Tech Tips: What’s in Your Bag?

When I was first starting out in the HVAC Industry as a new technician, it was a common joke at my first company that you could tell the longer a technician had been in the industry by looking at his tool bag. The joke was that while newbie technicians such as me had a tool bag loaded with tools, the veteran technicians had a mostly empty and worn bag that had a few things here and there in it. Granted, I learned a lot from the senior technicians at that company, but I did not carry that habit with me. If you want to do a job correctly, then you must have the correct tools.

Now, I do not claim to be the ultimate tool possessing guru. I have purchased enough tools in my career to be long tired of doing so. When they hand out the award for “he with the most tools upon their death” … my bank account will be very happy that I am not in the running for that title. However, tools are a necessity. It is wise to have what you need and to get the best version of it that you can afford. I have heard and read the saying “Buy once, cry once” and think it is a great reminder that buying one high-quality item will often prove to be less expensive in the long run than buying multiple low-quality items.

So, let us look at the contents of what I would consider a “standard” tool bag:

Now, I am known to be somewhat opinionated on tools. Though, I am not sure if opinionated is really an accurate description. I am a skilled tradesman who has made a living using these tools. I want to use tools that I find to be comfortable and of high quality to me. I have certain brands that I strongly prefer.

Klein Tools for example is my hand tool of choice for screwdrivers, nut drivers, and pliers; for those who might think I get freebies for plugging Klein … you obviously have never dealt with Klein … I cannot even get them to send me a free sticker for my truck (had to buy it).

Investing in your tools is part of investing in yourself. You should reasonably expect to spend $1000-$1500 to get a good standard tool bag outfitted; probably another $400-$1000 to get a set of gauges and a refrigerant leak detector.

Most companies will supply the larger tools: Recovery Machine, Vacuum Pump, Torch Set, Nitrogen Set, and Refrigerant Scale. Being an HVAC technician is a career path. If you really want to grow in your career, you should be willing to help make that happen. In closing, here is a look at my basic setup.

If you have a nice tool bag set up, send me some pictures at


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Author: Matt Rutland

Matt is our Director of Technical Services and has been with East Coast Metal Distributors since March 2016. He is devoted husband and father to three boys in the Charlotte, NC area. He stumbled into HVAC completely by accident and is now climbing within the industry to be the best he can be.