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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    I'm currently going to a trade school at night for hvac/r
    and trying to narrow my job search. I don't have any experience in the field yet but have electrical background
    wiring motor control circuits for use with ABB variable frequency drives.

    At my "advanced" age of 38 I'm trying to catch any break I can to get into the field.
    Some of my questions are...

    Should I get right into controls or get some experience
    with a service company (comm., residential etc.) or a inhouse crew?

    Do I need any special skills like advanced computer training
    or math skills?

    What's the environment like, duties, pay scale?

    I have a hundred more questions but I'll save them for another time. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    45th Parallel
    You will definitley need computer skills, unless you get into pneumatic controls. But then you might not be working much.
    The best advice I can give is, work on the mechanical side first, get a thorough knowledge of the complete HVAC system. I mean the whole bldg not just the chiller or the AHU, or the VAV box. You should know how all the systems interact to be able to control or set up a building control system.
    The biggest problem I see with the big control contractors is they hire good computer/programmer types but they don't have a clue about the mechanical side. When you try to cycle a 1200 ton chiller 20 times a day it always leads to problems.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    South Dakota

    If you don't know the equipment you are going to control, you will have a difficult time learning how to control it. I agree, work for awhile in installation and service then make the move to controls. Learn the sequences of operation, learn VFDs, economizers and compressor capacity control as well as staging heat. Any electronics you can pick up will also come in handy.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Still loads of PNEUMATIC CONTROLS in use and LOADS of people WHO think they know them and in reality do not.

    Best thing is a good UNDERSTANDING of HVAC , ELECTRICALand if you have the chance learn some PNEUMATICS.

    There are so many KEYBOARD JOCKEYS out there to day that have very little PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE it is frightening.

    See equipment being abused / destroyed do to the fact that they do not know how it is suppose to operate but they CREATE elaborate programs to operate it.

    Was on a service call yesterday for a 3 PHASE complex that has 2 different DDC systems ( newer phases ) and 1 Pneumatic system ( original phase ).

    I checked out 2 pneumatic VAV's , relocated a TSTAT had a coffee and in the time a DDC tech ( poor guy is new and no experience ) from another company tried to rewrite a program for a space temp sensor. Finally I showed him how to check the DAMAGED sensor.

    He changed the sensor restored the original programming and IT WORKED.

    He thanked me and we went our seperate ways, later in the day I recieved a call from his BOSS ( 2 years in the DDC FIELD ) giving me @!###$ for stickin my %%$#@ nose where it was not needed on HIS SYSTEM. I reminded him WHO owned the SYSTEM!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2002
    C-man. I agree with you... again.

    I just visited a site where nobody was doing anything with the air... diaphragm leaking at a converter and 230 water temp. More junk in the lines than out. Crank those dials and sliders was the solution rather than look around. Pneumatics weren't junk, the caretakers were. Unfortuneatly, sometimes you lose the newer stuff to misuse as it can't handle that abuse.

    I still find pneumatics an elegant solution but DDC is easier to work with as it's easier to "go back to original".

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    The new area that is coming is web-based DDC control. It will allow corperate AND residencial customers to monitor and control units from a distance. My opinion is:

    1)Learn the HVAC equipment in this sequence:
    Preventive maintinence

    2)Study the schematics during free times like when you're checking pressures (runtime approx 10-15 minutes for a good reading), waiting on parts, etc. If you have 5 minutes free take off the panel and read. It will impress the customer at the least.

    3)Do not spend much time on pnumatics or other ancient technology. This field has changed so much in the last decade that alot of info will be useless in the near future. Even refrigerants have been changing when before there were only a few trusted, tried and true.

    4)Learn computer skills such as:
    internet communication (router, ports, HTML language)
    wireless laptops
    cell phones
    palm pilots
    You do not have to be advanced in computer skills as much as HVAC controls. Many companies hire HVAC techs and then teach DDC controls because it is easier for a HVAC tech to learn computers than a computer tech to learn HVAC.

    5)Keep notes! Have notebooks and document information. I learned this by working w/ a government entity for 10 years. Notes will come back to help you.

    My favorite area has to be by far controls. Read all you can about the big guys (Automatic Logic, Carrier, Trane, Honeywell, Johnson, etc.)even if you do not understand the jargon. Eventually you will.

    A field that will also be the buzz word will be IAQ. The EPA has refused to set hardly any set stationary standard for indoor air quailty but it will come in probably be a very very hot topic. Probably more so than ozone depletion.

  7. #7
    I started in the industry as an Air Balancer. That taught me alot about HVAC theory from the ground up.

    That would be the way I'd recommend if its possible.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Lady Lake, Florida
    I would definately recommend spending time in the mechanical side to learn building systems inside and out. I can also tell you that even with 20 years experience in my case, it's not automatic that control companies will be anxious to take you. If you have computer programming skills you're also better off.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2008


    I think an informed customer will opt to keep their pneumatic actuators when upgrading to DDC. Because of this I would learn Pneumatics. You will also benefit from understanding Mechanical Systems. Roughly 80% - 90% of existing control systems out there have been installed by engineers with little or no understanding of the Mechanical Systems Sequence of Operation which in turn can be the cause of ruining new Mechanical Systems.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Helena, Montana
    Quote Originally Posted by laylow597 View Post
    I think an informed customer will opt to keep their pneumatic actuators when upgrading to DDC. Because of this I would learn Pneumatics. You will also benefit from understanding Mechanical Systems. Roughly 80% - 90% of existing control systems out there have been installed by engineers with little or no understanding of the Mechanical Systems Sequence of Operation which in turn can be the cause of ruining new Mechanical Systems.
    Boy this could lead to a different thread completely, but I would disagree. The informed customer will want the pneaumatic to be replaced. From the big picture they would save money on both utilities and labor on maintenance of the temp control compressor.

    Learning the mechanical aspects of what is to be controlled is a requirement. If you don't understand how something works you would never be able to control it properly.
    Don't worry zombies are looking for brains, you're safe...

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Dallas, Texas

    Thumbs up

    mc g-man,

    I have gotten many of these same questions asked of me... I always cringe when I hear the person use the word 'residential' in the conversation. Personally, the only 'controls' worth getting into is commercial. Go where the money goes.

    On the job experience is where you will learn controls. There currently isn't any good formal education for HVAC Controls. At your age, I will say you have an up-hill battle to contend with if you are looking to be a well rounded Controls Tech which means more time using a computer than you tool belt.

    Now if you are wanting to just do installation... whole other story and not nearly the same pay.

    If someone came to me asking what should they go to school for or learn to get started in controls... my answer would be more with computers/programming, electronics (not electrical) and critical thinking. I will get flamed for that ofcourse from those that say to learn the mechanical systems first and all and I know where they are coming from.

    I am one of those people that didn't even know what the 'V' stood for in HVAC when I got hired to do controls back in '98.

    Good luck to ya...

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2006


    Being able to understand processes on a psychrometric chart is invaluable. It really helps in troubleshooting strange problems with a system.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Owen Sound
    All the info you can get!
    I agree with all except those that say avoid or disregard pneumatics. LOTS of pneumatics still in industry. It is simple, safe, explosion proof, can provide either on-off control or modulating, reliable an LOW COST. Clean dry compressed air is what you need, and an understanding of feedback theory, and no leaks, lol. AND, the best time to get into a field, is when guys are getting out. Like a good oil burner tech. Then you become a specialist.

    My 2 cents worth


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