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March 4, 2021


List of the Best HVAC Hand Tools

Make sure you include these hand tools when stocking up for life as an HVAC technician.

While power tools have their obvious allure, a seasoned HVAC pro knows that hand tools often make the best choice for convenience, efficiency, and performance. An HVAC professional’s tool bag should hold numerous hand tools for prying, snipping, adjusting, and measuring. Compare this list of essential hand tools to your current inventory, and consider adding to your kit for a well-rounded selection.

Don’t Leave Home Without ‘Em

It will come as no surprise to see the most ubiquitous hand tools at the top of this list: a hammer, screwdrivers, hex keys, and a tape measure. The most important factors to look for in a hammer are comfort and weight, so take the time to hold a few in your hand at the hardware store before choosing one you like.

As for screwdrivers, some technicians like the convenience of a multi-bit screwdriver, but others dislike having to keep track of the small bits instead of packing a few extra, solid screwdrivers. Again, it comes down to personal preference, but you’ll need several different sizes of Phillip’s and flat head screwdrivers at the very least.

A foldable hex key set is nice to have since it prevents these small tools from getting misplaced or lost. Finally, a 25 foot tape measure should be plenty long enough for most HVAC jobs. Get one that easily supports its own weight when extended, otherwise you’ll have some frustrating moments ahead.

Sheet Metal Hand Tools

Installing ducts requires specialized sheet metal hand tools. If you often get frustrated when installing ducts, make sure you aren’t missing a vital piece of equipment to make the job a little smoother. To start, you’ll need an awl for scoring the metal and making it easier to cut a straight line. A sharp pair of tin snips does the heavy-duty work of cutting through metal. Get both straight and angled snips so that you can cut sheet metal from all angles. A crimper will also allow you to cut sheet metal and performs double-duty as a wire stripper too. You’ll also need a folding tool to help you create even seams in the metal, plus hand seamers to manipulate the metal.  

Pliers Galore

If a tool can be used to grip and twist, consider it essential for your HVAC tool bag. Must-have pliers for HVAC technicians include groove and joint pliers, long nose pliers, slip joint pliers, diagonal pliers and linesman pliers. Each of these pliers comes in different sizes to help you maneuver in tight spaces if needed or to allow you to grip larger nuts and bolts. Speaking of grip, sweat and metal don’t mix. Get a set of pliers with durable traction on the handles, even if you’re in the habit of wearing HVAC gloves.

Tubing and Pipe Tools

HVAC technicians need to remove or install copper and plastic tubes or pipes, and this task requires some specialized hand tools. Copper pipe cutters look like a small C-shaped tool with a blade, whereas plastic cutters look like large scissors. Add a copper pipe expander, a deburring tool, a tube bender and a pipe wrench to your kit for complete pipe preparation. 

Wire Strippers

Because HVAC pros may need to connect wires to get heating and cooling units up and running, a pair of wire strippers is essential. Some crimpers already have wire-stripping holes built-in, making them a useful and multi-functional tool. 

Inspection Mirror and Light

To help you see what you’re dealing with before you start cutting and demolishing, add an inspection mirror to your tool bag. It’s the HVAC version of the mirror dentists use to see the upper teeth and consists of a palm-sized mirror mounted at an angle on the end of a sturdy pole. For easy storage, look for a mirror with a telescoping pole.

Next, invest in a flashlight and/or headlamp to ensure you have enough light to see what you’re doing, even when working in basements, crawl spaces, or other dimly-lit environments. 

Don’t Forget a Tool Bag or Belt

A convenient tool is an easy-to-reach tool! Store your HVAC hand tools in a bag or belt (or belt/bag combo) that offers plenty of pockets for organization. You want to be able to grab what you need and get to work without necessarily looking down, bending over, or rummaging around. When every tool has a designated pocket, reaching for what you need feels like second nature. Storing tools properly also helps prevent them from getting lost, misplaced, “borrowed,” or accidentally damaged. 

Bonus Tool: Hand Flanger

Although you won’t tote this machine around in your tool belt or bag with your other hand tools, it nonetheless serves as an essential and hand-powered tool for HVAC pros. A hand flanger clamps to the edge of a workbench and allows you to create a uniform edge along sheet metal, and it’s a useful option for budget-conscious HVAC technicians who aren’t ready to invest in a power flanger.