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  1. #1
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    Controls Service Tech

    Recently I been offered a very good opportunity as a controls service tech, and I would like to know what kind of task I can expect, as well how challenging is this position?

    My experience with controls is 90% as an operator and some diagnosing as well but not much.

    The offer is as I said, a Controls service technician for a company that focuses on integration with systems like, tridium, distech, honeywell, alerton and more. I would be given my own vehicle and tools.

    I was given a brief description of what the position is about, but I would I would like to hear from some of you on here who already hold the position.

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    When I was running service calls I've seen days that ranged from failed power supplies, failed sensing devices, failed boards (relatively rare but still happened).

    I've had buildings struck by lightning and smoked a LOT of boards.

    I've had boneheaded building engineers choke off the minimum OA on their AHU's and RTU's (because who wants to pay for heating all that cold winter air) and then b!tch that their buildings are cold and sucking in air through every door, crack, crevice, nook and cranny.

    I've been called out for boilers not lighting off when the issues were not related to the DDC in any way, shape or form.

    I've had newly constructed jail cells freezing because the window contractor failed to install the right insulation.

    I've had days of boring, mundane PM, calibration and verification.

    You need to be part Mechanical Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Programmer, I.T. analyst, Boiler Tech, Chiller Tech, general HVAC tech, electrician, tinner, pipefitter, carpenter, witch doctor (to perform the sacred voodoo rituals correctly), salesman/woman, trainer, scapegoat (because the controls are always guilty until proven innocent), undead (to avoid those pesky meals and sleep schedules) and all-around wizard behind the wheel. If you don't have all these skills in the beginning of your tenure you should have acquired most of them by the end.

    Rarely are any two days in a row the same. The challenges can be both rewarding and insanely frustrating.

    I earned the trust of many customers and developed a personal friendship with them that has carried on for years, even after changing employers and locations. Some of it sucked, just like any job, but it was definitely worth the effort and I learned a ton that stays with me through the years.

    Ken

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by chesehd View Post
    When I was running service calls I've seen days that ranged from failed power supplies, failed sensing devices, failed boards (relatively rare but still happened).

    I've had buildings struck by lightning and smoked a LOT of boards.

    I've had boneheaded building engineers choke off the minimum OA on their AHU's and RTU's (because who wants to pay for heating all that cold winter air) and then b!tch that their buildings are cold and sucking in air through every door, crack, crevice, nook and cranny.

    I've been called out for boilers not lighting off when the issues were not related to the DDC in any way, shape or form.

    I've had newly constructed jail cells freezing because the window contractor failed to install the right insulation.

    I've had days of boring, mundane PM, calibration and verification.

    You need to be part Mechanical Engineer, Electrical Engineer, Programmer, I.T. analyst, Boiler Tech, Chiller Tech, general HVAC tech, electrician, tinner, pipefitter, carpenter, witch doctor (to perform the sacred voodoo rituals correctly), salesman/woman, trainer, scapegoat (because the controls are always guilty until proven innocent), undead (to avoid those pesky meals and sleep schedules) and all-around wizard behind the wheel. If you don't have all these skills in the beginning of your tenure you should have acquired most of them by the end.

    Rarely are any two days in a row the same. The challenges can be both rewarding and insanely frustrating.

    I earned the trust of many customers and developed a personal friendship with them that has carried on for years, even after changing employers and locations. Some of it sucked, just like any job, but it was definitely worth the effort and I learned a ton that stays with me through the years.

    Ken
    Hi Ken, thanks for your response.
    Seems like being a controls tech is more than what I imagined, at least it was for you.

    What was your experience previously to becoming a controls tech?
    My biggest concern is them not being patient enough for me to learn and catch on, their interest in me is due to my "hands on" experience and not my "controls" experience.

    I want to jump, but I'd be lying if I said I'm not intimidated.

    How was your working hours and schedule like? should I expect to work like any other service tech and be "On Call" or have my schedule be differently almost every week?

