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  1. #1

    Should I become an HVAC tech? Is it worth it?

    I'm 23 and live in Dallas, Tx. I'm looking to start a career in the skilled trades ( I like working with my hands) I've looked into automotive, plumbing, and sparky. HVAC seems like it has the most potential.

    My main concern is the health risk of this job. I worked for a company for 3 months as a helper, and It was complete hell. Hauling those huge furnaces up into the attic, installing, cutting yourself, 150 degree heat (TX), itchy insulation, etc.

    Does it get any better once you become an actual tech? How much can I expect to make? Should I go to school for it or just learn on the job as a helper?

    Any advice/comments would be appreciated.

    -Thank you

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Calgary, Alberta
    Posts
    1,121
    Show me a trade that isn't hard on the body....
    Tradespeople usually have to work to make money unlike bankers or lawyers.

    It will get better though.
    Go to school for sure, get certified!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Posts
    2,682
    Yes attics suck. Some are suckier than others. Life as a tech is also challenging, hard work. You will always carry more responsibility as you become more experienced. Imagine charging a customer x amount of dollars and get home and they call back to tell you the unit is broke. You have to be thourough and know what you are doing. HVAC is a trade that you will never stop learning, no matter where your expertise. Humble pie can taste very sour at times, and sweet at others but we will always have some in the fridge waiting on us.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    1,191
    Quote Originally Posted by syndicated
    Tradespeople usually have to work to make money unlike bankers or lawyers.
    If physical labor is all that you define as "work" then I guess there aren't many working people in the U.S.

    Quote Originally Posted by CelticMyst
    I'm 23 and live in Dallas, Tx. I'm looking to start a career in the skilled trades ( I like working with my hands) I've looked into automotive, plumbing, and sparky. HVAC seems like it has the most potential.
    I started much the same way...residential installation. Took about four years to get a crack at service. Four years after that I got a chance to work for a manufacturer and it was a long rewarding career with them. I got into the heavier commercial/industrial side of the business. I've worked in refineries, luxury hotels, hospitals, private clubs, U.S. Navy ships and cruise ships. It was hard work at times, easy at others. I would be considered elderly by many here and I'm not broke down. I can (and do) play 36 holes of golf in a day carrying my clubs.

    In my estimation it comes down to how a person works whether they wear themselves out. Work smart and the toll on one's body is greatly reduced. There's a guy who works for us who I have to "get after" not to lift what he lifts. Those are the guys who get broke down. I don't know if it's the macho coming out or what. Use the proper tools, equipment and your head and the strain on one's body is greatly reduced.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    3,108
    Definitely go to a trade school, but look for an apprenticeship first. Find your local UA union hall and fill out an application, or locate the local chapter of ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors Association or ABC (Associated Builders and Contractors). Any of these places should be able to provide you with a list of companies they are affiliated with. These companies are the ones who will "sponsor" you in the apprenticeship program. You will need to get on board with one of them before you can start the apprenticeship, which is generally a 4-5 year process of working days and going to night classes 2-3 times a week.

    The most important school is the field school, and if you work hard to understand what is really going on in front of you and you are a student of the trade, you can do pretty well for yourself.

    The starting pay sucks, as you may already know. The good news is with trade school and 3-5 years of good experience under your belt, you can probably make in the $40k-60k range, depending on where you live, what you work on, and how good you are at it. I am NOT talking about 1 year of experience, repeated 5 times. If you hang in there for a few more years, and possibly make a move into commercial hvac or large-scale refrigeration systems, then it could go into the $60k-80k range. The best of us are usually making in the $80k-120k range. To make it to this level takes 10-15 years IF you work your azz off AND have a natural aptitude for this stuff AND work for the right company. Some people are not willing to put that much into it and will never be able to rise above the ranks of "average".

    The work is hard, but it can be rewarding financially, personally, and professionally.

    P.S. does your user name have anything to do with the band CELTIC FROST???
    "There is no greater inequality than the equal treatment of unequals."

