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  1. #1
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    Confused HVAC wars....pipe fitters vs. electricians and everyone else!

    Howdy,

    How many of you control guys out there started out as electricians, electronics geeks, computer geeks, or anything besides pipe fitters?

    I'd like to share some of the "prejudice" I've come across in the HVAC world. Personally, I've worked in the HVAC world since 2003 when I began installing temperature control systems (Siemens Building Automation) while already a journeyman electrician. Like many fellow electricians who found their way into this trade, I did a fair share of fire alarm installs and troubleshooting plus all the other flavors of electrical work prior to this. I worked for Continental Express Airlines before that as an Avionics (aviation electronics) Technician and then in General Aviation specializing in Autopilots. So I have about 30 years working with electronics and electricity. Instead of controlling airplanes I now control buildings.

    I've seen on this forum many with similar and varied backgrounds. Many people bring a different perspective to the field of HVAC controls.

    I work for a large school district as a controls technician in the HVAC shop. We employ technicians with different skill sets to take care of the multiple needs of HVAC. We're comprised mostly by pipe fitters, but also have 2 boiler techs, 3 refrig techs, 4 "motor guys" and 3 of us DDC control techs (we also do pneumatics).

    Here's the rub. The other day I was talking to my supervisor who use to work in our shop as a pipe fitter. He informed me that our previous boss who let me advance to our top level as a maintenance tech was wrong in letting me advance because I used my journeyman's electrician license as proof of licensure and my experience doesn't count because I'm an electrician. His contention is that only a pipe fitter has that been through an apprenticeship and turned out as one has the right for that title.

    I was speechless. He has no clue how to do my job. He thinks he understands what goes into control work. He falls far short of that. That's ok, but the lack of respect that goes with it is outrageous!
    I've run across this before when I started out installing controls. On a big project (hospital in Denver) some pipe fitters from the local union where telling me that was pipe fitter work and electricians had no right doing it. They said they had classes at the hall for this. BUT NOBODY TOOK THEM! So fine, electricians started doing the work and some of us evolved into technicians.

    From what I gather, this prejudice stems from pipe fitters learning about HVAC from day one. But I sure as hell had to learn how air handlers worked while I installed controls on them and then as a technician when I had to understand and program Sequences of Operation.

    And who do you think pipe fitters call when they need help on an Air Handler or to troubleshoot the controls?

    Anyone else out there come across this?
    Experience is another name for my mistakes.

  2. #2
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    I run into that. It's common with all trades.

    HVAC people think that plumbers and electricians are trying to horn in and take hvac work, and hvac people think plumbers and electricians are stupid.

    Electricians think hvac people are taking their work and electricians think hvac people are stupid.

    Plumbers think hvac people are taking their work and plumbers think that hvac people are stupid.

    It's just the nature of the business.

  3. #3
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    And fitters think they can do it all.
    UA Local 32

  4. #4
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    And I just do whatever I want.

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  6. #5
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    Out here the tinners are allowed to do service work. don't know when it happened, or why. They have constraints on the size of the piping, if it's 2 1\8 and larger ( more than 2") it becomes a job for the fitters.

  7. #6
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    I was at a party a few months ago.

    I had to listen to a journeyman electrician tell me how all hvac people are stupid, and how all hvac people should be sitting in jail for doing electrician work without being an electrician.

    As far as he was concerned if an hvac tech goes out on a call and finds a bad blower motor, they should just call an electrician. Since the motor uses electricity, it's an electrician job not an hvac job.

  8. #7
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    Thread Starter
    This is what I'm talking about. Among us techs (all the field guys) we all help each other out. If I have a 2 1/2" valve changed out, I ask a fitter. They call me when they need help with controls, mag starters, VFD's, etc. We help each other.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike19 View Post
    I was at a party a few months ago.

    I had to listen to a journeyman electrician tell me how all hvac people are stupid, and how all hvac people should be sitting in jail for doing electrician work without being an electrician.

    As far as he was concerned if an hvac tech goes out on a call and finds a bad blower motor, they should just call an electrician. Since the motor uses electricity, it's an electrician job not an hvac job.
    Experience is another name for my mistakes.

  9. #8
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    And how many motors would it take sparky to get it right, and do not ever let them wire a stat.
    UA Local 32

  10. #9
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    Thread Starter
    Quote Originally Posted by buford View Post
    And how many motors would it take sparky to get it right, and do not ever let them wire a stat.
    I think we're evolving into hybrids. I wired countless stats and everything else with controls. Then I learned how to program them. The old "this trade is stupid and my trade knows it all" is a relic of the recent past. These old prejudices will die. It just amazing how many want to hold onto these old beliefs. There isn't a day goes by that I don't learn something about HVAC. And it's not only controls, I learn about Chillers, Boilers and work troubleshooting these systems as well. I know I'm not alone.
    Experience is another name for my mistakes.

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  12. #10
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    Just landing the wires or swapping out a motor does not make a tech. Knowing how to properly test and service them is a different animal, Sir ,you may be an exception in your field, but the majority of electricians land the wires from a print, as for being on the load side of the disconnect into the Hvac equipment most would not have a clue.
    UA Local 32

  13. #11
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    ...any idiot can reconnect 3 wires cant they?

    Here typically, it is refrigeration mechanics that tend to sit between the customer and the controls people.
    I cannot count the times that Ive been snookered by these half-wits that believe a simplistic understanding of PT charts, enthalpy and Bernoulli's principle make them some sort of oracle.

    just the other day some numb-nuts changed a belimo actuator and got the 3way valve under it wrong.
    0-50% = valve opening, 50-100% = valve closing again.
    2 hours remote connected and the 2 more hours onsite finally proved that the 'controls problem' was fixable with a screwdriver rather than a mouse.
    This clown got paid, and I had 4 hours worth of catch up to rectifiy his stupidity.

    Thoroughly sick of comments like "why dont you just use an OR block?"
    My response is normally a sarcastic, "Yeah, didnt think of that."

    After that they are fair game as far as I'm concerned.
    If they seem to believe that the laws of thermodynamics can be changed to suit whatever they dream up ... then they're an idiot.
    My personal preference is to let them did their own grave with their mouth. When the time is right I give a gentle nudge and in they go :-)

    around these parts their sphincters start to pucker when we show up....and with good reason.

    This week, one very substantial builder called me direct. They want to have a go at dealing with the controls people direct.
    Especially when the controls job is $500k and everything is riding on it.

    I haven't even started throwing my weight around yet.

    Be afraid...be very afraid

    If yr too stupid to change a valve actuator, I wont be employing you.
    1 + 1 = 3 ( *** for very large values of 1)

    ...everybody wants a box of chocolates and long stemmed rose

    Be brave. You cannot get eaten by an imaginary tiger.

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  15. #12
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    I have programming and electronics tech, and gas tech certificates, working on my refrig ticket. I wanted a electrician ticket too, but not sure if i can skip the 5 years apprenticeship here. Still have to look into it. My plan is to get into building automation stuff. But i really do like troubleshooting very incredible array of hvac systems. In all the people that I've run into, some are very good and crossing disciplines, some aren't even willing. I tell you though, if i run into something that i think that i could convince a judge that my papers cover it, even if it's grey, I'll work on it. I might lose a bit of time learning, but that's what i love.
    PS. It might be expensive, but i keep paying for some of those papers on schedule, even if i don't use them.

  16. #13
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    I'm curious, are all you guys Union?

    I work at a non-union company, and we don't have a specific person just for sheet metal or a specific person just for fitting pipe, we all just do whatever needs to be done. Is it different if you are union?

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