  4. #4
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    If you have the HVAC principles down and understand the building science you're going to be well on the way to succeeding.

    Prior to getting in to the BAS world I was an electrician in the US Navy. That experience gave me a wide variety of exposure to mechanical and electrical systems, heat transfer and fluid flow systems.

    When my customers had their hair on fire I learned to put it out by listening to them voice their concerns and reassuring them that I've got the reins, I'll get it figured out. There is really only one customer I can recall in almost 20 years where I told the management that if I had to go back to his site I was going to put that guy's head through a brick wall or die trying. That guy was so foul tempered he could curdle milk walking through the dairy aisle in a store.

    Most people did a good job remembering that they had a problem and I was called out, by them, to make that problem go away.

    If you weren't at-least slightly intimidated I'd say you're not cut out for it. Seriously, it means your aren't stupid. That's a compliment.

    Change is usually intimidating, maybe frightening, even if it is change we bring upon ourselves. That's human nature. Change also can bring growth. Growth can be painful but we can't all play in the sandbox forever.

    Hours...depends on your territory and team, assuming you have a team. I spent 2 and a half years as an army of one, covering roughly the lower half of Wisconsin by myself. I kept an overnight bag in the van because I could be sent out anywhere. Being the sole service tech for the controls department, I was just expected to be available at most any time. That was bad, left there first chance I got.

    Spent the next five years as part of a group of three. Much better hours, no set rotation as on-call but on if a call came in...well...there were three of us to duke it out. I got to learn how to card access and security cameras with that team, too.

    I could put on 30k-40k miles per year, didn't matter which team I was on. On-call rotation depends on how many people there are to work with. Schedule will likely be very dynamic. PM's can fill anticipated slow times to keep you employed, just like HVAC. A week's plan may change with one bad electrical storm, flood or database crash. (Forrest Gump voice here) You never know what you're gonna get (/Gump).

    It's a steep learning curve, lots of after-hours reading on how things work. Lots of learning how to find things on your own, too. Don't expect to have manuals ready to be found, or drawings, or prints, or written sequences on a building that's 30+ years old with a 10+ year old DDC system. Sometimes you gotta reverse-engineer it and get behind the eyes of the mad genius (or moron) that left the building/system operating that way. Sometimes you find out that the as-builts from the last several buildouts just never made it to the building engineer's hands. Or, perhaps, they were discarded sometime before the current building owner took over.

    Maybe it's kind of like A Boy Named Sue? Your wits will get keen, but don't let your fists get hard in the process.

    Ken

  5. #5
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    Ken, you're a great writer, ever heard that before? I really appreciate your detailed responses.

    Sounds like you started off as a badass and only became a bigger one through the years! Cheers to you and your success.

    Thank you very much for your encouraging words. I really like and related to your comment about "playing in the sandbox forever"

    My current job is so easy and laid back that what scares me is leaving my comfort and "easy" life. I keep telling myself that I want to be better and become a sharper tool and this seems to be my opportunity. After all I work in the field and am currently attending college for a building automation degree.

    If it's meant to be, it is up to me. I like that saying.

    Thanks Ken!

  6. #6
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    Ken has covered pretty much everything, but I'll just expand a bit on some of his examples. You will find yourself dealing with issues that are not strictly controls related because the mechanical,electrical, or IT at a particular location isn't qualified. For example, I've been given a default gateway address that is not in the same sub-net as the IP address of the device we are adding to the network. I've had VAV boxes that run off of 277VAC with no neutral and I have to spend hours hunting down the electrical contractor explaining it to the site guy and then to his boss.

    Great opportunity for sure both in terms of professional growth and pay opportunities.

  7. #7
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    In over forty years you are probably the first and only person to call me a great writer. So no, I've never been told that in my life!

    I was always a bit cheeky but hardly ever a badass. I'm just determined to stick with it until I can figure it out or figure out who to bring in to figure it out.