    -Thomas Jefferson

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Posts
    6,966
    "think commercial"do residentail for a couple of years then make the jump to the sunshine and roofs
    "when in doubt...jump it out" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1qEZHhJubY

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    winnipeg
    Posts
    1,330
    move to Canada almost zero attic work...... you will freeze your member off though
    it was working.... played with it.... now its broke.... whats the going hourly rate for HVAC repair

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Central WA
    Posts
    1,554
    You've looked into automotive (grease, burns, cuts, busted knuckles, flat rate pay), plumbing (you know half of that job rolls downhill at 1/4 inch per foot - only you don't get called until it stops), sparky (you are still in attics, only now instead of getting to make the business end of it work, you get to pull wire through a pipe and let someone else turn it on).

    An HVAC tech is an electrician (in WA state I am a journeyman 06A) with actual electrical troubleshooting skills and knowledge of what is happening with that voltage and why, he is a plumber, gas fitter, mechanic, refrigeration expert, and all around superman.

    I am fortunate enough to have a huge scope of work as a service technician. I work on small, residential furnace, million btu make up air units, fractional hp Traulsens and walk in freezers, chillers, boilers, commercial grills, broilers, fryers (ok fryers kind of suck), big fans, little fans, huge fans, up in the air, down in hole, milivolts up to 480 volts, and everything in between. I don't have to plunge toilets, and I get paid by the hour.

    When the 90 degree house goes back to 72, or the 72 degree walk-in freezer goes back to -10 I am often the hero. Free lunches, bottles of wine, etc. And that's after they sign the invoice.

    It's not all glory. Long hours to short of work, I've been called a rip-off and a racist. And I usually have to pay for my lunch. Overall I love my job, though.

    Yes, there are cuts, hot temps, grease, insulation, mud, and all of the other nastiness that goes with glory, but you get to play with come cool s**t and get paid for it.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Central WA
    Posts
    1,554
    Quote Originally Posted by Tech Rob View Post
    P.S. does your user name have anything to do with the band CELTIC FROST???
    Nah, he's Celtic Myst. It's what you get when a leprechaun farts.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    State College, PA
    Posts
    1,112
    If you are fascinated by science, yes it is worth it.

    Everyday I get to run into some aspect of this trade that is related to science in some way that absolutely fascinates me. I sometimes have to stop and just look at how some designer or engineer put together a piece of equipment and how it creates the effect that it was designed to do. Simply amazing. That is what keeps this trade so exciting and fresh for me. Every service call is another adventure. Every install is another problem to solve ("how are we going to make it fit?") There is always some aspect to the install that was not anticipated by the salesman. I tell you, it makes for a quite exciting day and life. And the longer I am in this trade the more exciting it becomes. I hope that I never loose that excitement and fascination with this trade.
    Can someone please explain to me -
    Why is there never enough time to do it right the first time, but plenty of time to do it twice?


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  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    1,191
    Sometimes I wonder if it's worth responding to posts of new members. The last time the guy who started this thread was on the site was 10/2/12 @ 11:16 AM. (Ten minutes after he started the thread!) According to my calculations he hasn't seen a single reply to his thread. Kinda makes you wonder... So my answer, young man, is "No, you shouldn't become an HVAC tech. You ask a question and won't stay around long enough to hear the answer then you won't work out in this field."

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Orange County, in a Galaxy far far away...
    Posts
    277
    Hvac has many avenues and career paths. You can start as a helper then move to installs, pm tech, air conditioning, refrigeration, boilers, ventilation, controls,BAS etc.
    I can't think of any other trade that's as technically broad/diverse as ours.

    You will have to work hard, study harder and grow thick skin. I've been doing this around 2yrs and come a long,long way. However the more I learn each day the more I realize I don't know.
    I can honestly say I enjoy going to work, fixing stuff, feeling a sense of worth and satisfaction with my day's work.
    How will you feel after 2yrs?

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