[Guide] Tips&tricks on getting a job in HVAC
About me Ok i don't have 15 years of experience in the HVAC field. I have only but 3 months field experience. But i do know how to get a start in HVAC fast and properly! I went from working late nights in a kitchen with no mechanical experiance for 12 bucks an hour to being a certified tech (helper more or less) in just 5 1/2 months! Now i'm gaining experience in a field i can advance and i love the hours.
You need EPA certification to work with refrigerants. This is a must have no way around it.
Bust your ass studying, find a place to take the proctored exam, get your EPA. You need a Universal EPA, you need to pass Core, type 1, type 2, type 3. If you miss a section you need to retake the test until you have a universal certificate. Otherwise you are useless to any employer. Test is pretty easy if you read and study!! It took me two try's so don't get bent if you need to go back two or three times.
In the state of New Hampshire (where i live) you need a gas fitters license. This allows you to work with gas piping (natural gas and propane) for heating units and water heaters. I imagine the process is similar in all states, you need to be sponsored by a licensed gas fitter or company. They must sign your paper work with their gas fitters ID number. So be pro-active save the 250 dollars for the license and have the paper work ready to go when you get hired.
Schooling Honestly I would not recommend a corporate tech school doing a 2 year program. I took a few classes at a tech school, they are slow paced, packed with students looking to nickle and dime you forcing you to take English classes and what not. If you search around you could find a private owned school which hopefully would get you up to speed on the basics in 2-3 months. Here is a link to my schools curriculum website to help you aide your choice of schooling.
When choosing a school you want to make sure there is a emphasis on:
EPA Certification and Testing
Basic refrigeration cycle
Basic Components of a Gas System
Sequence of Events, Gas Parameters
Low Voltage Wiring
Recovery, Evacuation, Charging
Superheat and Subcooling Applied
Pressure and Temperature Controls
Soldering and Brazing, Leak Testing
These subjects will give you the basics to apply to what you see (or will see) in the field. Everything else you can learn in the field with your employer. Remember you should want these basics down fast 2-3 months to learn this is more than enough time. If a school wants to take longer than this to cover these topics then they are trying to squeeze dollars from your pocket. You should be looking to spend $5000 +/- 500. (hopefully they will include some tools for you)
Searching for a job If you have your universal EPA. Have finished (or are still attending school) you can look for a job. Make a good resume - keep it short if you have no mechanical background. Your goal here is to get an interview not wow them with you resume because you have no experience! Show you are responsible and hard working on paper and you will land a interview. Keep sending resumes until you get a call back, just keep sending i sent over 75 resumes before i got a call back. Send them even if they are looking for 5+ yrs experience, send if they are not even looking for help! The worst that can happen is you wont get a call back!
Once you make contact for an interview make sure to ask for the company name or website. Do your home work know what and where they are in the industry. Do they do residential a/c installs, commercial, industrial? Does their business match what you picture your self doing 3+ years from now.
Find their office the day before. You don't want to be late because you could not find their office. Go the day before, find it go inside introduce yourself say "Hi, i am ____ i was just stopping in to make sure i had the right building i'm having a interview tomorrow morning." You might even luck out and get a interview right then.
In the interview if you don't know something DON'T LIE! Say I've not learned that or we haven't covered that in class, I'd like to learn it! Let them ask the questions. You are new you don't want to show your wealth of knowledge because honestly you don't know **** and they already know this. Let them find out what they want to know and answear as best you can!
Expect to answear questions such as:
Have you worked with, refrigeration a/cs, coolers? (what can you tell me about how they work?)
Have you worked with gas furnaces? (what can you tell me about how they work)
Have you brazed and solder'd?
Have you worked with sheet metal and duct work?
Very basic questions! Don't go into depth explaining the refrigeration process. Say "hey in class we've we've worked with ac units and coolers. The teachers put "bugs" in them and we trouble shoot them. We use our multi-meters to find electrical problems!" "we use recovery cylinders and units, recovered and re charges units. we use a vaccum pump to check micron levels"
Drop part names - say "last week we looked at furnaces, we learned about inducer fans, re-wired the boards, hook-ed up gas piping. We replaced hot surface ignitors and roll out switches and high limit switches."
Here is the heart breaker unless you're lucky you wont be making 20 dollars an hour to start. Look for something 13-15. Don't get bent if this is low because at this point they are helping you!
Lastly you want to work for a good company. If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, chances are its a duck!! When he/she is done asking questions be ready to have some of your own. For me i asked. "How much commercial/industrial work do you do.? Do you work with chiller systems? Do you work with oil heat? Will i be working with an experience tech if so the same one everyday? What should i expect to wear ex. foot ware?
Look around is their office neat, clean & smelling good. Are their company vehicles in good shape with proper advertising? Remember you want to work for someone who is going to get you good experiance and will let you move forward. You don't want to be working with some hack part changer who wants to cut corners and get call backs everyday.
Tools If you don't have ANY tools at a bare minimum for the first day/week you should show up with: And don't go cheap buy nice stuff!