    I'm always trying to develop myself and grow more in the trade. Just like any other trade, there is always more to learn and someone that knows more than you do about a specific part/system/widget. Don't be too proud to say, "Please teach me."

    Good luck with it and welcome to the ranks, should you make the change!

    Ken

    Quote Originally Posted by BuildingMech88 View Post
    Ken, you're a great writer, ever heard that before? I really appreciate your detailed responses.

    Sounds like you started off as a badass and only became a bigger one through the years! Cheers to you and your success.

    Thank you very much for your encouraging words. I really like and related to your comment about "playing in the sandbox forever"

    My current job is so easy and laid back that what scares me is leaving my comfort and "easy" life. I keep telling myself that I want to be better and become a sharper tool and this seems to be my opportunity. After all I work in the field and am currently attending college for a building automation degree.

    If it's meant to be, it is up to me. I like that saying.

    Thanks Ken!

  8. #8
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    A good thread. I am looking forward to becoming "cheeky" in controls too.
    [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 JSLLC4Life View Post
    Ken has covered pretty much everything, but I'll just expand a bit on some of his examples. You will find yourself dealing with issues that are not strictly controls related because the mechanical,electrical, or IT at a particular location isn't qualified. For example, I've been given a default gateway address that is not in the same sub-net as the IP address of the device we are adding to the network. I've had VAV boxes that run off of 277VAC with no neutral and I have to spend hours hunting down the electrical contractor explaining it to the site guy and then to his boss.

    Great opportunity for sure both in terms of professional growth and pay opportunities.
    Hi J, thanks for your input. I agree with you, this is a great opportunity for me in regards to my career and my fanancial well being.

    I will be making a decision today or tomorrow.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by chesehd View Post

    Good luck with it and welcome to the ranks, should you make the change!

    Ken
    Thank you Ken! Have a great weekend sir.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by timebuilder View Post
    A good thread. I am looking forward to becoming "cheeky" in controls too.

    Thank you sir, I remember you making a thread with a similar subject. Did you end up moving on to controls?

  12. #12
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    I was in your position a few years ago. Had a cushy HVAC job at a state run marine research facility and had the choice to tackle the projects how I saw fit. Too big....call a contractor. I loved that job. I was offered a controls tech position with a large outfit in my area and had the same fears as you. I made the jump and spent and still spend countless hours outside of work learning new things. My salary has almost doubled in that short time period and the only thing I wish I had done differently is I wish I had done this 10 years ago. Like someone else said, If youre having these worries and concerns it already puts you ahead of the pack. Check out the Dunning-Kruger effect. So dont hesitate, make the jump!

  13. #13
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    Food for thought:
    1. Will you be working in a new construction environment or a service environment? New construction can be stressful...lot's of strong personalities. Service requires you to be a salesman and diplomat.
    2. What kind of support/training are you going to get when you join up. It's not going to be something you can "just pick up". Formal training is obviously important but having a mentor within your new organization is invaluable.
    3. Do you get a kick out of making things work? For me that's the most satisfying part of the job. I confess that I sometimes told the consulting engineer "I did what you meant, not what you said".
    4. Your "hands on" experience will serve you well. I've seen some network engineer types get hired for a controls position who didn't know how the chuck on their drill worked and didn't know what "DX" meant.
    5. Expect a lot of frustration early on....right now you don't even know what you don't know. There a moments of frustration in your future.
    6. Expect to be blamed for EVERYTHING that goes wrong with mechanical systems...but learn to love it when you can either fix it or explain why you can't.
    7. Once you get your act together are you OK with working alone? A lot of the time you'll be on your own...there are those who feel a need to be part of a team everyday.
    8. It's not all about ords and baud rates. Download a copy of Honeywell's Gray Manual for light reading and reference. If you're not comfortable with psychometrics learn to love it.

    Take a chance, go for it...if you don't try you'll never know. Employment opportunities are out there. If you don't like it past control experience will only make you a more valuable HVAC service tech.

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