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  1. #1
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    Jun 2007
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    Starting a controls company?

    Is there a license requirement to allow you start your own controls company? Like in HVAC you need to have your master HVAC license.
    I guess the answer could change from state to state. The area in question is Maryland Virginia.

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    I've never really considered control techs as A/C guys unless they came up through the ranks as A/C techs. Control guys are more low-voltage electricians and computer geeks. In my experience the majority of control guys I meet in the field have computer backrounds and are learning Air conditioning as "OJT".

    So I would guess that you would need someone who is licensed as a low-voltage electrician or a Master HVAC, but don't take my word for it, I'm guessing.

    -JB

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by mallron View Post
    I've never really considered control techs as A/C guys unless they came up through the ranks as A/C techs. Control guys are more low-voltage electricians and computer geeks. In my experience the majority of control guys I meet in the field have computer backrounds and are learning Air conditioning as "OJT".

    So I would guess that you would need someone who is licensed as a low-voltage electrician or a Master HVAC, but don't take my word for it, I'm guessing.

    -JB

    Maybe where you are thats the case but not were I am. There are 8 guys in my local branch and we all came through the ranks. Come to think of it all the controls guys I know in the area I live started as pipe fiters, boiler guys or ac techs. I dont know any electricians who became control techs.
    If it aint broke dont fix it!

  4. #4
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    In my opinion a mechanical background should be a prerequisite for any control tech, You must know what you are controlling and why. As far as the business aspect you must have a good reputation in the community of mechanical contractors and rep a product that has been established and works.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by yellowfrog76 View Post
    In my opinion a mechanical background should be a prerequisite for any control tech, You must know what you are controlling and why. As far as the business aspect you must have a good reputation in the community of mechanical contractors and rep a product that has been established and works.

    i know what you are saying, i am a mechanic, but with the complexity of controls software, i feel having a mechanical background will only get you so far in the controls industry. i find myself getting my a$$ kicked on a regular basis by IT stuff.
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  6. #6
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    Maybe where you are thats the case but not were I am. There are 8 guys in my local branch and we all came through the ranks. Come to think of it all the controls guys I know in the area I live started as pipe fiters, boiler guys or ac techs. I dont know any electricians who became control techs.
    I believe that A/C guys make the best control techs, but try to apply with Seimens, Johnson or even some of the smaller companies and see where your mechanical backround gets you. I have had many friends with mech. backrounds attempt to apply with some of the control companies in the area. They want people with bachelors degrees in engineering or computer science. I assume that they believe the A/C side of the field can be learned faster than the IT/programming portion.

    And all our subs are low-voltage electricians. They aren't programmers but can do basically everything else.

    I'm in DC. Where are you located?

    -JB

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by hardy26 View Post
    Is there a license requirement to allow you start your own controls company? Like in HVAC you need to have your master HVAC license.
    I guess the answer could change from state to state. The area in question is Maryland Virginia.

    Thanks

    You will have to check in the areas you wish to do business. Some towns and cities have their own fire and electrical code that is more stringent than NEC/NFPA. Each may require certain certifications and filing permits before actually doing the work. The building department of the towns/cities you wish to do busisness in is the best start.
    You lost your dongle!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by hardy26 View Post
    Is there a license requirement to allow you start your own controls company? Like in HVAC you need to have your master HVAC license.
    I guess the answer could change from state to state. The area in question is Maryland Virginia.

    Thanks
    What do you think the requirements are for just doing service work and programming?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by mallron View Post
    I believe that A/C guys make the best control techs, but try to apply with Seimens, Johnson or even some of the smaller companies and see where your mechanical backround gets you. I have had many friends with mech. backrounds attempt to apply with some of the control companies in the area. They want people with bachelors degrees in engineering or computer science. I assume that they believe the A/C side of the field can be learned faster than the IT/programming portion.

    And all our subs are low-voltage electricians. They aren't programmers but can do basically everything else.

    I'm in DC. Where are you located?

    -JB
    I'm in Maryland. What Company do you work for?

