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  1. #1

    Im considering a career in HVAC...

    Hey, Im 30 years old and currently work in the Fire/EMS field. I've had interest in HVAC for awhile, but I admit Im not mechanically inclined. I can learn though, it just take me awhile. I also don't do well in super hot weather, but the cold I can handle.

    I'd like to work in commercial more than residential (and service over installs), but gotta start at the bottom of course.

    I was offered a job with a small HVAC company the other day (I think they have 6 techs) and am not sure if I should take it or not. I would be starting in customer service and they would send me to training and on ride-alongs with techs for the next year or so. The job I currently have pays better and has better benefits, but Im not sure if I like the risks of getting sick working. Aside from that, EMS is great.

    So im wondering if you all had any opinions, if you think HVAC is a field for someone like myself. I was watching some youtube videos on repairs and maintenance and it doesn't seem all that hard....but again Im a newbie so I don't know everything.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    9,405
    It's just like your existing job, as in always putting FIRES out. A/C is not as bad but refrigeration... oohhh yeah. We need you now our ice cream is melting

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Bay Area California
    Posts
    7,139
    You said you're not mechanically inclined. That's sort of a red flag. How do you feel about getting dirty, greasey, and busting a knuckle?

    Other than that, you've been offered a position that others trying to break into the trade would kill for.

  4. #4
    im not worried about getting dirty or greasy. id say the biggest concern is hot attics and crawling/flexibility. Learning doesn't seem too tough

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    New Mexico
    Posts
    6,729
    I your truly not mechanically inclined you won't be happy. If on the other hand your just not knowledgeable, that's different.
    An example might be, I can go out and shoot hoops every day for hours and still be not good. That's because I'm not that kind of athlete. I'm more of a wrestler. I'd never be happy on a basketball team.

    Your mistaken about the learning not being too tough. This trade is a constant learning experience. It all depends on how good you want to be at it.
    I should have played the g'tar on the MTV. MK

    You can be anything you want......As long as you don't suck at it.

    SMW Lu49

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Dover, DE
    Posts
    5,178
    It's always been my opinion that those who enjoy taking things apart to see how they work, those that generally enjoy the mechanics of things, are best for the trade.
    Now, it's best that you be mechanically inclined. Extreme heat and cold can be part of the day, as well as dirt, grease and some really nasty people.
    There is also some danger associated with it, your dealing with flammable fuels, heights, and live electricity.
    With all that said, I enjoy what I do and have never really been inclined to seek another trade. Commercial/industrial will have expansive rooftops and equipment installed in high places rather than attics and crawl spaces you'll see in residential.
    I havent failed. Ive just found 10,000 ways that wont work. - Thomas Edison

    Its not whether you get knocked down, its whether you get up. - Vince Lombardi

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Richmond, VA
    Posts
    2,716
    Don't worry about not being mechanically inclined.

    I started when I was 29. I had never used a power tool or anything beyond a screwdriver and hammer to hang pictures on the wall. Two years of being in the field, I'm the third technician behind two guys who have 20+ years experience. But that's due to ability and willingness to ask questions, read, learn, and practice every waking moment - no joke. When you punch out, you ought to have a book in your hand or be on HVAC-Talk until bed time. The motivation to learn on and off the job is most important as well as a strong backbone to take criticism, tough customers, and challenging calls. As easy as it looks, HVAC is physically and mentally demanding. You have no idea until you experience it. I always teach my apprentices that 10% of the job is fixing stuff. The other 90% is customer service, paperwork, research, pricing, warranties, marketing, sales, conflict resolution, etc. You're not just fixing stuff, you're essentially running a business.

    There have been a handful of calls when I was on my own where I just wanted to bail out because you'll find yourself in situations where there's no safety net or a guy with all the answers right behind you. Instead, you'll find yourself in front of a confusing machine with a pissed of customer breathing down your neck - and that's the scariest thing in the world because your reputation and career is on the line. Until you can prove yourself and put time in, you're just a guy with a pulse.

    But no matter how much you read about it or watch it, HVAC has to be practiced to really understand and become proficient.

    Get your foot in the door at a respectable company and you can be successful. Right now is the best time with spring and summer around the corner. Despite the hardships you experience in the beginning, HVAC is a very rewarding career and I'm thankful to be in it.
    Last edited by CircusEnvy; Yesterday at 04:16 PM.

  8. #8
    i live in the Washington DC area, most people have basements so I doubt there's a lot of attic work. Would you say getting into installing or servicing is the better field?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
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    Richmond, VA
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    2,716
    Quote Originally Posted by TruePoizon View Post
    i live in the Washington DC area, most people have basements so I doubt there's a lot of attic work. Would you say getting into installing or servicing is the better field?
    Installing is grunt work. You learn a lot of hands on skills and it's very physical, but you never really understand why things work the way they do because it doesn't matter. Just get A to B as neatly and quickly as possible. It's a good place to start and a fine place to stay if you like to just punch in and punch out each day. There's much less responsibility as an installer because everything you do is step-by-step.

