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  1. #1
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    Residential Electrical to Commercial HVAC

    I currently work as a residential electrician. I really wanted to get into the IBEW however it doesn't look like that will happen (no union contacts). 2nd year apprentice. I'm mid 20's so I feel I need to pick a path now.

    I just received a job offer from a man running his own HVAC business. Been in business 17 years and only does commercial. Does all the sheet metal work in his shop. His son decided to use what he learned working with him to do HVAC supply sales. He will sponsor me through school. Also starting me out at what I currently make and review/raise at 3 months. Only thing that worries me is hes a small company. I haven't had experience working for a smaller operation.

    If what I want is to be involved commercially in the trades would this HVAC path be a better bet? Stick with electrical and keep applying to commercial opportunities? Any advice is welcomed.

    Thank You.

  2. #2
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    If I could turn the clock back 30+ years I'd get in to the instrumentation/calibration/automation field and get a plumb job working for a water company. Those guys don't get their bodies beat up, make great money, and don't have illegals eroding the job market.

    A small hvac outfit is less likely to take on larger, or complex machinery/accounts so your exposure and training could be very limited. Pick something you enjoy and develop a long term plan.

  3. #3
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    Thread Starter
    Thank you for the reply.

    Are non US citizens really flooding the HVAC industry? From what I read HVAC/ R takes a lot of knowledge to be able to troubleshoot.

  4. #4
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    There are people coming here who are doing HVAC, specifically in neighborhoods where people have a lot of trepidation about American contractors. So, I might not be able to do work in a predominantly Chinese neighborhood, but a guy who speaks Chinese and looks Chinese can certainly go in there and get all of that work.

    Now that being said, every potential country that is a source of workers has air conditioning there as well, so you're not going to see hordes of people coming out of these Pacific Rim Nations and going to America to do air conditioning.

    First of all, they do almost 100% mini split type air conditioning in those countries, so that's all those guys know. They don't understand central air conditioning systems that we use, and they've never tried to troubleshoot them, so there isn't going to be a huge influx of people coming here from other nations to work on central air conditioning and commercial air conditioning, because they don't have that experience in their background.
    [Avatar photo from a Florida training accident. Everyone walked away.]
    2 Tim 3:16-17

    RSES CMS, HVAC Electrical Specialist
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  5. #5
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    Where are you IBEW?

  6. #6
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    Go for that job and get the field experience it will bring.
    It's a no brainer the union is the best long term option.
    You'll most likely attract a union shop owner down the road once you have something to offer.

  7. #7
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    Thread Starter
    Quote Originally Posted by timebuilder View Post
    There are people coming here who are doing HVAC, specifically in neighborhoods where people have a lot of trepidation about American contractors. So, I might not be able to do work in a predominantly Chinese neighborhood, but a guy who speaks Chinese and looks Chinese can certainly go in there and get all of that work.

    Now that being said, every potential country that is a source of workers has air conditioning there as well, so you're not going to see hordes of people coming out of these Pacific Rim Nations and going to America to do air conditioning.

    First of all, they do almost 100% mini split type air conditioning in those countries, so that's all those guys know. They don't understand central air conditioning systems that we use, and they've never tried to troubleshoot them, so there isn't going to be a huge influx of people coming here from other nations to work on central air conditioning and commercial air conditioning, because they don't have that experience in their background.
    This makes the most sense to me. Hopefully this is true. Thank you for the information.

    Quote Originally Posted by pecmsg View Post
    Where are you IBEW?
    Im in Iowa.

    Quote Originally Posted by VTP99 View Post
    Go for that job and get the field experience it will bring.
    It's a no brainer the union is the best long term option.
    You'll most likely attract a union shop owner down the road once you have something to offer.
    I have 2 more days to pull the trigger. I am leaning this way.

  8. #8
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    Of course...since you have been a resi sparky, you should know the relevant NEC articles, such as 440 to start with. I can't tell you haw many electricians have never even looked at the relevant parts of the code for HVAC.
    [Avatar photo from a Florida training accident. Everyone walked away.]
    2 Tim 3:16-17

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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrippedPanel View Post
    Thank you for the reply.

    Are non US citizens really flooding the HVAC industry? From what I read HVAC/ R takes a lot of knowledge to be able to troubleshoot.
    They are around me. The last job I had, run by a liberal business owner, employed 6 Daves. all but one have been replaced by Joses. I'm not saying they're as good, just more obedient.

    Don't believe the "they do the crop picking and busboy jobs Americans won't do" story lines CNN feeds you.

  10. #10
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    Small HVAC Biz Owner Here!

    Quote Originally Posted by TrippedPanel View Post
    I currently work as a residential electrician. I really wanted to get into the IBEW however it doesn't look like that will happen (no union contacts). 2nd year apprentice. I'm mid 20's so I feel I need to pick a path now.

    I just received a job offer from a man running his own HVAC business. Been in business 17 years and only does commercial. Does all the sheet metal work in his shop. His son decided to use what he learned working with him to do HVAC supply sales. He will sponsor me through school. Also starting me out at what I currently make and review/raise at 3 months. Only thing that worries me is hes a small company. I haven't had experience working for a smaller operation.

    If what I want is to be involved commercially in the trades would this HVAC path be a better bet? Stick with electrical and keep applying to commercial opportunities? Any advice is welcomed.

    Thank You.
    First, I am not an HVAC tech but I am married to one. We are approaching year 5 of the business and it is NOT easy. If this gentleman has been running a business for 17 years then he's doing a lot of things right. After year 5, it's supposed to be "smooth sailing." Consistent commercial work is also really awesome. Adding you on will only grow his business at this point, plus you have skills and electrical knowledge. I hear that residential to commercial in most trades is a bit of a change but having the basics down and determination is more than what most folks have starting out.

    Mid-20's is a good time to start considering your long-term goals but as 30-somethings have shown us, it's okay to move around and gain knowledge too. Being with this commercial HVAC guy will definitely give you some security but know that you will be limited to what he knows/does and is willing to learn/do. I brag about my husband all the time because he's a well-rounded tech; started out just as a duct guy but hopped around so that he could learn commercial, residential, and controls too! Now, we have the potential as a company to offer several things in-house without subcontracting much out. It sounds like your potential boss has a few avenues going too! There's nothing wrong with learning and growing from this opportunity for the next 10 years until you decide to grow some more and do something else, IF you do!

    As a mom, lol... I'd encourage you to check out the bls.gov to see the outlook over the next several years for both trades. Also look at the growth in your current location compared to others around the country. From my own research, I will tell you that the HVAC industry is growing at a speed much greater than most industries in America.

    As for the comment about non-citizens; it's not untrue that there are a lot of immigrant people in the trades and in construction who work for less under harsher conditions. I don't think that will ever change... BUT I will tell you that 90% of the time quality wins over quantity and while these hard working men will bust their a** to get the work, most of them are not well-skilled tradesmen/laborers. Skilled labor and tradesmen are hard to find but true gems to the construction industry (and small businesses like mine)!

    Best of luck in your decision! I wish you much growth and prosperity!

    Dee

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