  10. #10
    This can turn into a "my trade is better than yours" discussion real fast. I've worked in the trade several years and I won't take away from anyone who is making a living. From the guy that pours the concrete to the guy that paints the walls, it all takes a skill.

    I personally think that controls is one of the hardest trades to work in. Before the wars start let me explain.

    First, you are working with a system that you have to be an approved vendor for or work for an approved vendor, be it Siemens, ALC, Johnson, Delta, Alerton, does not matter. If I was a painter bidding jobs would be so much easier.

    Second, you are a 3rd tier contractor. You will most likely work for the mechanical contractor (some cases you will work for the owner or general) and you are also the second to last one done. You have to wait for the building to be up, then the pipe fitters put in the plumbing, then the electricians go, then the sheet metal guys, and for the the low voltage work, security and fire have priority over your work. So the schedule is probably late and now you are up against the owner moving in, doing your job right, and the balancer needing to get his job done after you. Oh and they can't move in until you are done, so the "liquidated damage" threats start. Even though it wasn't your fault the job is late.

    Third, you have to know a little about a lot. You better now HVAC, some electrical, networking, and of course the system you are installing. I have found that I usually run the start up and commissioning meetings because I know how it all goes together in the end.

    And last but not least, to survive you will have to take on several jobs. You are a small part of many project so you will be spread thin, and everyone is going to be pulling you in different directions the same time.

    Why is it worth it, because Controls Guy's are hard to find, and once you get a reputation as a good one, you are golden. You will never be out of work no matter what happens to the economy. Once a project is done and everyone is paid and warranty is over, all the trades are gone except you. You will be servicing and upgrading that site until the walls come down, if you do your job right.

    I have recruited techs from other fields and I have found that the best Controls Technicians come from electrical/electronic backgrounds. HVAC was easy for me to learn, it's right there in front of you. Electrical/Electronic theory is harder to learn because it is just that, theory. I think that you can find good techs from both sides.

    As far as us being computer geeks, I wish I was one, could make more money that way, but I actually never touched a computer until I started doing controls. If all you are is a computer guy, you won't make it in controls.

    Now, as far as what lic. will you need. You can probably go a few ways. You can go with a low voltage lic (depending on state, here in CA most control work is done by inside wireman which work for electrical contractors), electrical lic., pipe fitter, sheet metal, and probably some other ones that I can't think of right now. If you get anyone of these, you might have to sub out the work that belongs to the other trade. In CA you can't run conduit unless you have a C-10, so I sub that out. I give it a few years before there is a controls lic. and this will be put to rest.

    Good luck and don't listen to the haters. Guys at job sites always try to give me crap for working on a computer but it goes in one ear out the other. I'm just trying to make a living just like the pipe fitter, painter, janitor, CEO, etc.

  11. #11
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    Alerton tech - good post, but you need to add anytime there is a problem everyone blames/comes to you - Mechanical/Electrical because your controls are on it. When bringing the system online you have to be both a good electrician and a good HVAC guy in order to prove to the electricians/mechanical that it is their problem not yours, of course when it is not your problem!
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  12. #12
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    May 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by mallron View Post
    I believe that A/C guys make the best control techs, but try to apply with Seimens, Johnson or even some of the smaller companies and see where your mechanical backround gets you. I have had many friends with mech. backrounds attempt to apply with some of the control companies in the area. They want people with bachelors degrees in engineering or computer science. I assume that they believe the A/C side of the field can be learned faster than the IT/programming portion.

    And all our subs are low-voltage electricians. They aren't programmers but can do basically everything else.

    I'm in DC. Where are you located?

    -JB
    I am in Michigan, but started with my company in Florida. After thinking about it there is some truth to what you said. I have been in the field since 89' and and I am one of the youngest controls techs in the area that I know of. I have seen some new guys in the Detroit area and they all had Electrical Eng degrees. We just did some interviews and the guys they talked to were fresh out of college.
    If it aint broke dont fix it!

  13. #13
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    Aug 2006
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    Central Coast, CA
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    If you start your own controls company be prepared to be the tail being wagged by the dog! I'll second and third everything alertontech said.

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