HVAC contractors are a breed of highly trained and professional technicians capable of installing, maintaining, and repairing Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems in residences and commercial buildings. Since our dependence on these climate control systems is very high, the business is booming. More and more people are flocking towards it as a lucrative career option. Some people think of getting into the service/repair part of it and others into HVAC controls. But what is the right move? And is it meant for you? If yes, how should you go about it? Today we aim to answer all these questions, and hopefully, by the end of this post, you will have a fair idea of which direction to take.
HVAC Service/Repair Vs. HVAC Controls
1. The Designation – Personnel who handle the HVAC service/repair are actually the HVAC Technicians. HVAC controls is a more specialized branch. It is a discipline of the HVAC-R (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration) industry, and the people handling it are called HVAC Engineers.
2. Type Of Work – The HVAC technicians handle all the grunt work. They take care of the HVAC repairs, tune-ups, and installation tasks. These services are not menial as they require specialized knowledge and skill. On the other hand, HVAC engineers work with the devices that control the heating and cooling systems. Their work encompasses the use of computers and special software to deliver automated climate control, configuring PLCs or Programmable Logic Controllers, etc.
3. The Demand – The demand for both HVAC technicians and HVAC engineers is high. Where several contractors are offering HVAC service/repairs, there are relatively few involved in HVAC controls. The probable reason for the difference could be that the additional skill required to be an HVAC engineer may not be everybody’s cup of tea.
4. Hours Of Work And Working Conditions – Most HVAC service/repair contractors work 24/7. They achieve the target by working in shifts, but the hours of work they put in are grueling. Even the conditions they work in are sometimes appalling because one cannot know what they will encounter. Lugging heavy tools in the mud and rain, getting through cramped crawl spaces, etc., are all part and parcel of being an HVAC technician. On the flip side, HVAC control guys have a better time. They have better working hours and healthy and conducive working conditions.
5. Pay – Sadly, HVAC technicians are a notch below the HVAC engineers in terms of pay. Not only are the technicians paid less, but in comparison, their other benefits and security are also lacking.
6. Availability Of Mentors – If you are involved in HVAC service/repairs, there is no shortage of mentors. You will find many skilled and experienced mentors ready to help you gain the necessary experience and expertise. They will guide you with their immense knowledge and help you overcome knowledge gaps. Unfortunately, HVAC controls is a relatively new discipline because of which finding a good mentor can be a trial. They are few and burdened with work themselves. Hence, teaching an intern is not always their top priority.
Can I Jump Into HVAC Controls Without Learning About HVAC Service/Repair?
To answer this question, let me put forth another in front of you – “Can you become a Computer Software Engineer without any knowledge of how the computer works”? Apparently not. To become an HVAC Engineer, you will have to learn about the HVAC system, its working, and all complexities that go with it.
The credentials that one requires to become an HVAC controls technician may depend on the employer and the precise nature of responsibilities that one will be handling. You can gain your foothold in this career by finding a suitable apprenticeship program or registering in a technical school.
In an apprenticeship program, you will build your skills with HVAC systems over a span of 3 – 5 years. After this, you become a journey-level HVAC specialist. The other option is to get an associate degree in HVAC technology or another related subject from a recognized technical institution.
As an apprentice, you will have to complete around 7200 hours of work experience. Supplement the experience with courses related to electronics and electromechanical devices. Refresh your computer knowledge and upgrade your math skills. This is all it will take to become an HVAC controls engineer.
What Should I Opt For HVAC Service/Repair Or HVAC Controls
There is no fixed answer to this question. It will differ from person to person as each has their own strengths, weaknesses, and aptitude. If you have a keen mind ready to soak up all the knowledge, and you are comfortable with computers and good in maths with a problem-solving mindset, there’s nothing stopping you from becoming an HVAC engineer.
On the contrary, if you are more comfortable handling tools and don’t mind getting dirty once in a while, you can make a good name for yourself as an HVAC technician. Everybody does not have to be an engineer to excel. Even technicians earn well and what they do is equally respectable because not everyone is capable of doing this kind of skilled work.
Start Your HVAC Career The Right Way
When embarking on the journey to become an HVAC specialist, do your research well. Learn all the requirements that you will have to fulfill before calling yourself one. This includes finding the right college, applying to it, completing the course diligently, applying to become an apprentice, completing the mandatory hours of work experience, and earning your certification.
There are no shortcuts you can take to become an HVAC expert. If you were under the misconception becoming an HVAC technician is easy, think twice. Not even by a long shot can you call the journey a child’s play. It’s a tough road involving a lot of hard work. Only if you are willing to give it your best will you succeed. Else, it would be better to look for other options. The one thing that can be said with complete honesty is that being an HVAC technician or an engineer is a lucrative career option. Its demand is high, and you will never be short of customers.