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  1. #1

    What Should a Good HVAC School Teach

    I just entered the HVAC program at Union County Vocational and Technical School in Scotch Plains, NJ. The course cost a bit over five-thousand dollars which is about twenty-thousand less than Lincoln Tech in neighboring Union, NJ.

    The program runs from April 4, 2013 until mid June, and then starts again in August and finishes in April of 2014. So during that ten-month period what should be available for me to learn? The skills I would like to be able to develop some level of competence would be servicing and troubleshooting refrigerators and cooling systems and HVAC-R system design; especially design, construction and installation of sheet-metal ducting. I have no issue with flexible ducts, but like the skill required to do metal fabrication.

    In New Jersey we have a lot of sheet-metal fabrication shops, and I intend to use them once I am able have my own offices and workshops. I want to learn this part of the trade because knowing how to design an efficient and beautiful system demonstrates craftsmanship.
    I am hoping to get some of this in class and shop work. I might try getting a job in a sheet-metal shop for a year or so to get really good at building ducts, but I don’t want to get away from the compressors, condensers and evaporators.

    My particular interest is in maritime and offshore HVAC applications. Operating in remote areas in the oilfield requires being skilled at every aspect of a trade or profession.
    Any information on this would be great.

    A little about my background; I am retired from the government, have a BA in industrial safety, and my wife is a CPA. I want to start an HVAC company so I can have something I can teach my son and maybe daughter.

    Can someone in the business tell me how valuable the formal training will be and how much will have to be learned in the field, and If I am taking the right approach to my goal?

    I read on one site that a good school should have a list of companies waiting to hire their students. I also understand that being hired might mean 10 bucks an hour (or less) until you can start getting out there making a profit for the company.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Louisiana
    Posts
    127
    The votech program that I went to was entirely too focused on theory and laws. I honestly could have saved the money that I spent on the classes and just bought the books required for them. We got so far into theory and equations it was ridiculous. In my rookie opinion, you will learn everything that you need to know through experience, reading and taking manufacturer's classes. Hopefully your school will be more hands on than mine was, but it still won't be as good as real field experience. I certainly wouldn't discourage anyone from going to school, this was just my personal experience. Hope your wife makes good money or you have quite a nest egg to raid, because you will not be able to support your family with helper's wages. I started in February at $10/hour, but my only regret is waiting so long to take the initial financial hit and start gaining experience.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Southeastern Pa
    Posts
    18,574
    I would only be concerned with sheet metal if you want to be a sheet metal installer. That means working in new buildings, or refits of old buildings. I would not imagine there is a lot of room in that market segment for added capacity in the sheet metal side of the business.

    If you want to work, get qualified as a commercial service guy. I have picked up a pair of snips less than 10 times in the past six years. Even then, only for a few minutes at a time. I have modified ductwork three times.

    Get an edge by learning about electricity on your own, because it is often poorly taught, and understood even less. You will be miles ahead of most other techs if you develop a comfort with electricity.

    Next, fully understand the vapor compression cycle, and latent heat. Learn how airflow through coils affects performance. Learn to think in terms of temperatures, and not pressures.

    Don't expect to open your own shop anytime soon. I got the impression from your post that you think you will be nearly an expert in ten months.

    Maybe, in ten years.
    [Avatar photo from a Florida training accident. Everyone walked away.]
    2 Tim 3:16-17

    RSES CMS, HVAC Electrical Specialist

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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    iowa
    Posts
    1,649
    haha, i had a whole response typed up and deleted.... then i saw your post, timebuilder... it was almost identical.

    i will say that the amount of sheetmetal you do, depends alot on where you work. i measure transitions some, and actually make ductwork on occaision..... but most of the other guys no so much. at my shop its more about what you are willing to try.

  5. #5
    Pretty much I am in a situation where I need to learn a trade and can afford to make small coin for a while. I retired from a government job early because i had to travel too much and I have little kids. I am only 43 and my wife has an exceptionally good job. I will work for helpers wages no problem for as long as I need. The thing about helper's wages is at some part you know enough you don't have to work as a helper anymore. My objective is to use contractors as a source of experience and start my own business. I could sell soda-water if it was recessionproof. Anotehr area folks should look at is the maritime and oilfield application of HVAC systems. If you are in Lousianna you can get work on a platform. We have tons of ships up here in Jersey. My sister and brother in law own a pretty good size construction company in Texas and I want to do some business down there. I am set up pretty well in New Jersey and Texas. I hope I can get on with an older established contractor adn buy out his business when he gets ready to retire. I have no intetino of making a "career" with a company. This is strictly a business ownership prospect for me, and from a lot of what I have read that is the way to go. It seems the guys who enjoy the business are guys who are owner technicians.

  6. #6
    No sir. No intent of becomng an expert in ten months. Really what my wife and I would like to do is buy out a guy when he would like to retire and keep his business running. I would work for lower wages if a guy had common sense, understood the importance of courtesy, and treated folks the way he would like to be treated. On the other hand if he thinks because he has a contractor license he can treat his hands like dirt, I will put him in his place and find another job. I am an honest guy and require others to be the same with me and respect goes with honesty. Ten years sounds abut right to get really good.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Ontario Canada
    Posts
    546
    Quote Originally Posted by timebuilder View Post
    Get an edge by learning about electricity on your own, because it is often poorly taught, and understood even less. You will be miles ahead of most other techs if you develop a comfort with electricity.
    X10

    Your biggest leg up in this trade will be electricity

  8. #8
    Here is quetion for the old guy. Do you believe that after gaining seven years of good experience can a person make a viable living in this business in the NYC area?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Posts
    1,491
    I don't know about NYC, but out here on the left coast, the problem with being an owner-tech, and if you treat your customers well, you won't get to retire when the time comes. The phone still rings, and you are still the go to guy when the refer craps out, or the furnace sticks on, or the blower starts making a noise. The majority of my phone calls on the home line, and my cell phone, start with "I know that you're retired, but my (fill in the blank) just stopped working, and I was wondering if you could come take a look at it." If you do like you say, and take care of your customers, you inherit them for life,,,,just not for the time that you are in the biz. Call it a career, but it becomes your life. Only if you are dedicated to your customers, and to the trade.
    One way to outthink people is to make them think you think. They'll think you're not really thinking what you're trying to get them to think you think...........

  10. #10
    I can't really see being in a business and not treating customers as well as I can. If I have to die as the go-to-guy I will live with that. I have a 3 year old son who can take some of the slack if things work out that well in 20 years. I hope he will go into engineering or some related field and would like to run a business. If not hopefully I can find a tech who is honest and wants to take the calls. Who knows school dosen't start until April so I still know absolutely nothing about HVAC or R.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    2,600
    Mine taught me to stay focused, study hard, and to know how to find the solution to the problem. Or loose money by goofing off and paying for a semester again. This lesson has served me well in my career.

  12. #12
    I wanted to tell the young guys that one of the best places for HVAC is the Navy. Ships are huge ventelation systems for the most part. The really big ships we have today and even a small firgate have complex systems and sailors work on those systems. You could get a good bit of experience and your future education paid for by the navy.
    If someone is in highschool they should not smoke or drink, learn all they can, play sports, graduate, join the Navy, go to college after teh Navy, get an engineering degree, go to work for someone or start a company.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Anderson, South Carolina, United States
    Posts
    7,049
    Good luck finding someone who's about to retire and wants to sell their company. Most if not all the hvac shops in my area are family owned and will be passed on to a family member. 10 years experience minimum before starting your own shop.

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