neck nut driver set. Service techs need to get into tight spaces when working on equipment. A set of long neck nut drivers is essential: look for 1/4 in., 5/16 in., 3/8 in. and 1/2 in.
(11) Pipe wrenches. In the picture above you’ll see a traditional red handle heavy metal pipe wrench, which does the job. However, we recommend getting the aluminum handle versions that weigh much less! You’ll need a 14” and an 8” pipe wrench.
(7) Adjustable wrenches. You’ll need 6” and 8” adjustable wrenches.
(8) Channel locks. These replace carrying a second set of pipe & adjustable wrenches. Look for a set of 8”, 10” and 12” channel locks.
(14) Pipe caliper. This is a super-helpful tool that’s used for measuring pipe sizes.
Thermostat/tech screwdriver. You’ll need a small screwdriver with a narrow head to take the covers off thermostats.
(6) Allen wrench set. HVAC equipment manufacturers don’t all use the same units of measurement. So you’ll need sets of allen wrenches for imperial and metric sizes.
(12) Fuse puller. This is the proper tool for safely pulling a fuse from its holder.
(18) Level. When installing thermostats or equipment, this tool is important to ensure proper leveling of the surface. A magnetic version is ideal.
Hammer. You’ll need one, but the type doesn’t matter. A lightweight version is fine.
HVAC SPECIALTY TOOLS
(15) Handheld thermometer. There are many varieties that all do the job. We recommend one that punctures flexible ductwork so you can read the air temperature.
(13) Multimeter. This is a voltage tester for troubleshooting electronic components of the system. Be sure to get a version that’s designed specifically for HVAC technicians. You’ll see a temperature bulb symbol on the meter. It also will come with a thermocouple (an air temperature sensor that straps onto a pipe), and amp probes for reading amps on a motor. Here’s an article that reviews various models.
Digital refrigerant gauges. Don’t get an old-school analog version. Digital versions are more expensive but totally worth it because they do the calculations for you. This not only saves you a lot of time, it also prevents errors from manual calculations. You simply put your gauges on, put on clamps and temperature sensors, and you see all the information you need on the screen. Some models will even provide troubleshooting tips based on the readings. Some connect to apps on your phone to help you see what’s going on with the system.
Filter puller. Unfortunately, HVAC systems are not always designed with maintenance in mind. Sometimes filters can be hard to access. This tool has a telescoping handle that gives you additional reach and a hook to easily grab and pull the filter towards you.
HVAC tool bag. There are many ways to carry around your tools, but for an HVAC service tech, a bag designed for what you do will make your day easier! There are various models by Vetco, CLC and other manufacturers. They have lots of pockets designed to provide easy access to all the tools you use regularly in an easy-to-carry backpack.
Black markers. HVAC equipment items are often tagged with maintenance logs. You’ll use a permanent marker to record your service or maintenance work on these logs. You’ll also use them to make marks on metal piping.
(1) Safety glasses. You don’t want debris, chemicals, or flying objects to damage your eyes. Play it safe!
(2) Gloves. HVAC service technicians handle dangerous refrigerant chemicals. Proper protection for your hands is essential.
(19) Tape measure with magnetic tip. You might already have at least one in your toolbox. But it’s worth investing in one with a magnetic tip. A 25 foot tape measure is sufficient.
Rechargeable flashlight (USB). This item can cost $50-$60, but it’s small and easy to carry, and saves you money on batteries. It will last you for many years. Just charge it while you drive, and you’ll never be caught without a light.
More helpful info for new HVAC and Refrigeration technicians
Watch our training videos for more tips and information to jump-start your career as a service technician!
Thanks to Raphy Caba, Field Supervisor at Donnelly Mechanical, for providing information and photos for this article.