    Service work is more mentally demanding and organic. As a service technician, you need to know everything an installer does as well as how X, Y, and Z works, why it works, what symptoms does it exhibit when X isn't doing Y, how to communicate that to the customer, price it, fix it, etc. Because of that, there are greater financial opportunities in service work than installation.

    I'm sure in central DC there are a lot of flat roof attics, which are just about the worst type of attics. Duct work is mostly inaccessible, shady wiring everywhere, cheapskate trust fund liberals, etc. Plus, you'll be lugging a 40-foot ladder to get up on the roof where the outdoor unit is located. We have a lot of houses like that here in Richmond.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Bay Area California
    Posts
    7,139
    If I could, I'd give you a like for that post.

    Been doin' this for 30 years, and pretty darn good at what I do, but I'm still learning.


    Quote Originally Posted by CircusEnvy View Post
    Don't worry about not being mechanically inclined.

    I started when I was 29. I had never used a power tool or anything beyond a screwdriver and hammer to hang pictures on the wall. Two years of being in the field, I'm the third technician behind two guys who have 20+ years experience. But that's due to ability and willingness to ask questions, read, learn, and practice every waking moment - no joke. When you punch out, you ought to have a book in your hand or be on HVAC-Talk until bed time. The motivation to learn on and off the job is most important as well as a strong backbone to take criticism, tough customers, and challenging calls. As easy as it looks, HVAC is physically and mentally demanding. You have no idea until you experience it. I always teach my apprentices that 10% of the job is fixing stuff. The other 90% is customer service, paperwork, research, pricing, warranties, marketing, sales, conflict resolution, etc. You're not just fixing stuff, you're essentially running a business.

    There have been a handful of calls when I was on my own where I just wanted to bail out because you'll find yourself in situations where there's no safety net or a guy with all the answers right behind you. Instead, you'll find yourself in front of a confusing machine with a pissed of customer breathing down your neck - and that's the scariest thing in the world because your reputation and career is on the line. Until you can prove yourself and put time in, you're just a guy with a pulse.

    But no matter how much you read about it or watch it, HVAC has to be practiced to really understand and become proficient.

    Get your foot in the door at a respectable company and you can be successful. Right now is the best time with spring and summer around the corner. Despite the hardships you experience in the beginning, HVAC is a very rewarding career and I'm thankful to be in it.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Dover, DE
    Posts
    5,178
    Quote Originally Posted by TruePoizon View Post
    i live in the Washington DC area, most people have basements so I doubt there's a lot of attic work. Would you say getting into installing or servicing is the better field?
    Speaking on a local level, there's more $$$$ in service. Speaking on a personal level, there's also more responsibility in service, and it's much more technical and demanding. It also leaves you alone for long periods of time.
    Walk in goes down at 6 pm when it's 94* outside? Your gonna be there fixing it, till it's running. Pulled back in the driveway lots of times, on a different day then when I pulled out of it.
    I havent failed. Ive just found 10,000 ways that wont work. - Thomas Edison

    Its not whether you get knocked down, its whether you get up. - Vince Lombardi

  12. #12
    what kind of certifications do hvac techs need? I know there is CFC and NATE, but I hear about EPA and other certifications? Are they all necessities? My brother is an auto mechanic, and he says many of the guys he works with never went to school for mechanics....they just know their stuff (but still had to get the local certification).

  13. #13
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    Jul 2013
    Location
    Richmond, VA
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    2,716
    Quote Originally Posted by TruePoizon View Post
    what kind of certifications do hvac techs need? I know there is CFC and NATE, but I hear about EPA and other certifications? Are they all necessities? My brother is an auto mechanic, and he says many of the guys he works with never went to school for mechanics....they just know their stuff (but still had to get the local certification).
    EPA Section 608 (Universal) is all you need to work on refrigeration if you're employed by a company. It's the only one I have.

    State licensure (Apprentice, Journeyman, Master) is only needed if you plan to work on your own because as a technician working for an HVAC company, you're working under their Master license - at least that's the case in Virginia. A contractor's license is needed to perform contracted work, which is usually work over a certain dollar amount.

    NATE certification is optional and not required anywhere by law. It does show employers that you are competent, but tests don't mean much IMHO. I think networking is more valuable than certifications. Some techs I've known to have NATE certifications can't explain the basics of electricity.

    Career studies certificates/diplomas are earned by completing a trade school program through a community college or private school. This is essential to getting your foot in the door because you do need some formal education in this trade if you want to be successful.

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