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HVAC Tech Tips: Advice for New HVAC Technicians

January 11, 2021

This content is from HVAC Tech Tips, a CE podcast.

The prospect of breaking into the HVAC field can seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, with the right level of commitment on your part, the HVAC industry is very accessible—even for novices. Still, it can be helpful to keep some tips in mind as you embark on this new and exciting career.

Use Your Resources

Perhaps the best piece of advice you can follow as an aspiring or starting HVAC technician is to never stop learning. These days, it’s easier than ever to get the answers to questions you have about specific equipment or learn a new skill that can pay off big time in the field.

Check Out a Few Books

It might seem a little “old school,” but there are some great books out there that are highly recommended if you’re thinking about entering the HVAC field. From a technical standpoint, “The Lost Art of Steam Heating” by Dan Holohan is an excellent resource (and a lot more riveting than the title makes it sound).

And while not an explicitly HVAC-oriented book, you may also want to pick up a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This book can teach you a lot about how you can find success by treating people the way you want to be treated. And of course, a lot of these lessons can be applicable not just in your career, but in life overall.

Take Advantage of Technology

Thankfully, the days of having to call a manufacturer directly to request information about products or installation/service steps are long gone. Today, all the information you could ever need while on the job is right at your fingertips if you have access to a smartphone, tablet or another mobile device.

Take advantage of this! With only the model number, you can do a quick Google search to find out just about anything you need to know about a part or tool.

These days, many manufacturers and companies have apps that make finding this information even easier. The CE HVAC Assist Mobile App, for example, is free on both the App Store and Google Play. This app allows you to enter a model number and get everything from service manuals to installation instructions and specs within a matter of seconds. These free resources will make your life so much easier in the field, so make sure you’re taking full advantage.

Keep in mind, too, that some manufacturers have their own YouTube channels. These are worth following because they’ll often post quality videos where you can see their products in action. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about different equipment, tools and parts you may encounter on the job. Plus, YouTube videos can be great learning tools, especially for visual learners.

Invest in Calculators and Other Tools

Don’t forget to pick up a few small tools that will make your life easier as an HVAC technician. You don’t need to spend a lot of money here because many manufacturers have their own free HVAC tools and calculators online. It’s never a bad idea, though, to have access to your own airflow calculator and capacity calculator since these are things you’ll frequently use in the field.

With so many great resources out there, from books and apps to physical tools and HVAC blogs, there’s a lot you can rely on to make your entry into the HVAC field go smoothly. It’s perhaps most important to remember that it’s up to you to find out the answers to questions and problems you encounter on the job. Ultimately, you are responsible for learning about and becoming familiar with the HVAC equipment you’ll be handling!

Pursue the Right Education and/or Training

If you’re at the stage in your career where you’ve not yet completed any formal education or training, there’s a lot to keep in mind as you move forward.

Get an Apprentice License Early On

Let’s start with the fact that you don’t need to wait to get an apprenticeship license. All too often, people feel like they need to wait until they’re fully committed to an HVAC career to start exploring apprenticeship opportunities, and this simply isn’t true.

The reality is that anybody can apply for an apprenticeship license. Usually, this can be done by mail and costs around $15. There’s no harm in getting your license early on, and you have nothing to lose by doing so. People don’t realize that you don’t need formal education or experience to get hired by an HVAC company. Many companies are willing to onboard novices and provide on-the-job training, which is an excellent way to use an apprenticeship license.

If you can find a company that’s willing to take a chance on you by bringing you on as an intern or apprentice, it’s a great way to kick off your career without necessarily going through any formal schooling. If you’re committed enough, you can learn it all on the job.

Choose the Right School

If you decide to go the formal education route by enrolling in an HVAC trade school or similar program, take your time researching your options. Most importantly, you’ll want to make sure that any school you choose is fully accredited so that the credits you take there will actually apply towards getting your journeyman license. Otherwise, you could be wasting your time and money.

One school worth looking into is Ultimate Technical Academy, which is owned by Mark and Pat Hardwick. This school offers some great “fast track” one-week courses designed to get new technicians familiar with the field and on the path to jumpstarting their careers. It offers a wide range of classes geared not just towards novice HVAC professionals, but also intermediate and skilled technicians. These courses present a valuable opportunity to pick up some skills and learn new things—and if there’s one motto to keep in mind while working in the HVAC field, it’s that you should never stop learning new things!

Don’t Be Intimidated by Testing

It’s easy to feel intimidated by the prospect of taking your journeyman licensure test or another formal exam, but you really shouldn’t let this scare you away. In reality, many of these licensing tests are open book, so they’re less about testing your memory than they are about making sure you know how to use the resources available to find the answers you need.

For example, most of these licensing exams are about finding reference codes in a textbook or plugging numbers into a formula. With this in mind, the tests should not be a source of anxiety as long as you know how to use your resources.

Other Practical Advice for New HVAC Techs

What else is there to keep in mind if you’re trying to break into the HVAC field? Here are a few more pieces of practical advice to consider as you move forward.

One of the most important things to remember is to spend time with your loved ones when you get the chance. HVAC technicians tend to work very long and sometimes odd hours, especially during the hottest days of summer and the coldest days of winter. This is especially true if you’re working for an HVAC company that handles emergency calls, as you can get called in any time, day or night.

During busy seasons, you may not have much in the way of free time. It’s important to spend the little time you have with your family and friends.

Also, if you can, get a mentor as soon as possible. This can be somebody you know who has already been working in the field for some time, or it can be a perfect stranger who has experience and is willing to take you under his or her wing.
Having a mentor, especially when you’re first starting off, can be extremely valuable and can make your journey a much easier one. If you have questions or run into challenges, your mentor will be there to offer guidance. And of course, it’s always nice to turn to somebody who has already been through the same things you’re going through. Perhaps someday down the road, you can even pay it forward by being a mentor for another HVAC beginner!

Aside from this, it’s also essential to make friends in the field and to treat everybody with respect. This includes not just your fellow workers, but your customers as well. After all, your clients are the ones who keep you in business.

Last but certainly not least, never stop learning. The HVAC field is extremely dynamic, with new equipment, technology and techniques emerging all the time. As competitive as this field is, you really can’t let yourself fall behind on these advances. Always try to stay one step ahead of the competition, and you’ll do well.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, there’s a lot to keep in mind when you’re starting out in the HVAC field. From using your resources to making sure you’re getting the right education and/or training, following this advice can go a long way in cultivating a successful career.