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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    22
    Hi all, I've been self employeed for the past 14 years in the cleaning business. I've taken this business about as far as it's going to go and now realize that it isn't going to provide me with a good quality of life. Being a one man company with no easy way to expand I'm rather burned out at it. So, I'm now considering going to some form of trade school to start a new career.

    I've always been good with my hands and can do most mechanical work on my truck. I also have some basic electrical skills, having built minor DC circuits and can diagnose most sensor problems on my vehicle with a volt meter. I consider myself good at troubleshooting and fixing things. I'm also used to working outside and in general enjoy being at different job sites through out the day.

    This would seem to make HVAC a good potential option for me. Put it this way, I don't want to go to college for a four year degree. I need some kind of trade school that will take me roughly a year or less to graduate. HVAC is one of the few things I can see myself doing.

    I have a few questions for you HVAC gods (to me) that I hope you'll take the time to answer. First, here near Cleveland Ohio there are no HVAC trade schools as far as I can see. Well, there is one called Vatterot (sp?) but they want a TON of money (about four four to six times the normal trade school cost) and the course is almost two years long. Beyond that, the local Polaris offers a course at a much more reasonable price but does not offer night classes for it. I have to retain my days to run my regular business and would like to go to class at night after 4PM or so. Does anybody know of any other HVAC trade schools near Cleveland, OH?

    My second question involves the class. Would you consider the training hard or just practical thinking? What I'm afraid of is a lot of extensive math as I was never very good at algebra. I can do the basics, but when it comes to complex formulas I'm lost. In other words, will a person who wants to learn and pay attention pass one of these classes or do you have to be a math expert?

    My third question concerns employement. I keep hearing that HVAC is in high demand yet every time I open a paper the help wanted ads all say "5 years experience required". If there is such a demand for HVAC techs then how come every help wanted ad wants experienced techs, and...How are you supposed to get the experience if nobody is going to hire you?

    Certification...Is there just the state and EPA certifications needed in Ohio or something more and are they very hard to pass?

    My final question is this. Say I go to school, get great grades, and pass all the certifications. Will I be able to make decent money (in the $15 range) right away or does that only come after years of experience? I don't expect top dollar right away but if I'm only going to get paid less than $12 an hour I might as well be flipping hamburgers. An overview of what to expect and whether it is worth it for a 38 year old to persue this career would be great, along with any other advice you can give me. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    ohio
    Posts
    381
    Well critter-- Ill give you my 2 cents worth,

    Im 53 yrs old I graduated from a 600 hr course at a vocational school I then went on to college taking hvac classes at the college level and im fininshing that up right now. This past friday I attended a Trane heat pump class. I have the EPA certification and 5 HVAC EXCELLENT certifications including R410. As I hear it no matter how much training you have when you actually start out in the working field you will be classified as a green horn and your pay will reflect that probably around 10-12 bucks. I myself can not afford to take that pay cut . Im around 22.00 an hour in my profession. Probably the only working experience Ill ever get is getting work on my own doing it on the side from my regular job, which is what Ive been doing. I probably will never get the experince of working with a seasoned pro which is what you need coming out of school. School will only teach you the basics. They cant teach the real world. The closest I get to working with a pro is getting on here asking questions and reading what others have to say. You dont need a lot of math skills just some basic algebra occasionally. You will do fine in school but its a long sometimes hard road and you will NEVER finish
    training in this field if you ever want to become a pro. A lot of people that I went to school with never really got into the trade when they got out. They thought after school that was it and it was time to go to work. You have to be willing to continue your education constantly. Others couldnt take the odd hours you are subjected to or the weather. I worked on a heat pump this past Sat. It was zero
    degrees and I was out there for 3 hours. Sometimes you will be in a 125 degree attic , the conditions are sometimes horrific. Anyway enough of my rambling, like anything else you will get out of it what you put in it. Good Luck
    i CAN spell i just cant type

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Fort Worth, TX
    Posts
    11,086
    I really like the HVAC trade. However, I would have a hard time imagining trying to break into it later in life.

    My first part time HVAC gig was in high school working for the school district and my first full time work was shortly after high school at a hotel. I started out moving PTAC's around all day and in the three years I worked there moved up to ice machines, walk-in's, reach-in's, and RTU's. I was attending a local community college for HVAC related classes but found I was learning more on the job than at the school so I shifted my focus to the job.

    That was twenty-six years ago. From that start in hotel work I've been a Navy snipe (steam propulsion), hotel work again, service tech doing windshield time, apartment work (stay away from THAT), building superintendent, up to where I am now, a central plant operator at a major local art museum. I can tell you I'm making over 15 an hour but certainly not right away! It took awhile to get there and then some.

    So, if I found myself at my present age but employed in a different line of work, I'd have to think long and hard before making a switch to HVAC. Most guys that get into HVAC go work for a contractor, who is really only going to pay according to how profitable that employee turns out to be (and some are a litlte tight with the money even then). There's always the non-profit side of the trade, such as working for government, colleges, school districts, cultural facilities, etc. which isn't bad work if you can break in. But you'll still start out doing grunt work until you gain a proven track record among your peers that you can be sent out alone on a job and get it done.

