It doesn’t matter if you work on residential, commercial or refrigeration units; today’s equipment is more high-tech than ever and servicing them properly requires sophisticated test instruments. One thing you have to accept up front is that quality instruments will set you back a few dollars. Buy the wrong instruments and its money wasted. When we say “the wrong instruments,” we don’t mean you bought a screwdriver when you needed a temperature probe, we know you’re not stupid.
We mean overbuying and underbuying.
Let’s take a look at underbuying first. Underbuying is purchasing a test instrument that doesn’t have all the functions that you absolutely need. This would be like buying a new multi meter that doesn’t read A/C volts. Overbuying is just the opposite. It’s paying through the nose for an instrument that has functions you don’t need, and will never use. Now believe it or not, underbuying is actually more costly than overbuying. Think about it like this: you’re shopping for a new pickup truck to use for weekend warrior stuff. Maybe pick up some lumber at Home Depot on Saturday, and help one of your in-laws move furniture on Sunday (oh, joy).
The local ford dealer has F-150s, F-250s, and of course the beastly F-350. Do you really need to drop over $40,000 on a F-350 to haul your brother in law’s Lay-Z-Boy across town? Probably not. The $18,000 F-150 will do just fine, and get better fuel mileage doing it. Does it have a 300 horsepower diesel engine that can haul a zillion pounds? No. Would you ever use the 300 horsepower diesel to haul a zillion pounds? Again, probably not. Buying the F-350 would be a good example of overbuying.
Underbuying is even worse because you spend a load of money and can’t use the product for what you bought it for. Think of the pickup truck scenario again, only this time you’re looking for a truck to plow snow with. Buying a 1/2 ton two-wheel-drive truck would be stupid, no matter how much less it cost. You could try to save some money by buying a half ton truck with four wheel drive, and it would get the job done for a season or two, but you would end up tearing it apart well before it’s paid off. That would be an example of underbuying.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where Patrick lists the instruments you need and the features those instruments absolutely must possess (to avoid underbuying, of course).