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facilities maintenance/electrical-what are some tools that come in handy the most, and what tools are most reliable for a slew of tasks on the job

also what are some skills that will take me a long way in my career

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Todd’s Answer

The #1 tool would be a quality digital VOM (Volt-Ohm Meter). We'll call this a diagnostic tool. It should be "True RMS" and rugged enough for daily use in a facility maintenance job. It should be able to read quite a variety of things such as AC voltage, DC voltage, Ohm resistance, continuity, and measurement of capacitors. It also needs to be able to measure amperage but let's talk about that for a minute. There are a lot of digital VOMs that have built in ability to measure amperage inductively and these can be pretty handy. However, I prefer to have a meter that only reads up to about 10 amps directly. For reading large amperage, I use a corded accessory to my meter. That allows the accessory to reach inside something while the meter sits outside where it's easy to read. I personally use a Fluke model 179 meter with a Fluke i410 AC/DC amperage clamp. Expensive set but worth every dime and I've had them for over 18 years now.

Another great diagnostic tool is my Klein Model NCVT5A non contact voltage tester. This will quickly check a conductor or device for voltage without needing to attach leads or expose current carrying parts. It's so quick to use that you won't have any excuse to get shocked because you failed to test for voltage before touching something. It also has a built in laser pointer. Speaking of lasers, get a laser tape measure too. There are a lot of good brands out there now. They will generally measure up to 255 feet and are accurate to +/- 0.1 inches. A digital thermometer is also important. How good of one you need depends upon exactly what you're doing. If you're electrical in lieu of mechanical or HVAC, then a simple handheld infrared type should serve you well.

A "cube tester" is also a must. This is a tool that plugs into a standard receptacle and reads whether it is correctly wired. As a minimum, get one that will test the receptacle for GFCI protection. A more advanced model will test for arc fault protection. Rounding up our diagnostic tools might be a digital infrared thermal imaging camera. They make really nice ones that integrate with your smart phone. These are great for finding breakers or other electrical apparatus that are overheating.

Hand tools are the next topic and the list would be kinda huge. Socket set, screw drivers of all sorts and sizes, cable cutters, adjustable wrenches, channel lock adjustable pliers, wire strippers, tap and die set, pry bars, tape measure, awl, torpedo level, fish tapes, glow rods, needle nose pliers, locking pliers, and the all-important linesman pliers. Most electrical workers prefer Klein brand hand tools. I've personally owned my Klein linesman pliers for over 30 years now. Properly cared for, many of these tools will be with you for decades so don't try to save money getting cheap stuff. Indeed, many of my tools are older than any of my children. These are tools that can save your life and limb.
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