    I don't mean to sound a blue note on your HVAC aspirations. Just a dose of reality, which although may be hard to take, I'd rather hear the truth than sugar coated B.S. Go into a move like this realistically and you won't be easily discouraged when you find yourself immersed and invested in the trade. There's a lot of opportunity in this trade and it is certainly not confined to greenhorns out of high school such as I once was. I would just have to be realistic about it if I was trying to break in at a more advanced age. If you find you really love what you do the money is secondary, but will come with time.

    [Edited by shophound on 02-20-2006 at 10:46 AM]
    • Electricity makes refrigeration happen.
    • Refrigeration makes the HVAC psychrometric process happen.
    • HVAC pyschrometrics is what makes indoor human comfort happen...IF the ducts AND the building envelope cooperate.


    A building is NOT beautiful unless it is also comfortable.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    22
    Thanks for the responses and I hope to hear others as well. It sounds to me that this trade is very hard to break into and requires several years of being very low on the pole before you gain enough experience to be paid a decent wage. This is somewhat of a let down because, after hearing that there is such a high demand for HVAC techs, I figured it would be somewhat easier to find a job and making a living wage then you guys are telling me. This is too bad because I really figured I'd have a knack for this line of work. I guess I'll have to consider another field of education to go to night school for but will consider this field a bit more before writing it off. Any other input, advice, or different opinions would be welcome.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    Canton ohio
    Posts
    865
    You can always try to get acceptewd for an apprenticeship with the local union.First year is pretty tough financially,but it gets better pretty fast.I'm not sure what the local is up there but it's 219 in akron and 94 in Canton.I started in this trade at 35.Left a 50 k job to do it and don't regret a thing.I really enjoy what I do.Good Luck.
    Go RCR!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    lvl ky
    Posts
    245

    it IS possible

    I might be the exception to the usual rule, I re-entered the field 3 yrs ago, I have tech school exp( high school), that was 25 yrs ago. I started with an oil company, here in nj, seems they will hire anyone in the peak season, so thats a way to get in. I started with 15/hr, and 3 yrs later, am up to 20/hr, so if I listened to everyone that said i couldnt do it, Id still be miserable in my former career. With overtime, I am making what I was in the former life, was it easy?, is it easy now? HELL NO!, but I am happier. Working part-time while in your present career, is a way to get the experience they all want you to have, and side work helps with the money, so its tough at first, but Im doing well now, not getting rich, but Im paying my bills.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    110
    Contact Cuyahoga Valley Career Center in Brecksville,Ohio.
    "could be a law...don't know. James Gregory

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    147
    Just get some hvac/r schooling and start hustling. Get with a good company and prove yourself.


    I'm only 23 years old and making $28 an hr. I have no formal schooling, but I grew up in the business. So I proved myself as a tech and they kept adding dollars to my direct deposite paycheck

    I know I said, I no formal schooling, but I am NATE Certified, CM RSES Certified and a crap load of others that are hanging in my office. I'm currently training guys right now that are older than my father. (Weird somtimes) They give me advise about life! I give them advise about technical crap! It kind of works out.

    I say, if you're really serious about it. Nothing will stop you. Right? Have patience my friend.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    22
    Thanks again for the input. I think I'll seriously consider HVAC as a career change. As I said, I'm 38 and will be 39 this August. However, in today's day and age many people in their 40s and 50s find themselves having to switch careers in order to survive. That, combined with the aging population and the lack of trained people to meet the oncoming baby boomer retirements over the next ten years, should create a demand for techs. I've been told that HVAC will have a huge increase in demand for qualified techs over the next decade and beyond.

    I've also heard various stories here in Ohio from a few friend's of friends who are HVAC techs. One guy trained in mis mid 30s and got a job with no experience. Another guy lucked into the field by being hired to answer phone lines. He then read the manuals and took the test with no schooling and is making good money now.

    As I said, I've always messed around with DC circuits for homemade projects. Things such as deer trail cameras, photocell activated deer feeders, etc. Also am handy with a multimeter and can diagnose and fix most sensors on a vehicle. I've got a good basic understanding of electronics and can read schematics. Troubleshooting has also always been a fun knack of mine.

    What I guess it really comes down to is the desire to do it. I'm inspired by stories I've heard as well as what I've read on here. I guess I just really need to get over the lack of confidence I have in myself that it's never too late to learn a new trade.

    A friend of a friend has given me his manuals from his schooling. I plan to read them over and see if I can go about taking the certification tests on my own. If I can do that then this will give me the confidence to take some formal schooling in the field. Perhaps, if I pass the tests, I can find a job in the field while I take the schooling?

    Thanks for the tip on the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center. I don't live too far from there and hadn't thought to check with them. Anymore words of inspiration or info on switching to this career later in life would be welcome.

    By the way, just as a sidenote I wanted to mention that I was talking to a couple of young HVAC guys a few weeks back about the field. One of the guys pulls out a schematic and asks me to point out things on it. He was impressed with my understanding of it and said the classes should come easy for me.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    lvl ky
    Posts
    245

    Thumbs up you can do it!

    As an almost famous tv guy says on his commercial---"you can do it! good luck.

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