So you’re thinking about a career in HVAC and refrigeration – good choice! This article gives you free, solid advice from a skilled and experienced HVAC instructor. It might just help you take that career-changing leap. IntelliTec College’s HVAC training Program Supervisor, Eric Seltenright, answers some of the most common questions asked by prospective HVAC students.
- What are the different HVAC career possibilities?
- What type of person makes a good HVAC Technician?
- What are the hours like for HVAC Technicians?
- What are the working conditions like for a HVAC Technician?
1. What are the different HVAC career possibilities?
The career possibilities for the industry cover a very wide range of jobs. Basic careers can range from system design, sales, installation, service, maintenance and renovation.
Heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems can be found in every sector of business. A person may want to choose a specific portion of HVAC/R and specialize in that area or work in a venue that includes some of all areas such as a hospital, hotel, or school environment. Others may prefer to work in the areas of residential or commercial service and maintenance with a wide customer base through a HVAC/R service company or contractor.
Design work can include new areas like environmental systems, alternative energy systems, direct digital control systems and system analysis or inspection services.
Sales could involve field sales, HVAC/R supply sales to contractors, factory sales and consumer sales.
Maintenance and renovation are becoming popular areas as people must decide whether to repair or replace aging equipment in all areas of HVAC/R – especially large building owners. The possibilities are virtually endless in today’s business world.
2. What type of person makes a good HVAC Technician?
Outgoing, mild mannered or reserved individuals all have the potential. Most agree that characteristics like committed, energetic, self starting and responsible are some of the best traits to possess. A good work ethic encompasses these and more. An HVAC service technician is an extension of the company that he/she works for. Appearance, attitude and aptitude are what employers are looking for.
In training HVAC Technicians here at IntelliTec, we look the 5 A’s of student conduct:
- Attendance – here on time every day
- Attitude – ready to learn and participate
- Appearance – clean and neat
- Academics – maintains high academic standards
- Application – participates and completes performance-based tasks
All of these help develop career-minded individuals who want be successful and are serious about their pursuit for knowledge and skills in HVAC. In a nutshell: any honest, responsible, hardworking and motivated individual can be a success.
3. What are the hours like for HVAC Technicians?
This can be varied throughout the industry. A lot depends on the type of service and the critical need of the customers.
40-Hour Work Week - Most employers start with a standard 40-hour week but have needs and commitments for situations such as emergencies, extended hours of operation, shift work and unscheduled overtime.
On-Call - Companies will either use a shift plan for 24-hour sites, or they will utilize the popular on-call methodology. Rotating schedules for on-call technicians might mean you will have to: answer after-hours calls or work nights and weekends for a company. You would be “on-call” periodically depending on the number of people in the rotation. It could be quarterly, monthly or weekly that you might be on-call. This is usually a requirement of most employment, and HVAC technicians are expected to participate. Being on-call means you cannot be out of town or out of touch at any time during your assigned times. Keep in mind this includes any holidays, vacations, family plans, etc. You are expected to provide service when called if needed.
Shift Work - In exception to the above, you may work a more traditional shift arrangement. Many hotels, hospitals, computer centers, grocery stores, restaurants and manufacturing plants may have maintenance and repair departments that work around the clock. Day shift, night shift and graveyard shifts are not uncommon. Most of these are 8-hour shifts and could be split shifts.
Own Your Own Business - Another option is to own your own business. Then you are on-call continuously.
All of these options are just the nature of the trade. If you don’t like being on-call, you might want to look into sales and design work. Support areas usually do not have on-call status and use more traditional hours. A lot of the time new employees are not put on-call until they are properly trained and there is a need for them. Maintenance-only personnel usually are not scheduled for overtime unless the need arises.
4. What are the working conditions like for a HVAC Technician?
Working conditions can vary widely with the type of work you have to perform. Maintenance gets quite dirty at times and may not be in the best environment. Lots of equipment is located on the roof, in the basement, under the house and on a wall. On occasion it may be a challenge just getting to the equipment you have to service. If you are doing commercial work, then you have to deal with other issues such as hours of operation, accessibility, your customer’s customers and location. Restaurant work can be hot, greasy and cramped. Keep in mind that the equipment is usually not the type you can throw in the truck and take to the shop for repairs. Service technicians plan carefully to have everything they need for their work “on the truck” and accessible. Their work, like most, is done on-site without bringing the whole shop with you.
If you are working on the installation side of things, you may find yourself in the middle of an operational job site to do your part in new construction, renovation, and tenant finish type jobs. For example, Wal-Mart will remodel an older store in a very short period of time and often will not close the store for remodeling. This involves working at night, on weekends and holidays in order to avoid store closures. Refrigeration and air conditioning equipment renovation or replacement is always a part of this effort and requires dedication and lots of hours to meet deadlines.
The in-house maintenance and service of large buildings is probably one of the cleaner jobs but can have its moments of dirty jobs. Hotels and hospitals do not have a time that they afford a “messy” workspace. Usually machine rooms are clean and tidy and most everything has a place. Hotels have varied equipment types, and office buildings are usually just heating, cooling and ventilation systems.
Another consideration has to be the weather. Inclement weather is a part of everyday life, but consider the fact you may have to work outside a lot. In the winter you will find most residential furnaces inside while the commercial equipment may be on the roof and exposed to the elements. Lots of air conditioning equipment is also located outside, so you will have to deal with the heat in summer.
Regardless of the area your are working in, you will most likely find yourself in some adverse situations that are not comfortable or inviting. Sometimes the job has to get done regardless of the place, time or the environment encountered.
When you learn about all that many HVAC careers have to offer, your decision will be clear. Go into your new job as an HVAC Technician with confidence. Take the advice of your experienced instructors – they know what they are talking about because they’ve been there.
About the Refrigeration & AC-HVAC Technician Program at IntelliTec College
IntelliTec’s Refrigeration & AC-HVAC Technician program offered in Colorado Springs features: Associate of Occupational Studies Degree, hands-on hvac training, industry-specific training equipment, preparation for professional certification(s), experienced instructors, small class sizes and career placement assistance.