Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tools for Success

HVAC/R mechanics rely on their tools for survival. It is not possible to install, service, or troubleshoot HVAC/R systems without tools. Having the correct tools for the job and knowing how to use them can be the difference between success and failure. That is why Fundamentals of HVAC/R devotes an entire section of the book to tools. The units in the Tools and Equipment section are:

Unit 9 Hand and Power Tools
Unit 10 Screws, Rivets, Staples, and Other Fasteners
Unit 11 Electrical Measuring and Testing Meters
Unit 12 Refrigerant System Servicing and Testing Equipment
Unit 13 Heating system Servicing and Testing Equipment
Unit 14 Calibration of Meters and Instruments

These units provide an overview of the tools used by technicians who perform HVAC/R work. The units are filled with high quality, full color photographs of the tools and equipment. These units not only show the tools, but also provide illustrations and descriptions showing how the tools are used. This is particularly important for more unusual tools. For example, the use of a duct stretcher is shown in Unit 9. Yes, there really is a tool called a duct stretcher!

In later units of Fundamentals of HVAC/R, anytime specific tools and equipment are discussed, their use is described and diagrammed in detail. For example, there are 69 figures in Unit 26 Refrigerant Management and the EPA. Many of these photographs and illustrations show in detail how to connect recovery devices to HVAC/R equipment, including both system dependent and self-contained recovery devices. The connection differences between liquid recovery, vapor recovery, and push-pull recovery are shown in detail. The first quarter I used Fundamentals of HVAC/R, one of my students took his text into the lab to do his first split system refrigerant recovery. He managed to get all the connections between the recovery unit, the system, and the recovery cylinder right the very first time. I complimented him and asked if he had performed refrigerant recovery before. He smiled, pointed to a diagram in his book and said, “No, I just hooked it up like the book!”

Teaching tool use is more critical now than ever before. I have noticed an increasing number of students who are quite intelligent, do well in class, show genuine interest in our field, but struggle to perform fairly basic operations with hand tools. One student confessed to me after he graduated that he had never held a wrench until he took Air Conditioning. What he didn’t know was that it was fairly obvious. The good news is that his innate intelligence and strong work ethic allowed him to overcome this and go on to be successful. He took a job as a helper for one of the best refrigeration mechanics in town, who also happens to be a patient man. You see, the mechanic had cancer, and his ability to perform the physical part of the job was declining. The student became the hands and arms for a gifted mechanic, and in the course of a summer the student became proficient at using tools. He has now been with that company for two years and loves his job and the people he works with. If you have bright eyed, eager students from the “virtual generation” show them how to hold a wrench, give them lots of shop work to practice their tool use, and be patient with them. They could end up working with the best mechanic in town.

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