Steel toe boots ($100)
LED lithium flashlight ($15-20)
10-1 screw driver ($10-15)
Channel locks ($15)
Gloves (less than $10)
The guy your working with should have the proper tools for you to use, if you don't know what something is ask what it is called and how is it use. Take mental notes of what tools get used more often than others write them down and plan to buy them. Plan to buy a lot of tools if i this is the case - look to spend 100-150 a week on tools if you do not have any.
First day The guy your are working with he better like you, and you better like him. He is going to make your future for you, you are his ***** do what he says. If he says clean the truck go above and beyond, clean and organize it. If you are unsure or not comfortable with something your doing just say "hey am i doing this right? can you explain what you want again?" by the 3rd or 4th time you have done something YOU BETTER KNOW IT FOR THE FUTURE.
Remember when you are on his truck you are IN HIS HOUSE treat his tools and things with respect. Put things back where you found them! Don't leave messes sweep and clean up after yourself! If you can clean/organize the truck with out him asking the better and he will notice this.
Watch what he is working on. If you have seen him do this before get the tools for him with out him asking. Your goal here is to make him faster! Hand him the tool he needs before he asks, hand him the part before he needs it. Take out pen and paper write down the model / serial of a part if it needs to be replaced. After a week you should know his habits and prepare for them!
If you don't understand something it is your responsibility to ask, but make sure it is a good time to ask, not when you both are trying to bust ass because you are short on time. Do it right the first time, take the extra minute even when short on time to do it properly!
I hope this helps you get your start in HVAC!
another "how to get started" thread
You make it sound so easy to get your foot in the door
There are a ton of guys trying to get a start in the field. You made some good points. Good luck
It is not hard! but not easy commit some effort and you will be rewarded! Glad you like it, spent a good two hours writing!
Amen to the first day on the job section. Anyone truly interested in the trades needs to really understand this and do this. It will take a greenhorn further than their pride will.
Good thread. One thing I will add to the schooling part is to also check out community colleges. I just enrolled for the HVACR certificate which starts in May and is broken into three semesters lasting a total of one year. Its purely HVACR. No English, history, speech, etc. Its ~$320 per semester which is really cheap and they even have fee waivers which will cover most, if not all, of the expenses. Other colleges will be different but I'd definitely check that out if its available vs some of the more expensive options. I can't really say much about how well this program is at this particular school but the main point for these, in my opinion, are to help you get a feel for what to expect and to learn the fundamentals of this field. I think these two or even three year programs out there which cost thousands of dollars are overkill.
Get a basic education on the subject, and when your out there in the real world, that's where most of the real knowledge and experience comes from. Yea its good to learn some of the more advanced topics of this field in school before you get a job but me personally, I'd rather learn the basics in a short program that's relatively cheap, gain some in field experience, and then take more advanced classes afterwards vs trying to learn everything I possibly can with no experience at all. The only thing you'll probably remember out of that is the basics anyways so why try to cram 2+ years of HVACR without having ever worked in the field? Education is a continual process and not something that can be achieved within a 1-2 year time frame. Some will agree with this, and some won't. This is just my personal opinion.
Oh and to add to that last post, I want to give an example. I first started in this field in 06/07 with no experience/knowledge of HVAC work. The company offerd a 2 week in house training program and then sends you out as a helper for about a month. There were about 15 of us in this class with most being completely new. Naturally, some people caught on quicker than others but, this wasn't enough training to get us into our own van, yet, it was enough to get us out there as helpers to identify parts and to also help us troubleshoot a lot of the problems out there. So again, those programs which last x amount of years are overkill imo especially when they don't even have an OJT program.
Sorry colortwang, not bustin your balls here. Just pointing out some critical errors in your logic. Overall, a pretty decent post. I am, in fact, one of the instructors at a state run technical college. Our average cost for a 2 year AAS Degree is more than the $5000 you suggested, however, our local contractors will tell you that our graduates require very little "hand-holding" upon entering the trade. We do run a fairly rigorous program and the students will get out of it exactly what they put in to it.
Originally Posted by colortwang
A Veteran is a person, who at some point in their life, wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for payment up to and including their life.
Gene Castagnetti-Director of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii
I would suggest doing some ride alongs with a company you might be interested in or any company that will allow it. In the last semester of school I rode along with a tech every Friday and any other chance I had. Always brought my own tools.
Somedays I would show up around 12, wait around talking with the sales mngr, accountant, owner, installers, until a tech showed back up to the shop. The techs would let me diagnose and get my hands dirty.
The day after school ended I started working full time in a van. I had already built the relationships and shown I could hold my own on the basics.
"I've got my Gas Mechanics license"
"Yea, well my 16yr old daughter has her drivers license, doesn't mean she knows how to drive"
I was not referring to a 2 year course for the cost of tuition. Sorry for confusion, i was referring to a 2-3 month course
Originally Posted by doc havoc
Lets not also forget the fact that a lot of states have a minimum allowed amount of schooling hours from and acredited collage to be able to sit for your refrigeration lisince. Example of Rhode Island:
1. Minimum of 10000 hours of on the job training with a minimum of 144 hours of trade related schooling per year, shall be a properly registered apprentice in a Rhode Island approved apprenticeship program. The apprentice shall successfully complete the program and a copy of the certificate of completion shall accompany the application. Two (2) years of schooling in an accredited institution recognized by the Rhode Island Department of Labor may be deducted from the apprentice program.