Here is a quick low down on what HVAC test instruments you do and don’t need along with what features they do and don’t need to have. (Click here if you missed Part 1.)

Number one on our list is the Digital Multimeter. This is the main staple of your test instruments; you use it multiple times every day. It lives in your tool bag along with wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, you name it. It gets rained on, left out in the sun, dropped, and generally abused. It had better be a robust instrument considering you trust your life to it, literally. This is one item that you do not want to cheap out on. However, you still don’t need to pay for features you will never use.

Features you NEED … Yes, every one of them!

  • Digital display
  • A/C and D/C volts, rated to 600 volts.
  • Ohms
  • Capacitance
  • Milli-amps
  • Hz
  • Water resistant case
  • Rugged case
  • Accessory amp clamp

Very useful (but not necessary) features:

  • Non-contact voltage tester
  • Back-lit display
  • Temperature probe
  • Magnetic back
  • Max-Hold feature
  • Mega ohm feature
  • Accessories that need to be available if not included.
  • Amp Clamp
  • Alligator style lead ends
  • Fine point style lead ends
  • High voltage probe

Features that are a waste of money for HVAC.

  • True RMS
  • Continuity tester
  • Built in work light
  • Bar Graph display

Second on our list is a digital thermometer with remote temperature probes. This is another instrument that will see daily duty and more than its fair share of field abuse. It will need to be accurate, and the remote probes need to be robust enough to handle high temperatures, sharp metal edges, and repeated coiling and uncoiling. Thermocouple sensors (type K) generally react to temperature changes much faster than thermistor style and are usually more durable.

Features you need:

  • At least 2 temperature inputs
  • 2 surface probes
  • 1 insertion probe
  • Min / Max recording
  • Rugged case
  • Water resistant case

Very useful (but not necessary) features:

  • Type K Thermocouple sensors
  • Back-lit display
  • Probe temp Differential readout
  • Real time data logging
  • Humidity / Wet bulb probe

You can find Part 1 of this series here. Stay tuned for Part 3, where Patrick lists the other two must-have instruments for HVAC.

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ABOUT Patrick Peterson

Patrick Peterson of ZenHVAC has seen the HVAC industry from all angles, serving as a technician, manufacturer’s tech rep, salesman, technical trainer and business owner.