Returning to the trade and need advice.
I have a couple general question for all of you techs and business owners out there. But first a little about myself.
I’ve been in the HVAC&R industry for about 20 years. The last 6 year I was a controls tech with a large corporation. The 4 years prior to that I worked in high tech environments working with precision temperature control equipment, data centers, cleanrooms and laboratories. And before that I was primarily a residential/commercial HVAC service tech. I did have a little residential service work thrown in the mix over the last 10 years but not much.
I recently left my job as a controls tech because I got fed up with the corporate culture and found that I was just not happy sitting at a desk designing control systems all of the time. I’m a hands on type of person and I like the diversity and challenges you get from working in the field. So I quit my job and have decided to start my own HVAC contracting business.
So here is my first question;
What are the major changes in residential/commercial HVAC&R equipment over the last 10 years? When I was last in the field, ECM motors and modulating furnaces were pretty rare. There were attempts at residential zone systems and touch screen thermostats were new to the market. Also, R-410A was just entering the market and most equipment was R-22 and you could buy 22 for less than $100. Refrigeration systems were still trying to find a good replacement for R-12 with some so called drop-in refrigerants that IMO didn’t work very good. So, what have you had to learn in the last 10 years to stay current in your field? What's in fashion now?
What advice can you give a guy who’s looking to start a HVAC business? It’s not without some trepidation that I enter into this venture. There’s a lot of competition and I am getting a little old to be starting a HVAC company. Pushing 50 years so I don’t have too many years left to do the work myself. I’ll have to have to get enough work so I can hire some employees to do the heavy lifting so I can stick with the sales, estimating and managing the business. But until then, It’s just me. Freedom has it’s price.
Thanks in advance for your time and feedback.
Martin a.k.a. air1
I don't have any advice to offer as far as running a business, but as to what's changed in the last 10 years, I would say running into anything with R12 or one of it's replacements is getting pretty rare. Most newer refrigeration stuff uses R404a for both medium and low temperature, except for the small reach in coolers, that use R134a. As for air conditioning, R410a has become standard. R22 is still readily available, but it is getting pretty expensive. There seems to be a bunch of different R22 replacements on market right now. I'm not sure which one works the best or which will turn out to be the most popular a few years from now. All of the refrigerants work pretty much the same, as long as you can use a pressure/temperature chart. Also, the newer air conditioning equipment seems to be much bigger than the older stuff. This can cause problems when swapping out equipment in tight spaces. Also, along those same lines, standard 80% gas furnaces will become illegal soon, and this is sure to cause some headaches to figure out how to properly install plastic flue/fresh air pipes in some installations.
As you hinted to, more and more electronic motors and stuff are showing up in residential, along with fancy internet connected thermostats and stuff, but with your background as a controls guy, I'm guessing that won't be much of a problem for you.
Thanks ammoniadog! I appreciate the feedback.
Might want to apply to forum management and get your PRO rating... there is a HUGE amount of information behind the pro door. Explain your needs and ask for access to 'business and marketing' forums.
On the tech side, as noted above equipment is becoming higher-tech... however over half of boxes sold are still builder grade (new and replace market). I doubt you will have issues with it.
Running a business is a different skill than the tech part... might want to discuss this part with a few contemporaries along the way.
I would get with someone that runs a small business and discuss a start-up... a business plan would be a good idea.
Again, get your PRO status here and get to exploring the pro side of this site. Lots of stuff you would like behind the PRO door.
Your comfort, Your way, Everyday!
Thanks GA-HVAC-Tech. I have applied for the PRO ratting. I applied about a week ago and still have not heard back from anyone as of yet.
Takes a few weeks... the folks checking you out are volunteer...
When you get PRO status, read up in the Residential PRO and business/marketing sections. There is also a sales section... not much there yet, it is a new forum.
Your comfort, Your way, Everyday!