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  1. #1
    Untouchable FlyingHigh's Avatar
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    Any HVAC/Refrigeration guys here?

    I'm still stuck in my welding gig but I'm desperately in need of a change. I'm pretty well checked out of the oil and gas industry. I'm sick and tired of going home so dirty the shower water runs black. I'm tired of destroying my health. I'm done with having no work/life balance. I have a few things to wrap up, but I'm seriously considering a career change in summer or fall.

    One of the things I'm looking into is the refrigeration trade. It seems relatively stable as people will always need heat, air conditioning and refrigeration. The pay is pretty good from what one company owner I met told me. In fact, from what he told me the pay is better than welding with less bullcrap. It seems clean, but then anything is clean compared to welding and the hours appear to be more civilized.

    I don't mind a pay cut to start a new trade, since within a couple years I'll be back to where I'm at now. One of my concerns is that the electrical stuff was my weak point in welding school. I'm not sure if that was because there was surprisingly little time spent on it or that I just have difficulty understanding something I can't see. Pretty sure the refrigeration trade will involve electrical diagnostic stuff often. The mechanical side I'll have no issue getting a handle on.

    Anyone with direct experience in this trade care to enlighten me on what it's like?
    I'd rather make a difference than a dollar.

  2. #2
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    Electrician here, but the electrical in hvac/refrig is extremely basic, but still a lot more than you'd come across welding. Some basic troubleshooting but on the job experience should take care of that. As for the rest of the job, I have no idea whats involved but a large portion of the job is troubleshooting electrical to see whats wrong.

    Commercial Tin Bashers working on new buildings make really good money and its more labour than troubleshooting. Putting up ducting systems and hoisting rooftop units into place.

    With all the dust and oils on metal, attic and crawlspace work, outside in the winter, tar roofs in the summer, you'll find that this work isnt much cleaner than welding.

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  4. #3
    Go Canucks Go! lone-wolf's Avatar
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    On our jobs, we(electricians) do all the electrical hardwiring with regards to refrigeration units(new industrial installs), the hvac guys do some plumbing - running copper lines and fire the unit up. Seems like a nice job.
    Maybe the remote units are wired by the hvac guys, but it's 3 wires, and once you do one they're probably all the same.
    the wild still lingered in him and the wolf in him merely slept

    "It must be poor life that achieves freedom from fear" - Aldo Leopold

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  6. #4
    Moderator kennymo's Avatar
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    Not a bad gig. Work varies depending on whether you’re doing residential, commercial or industrial jobs.

    Residential is dead simple, you can get your basic natural gas ticket here as part of your training so you can work on furnaces and such as well. You’ll probably do the final electrical at the unit and all the control/stat wiring in that scenario.

    Commercial you’re looking at a lot of split coil units in IT rooms, rooftop air handlers, etc... Not bad work, but you’re not going to stay clean all the time. We’re seeing a lot of the new VRF (variable refrigeration flow) systems being installed, and the way the industry reps are talking they will be pushing this as the future of heating and cooling, so potentially mucho employment. I’ve taken the installer training for the York and Samsung systems so far, and we’ve done Daikin as well. They’re all using a similar 4 wire control setup, but on all but the smallest commercial jobs that part is done by a building controls contractor. There is a bit of heavy lifting manhandling units into place, you won’t always stay clean, but once you get to piping it’s usually pretty lightweight.

    Industrial refrigeration, well I hope you like ammonia. Lots of big, heavy things and you’ll find yourself working hand in hand with your current trade. Some potentially dangerous environments, I’ve seen jobs where the reefer techs had to carry around gas masks. Food plant work is disgusting, I spent a lot of time in various hog processing plants and some chicken and beef places.

    Biggest drawback to any of these is you’ll probably wind up on call at some point. And HVAC equipment likes to go down in the middle of the darkest, coldest night it can find. The sweetest position you could probably go for is as a tech for a distributor or manufacturer. It doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll avoid the on call stuff, but it’s mostly troubleshooting and performing factory startups on new equipment. The drawback is you’ll need a fair bit of service experience before you’ll be eligible for that position, and you’ll probably be waiting for someone to retire for a shot at a spot. The other potential relatively cushy position is as maintenance at a hospital or school division or similar. Sometimes shift work (especially at the hospital), but there’s a lot of walking around just making sure everything is doing what it’s supposed to. Any major repairs are done by outside contractors under your supervision. Those jobs don’t seem to pay quite as well as construction jobs though, at least around here.

    I feel your pain. I’m starting to look for alternatives to my gig. Getting close to 20 years as a commercial/industrial plumber and pipe fitter. I’m in the office 75% of the time now to save the wear and tear on my body, but the stress and sitting from that may not be much better.
    Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult.

  7. #5
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    I'm an electrician(industrial/commercial), Kenny pretty much has a good summary. I would look at commercial work(office buildings,hospitals,schools etc) buildings are becoming 'smart' which climate control is a huge part.

    It also puts you in a good place to get a background that allows a transition to manufacture/service tech or on staff position in hospital,university or commercial building.

  8. #6
    Untouchable FlyingHigh's Avatar
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    Good info, thanks guys. The owner of the company I talked to said they mainly install residential AC units and service furnaces. There aren't any food processors here that I know of.

    I don't mind dirt and heavy work, but when it becomes a constant daily thing I get tired of it. HVAC seems to be better than welding but I'm really not sure what I want to do. I just know I'm done with being stressed out, pissed off, tired and sore every day while not being able to plan things and have a normal life. It's a struggle to get out of bed most days.
    I'd rather make a difference than a dollar.

  9. #7
    Go Canucks Go! lone-wolf's Avatar
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    Join the electrician cult with the rest of us. We meet on fridays to make fun of plumbers.
    the wild still lingered in him and the wolf in him merely slept

    "It must be poor life that achieves freedom from fear" - Aldo Leopold

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  11. #8
    Untouchable FlyingHigh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lone-wolf View Post
    Join the electrician cult with the rest of us. We meet on fridays to make fun of plumbers.
    I've really thought about it. My issue getting a handle on electricity makes me wary of jumping into the trade. My brother is a plumber and he does well, mostly enjoying his work. He doed end up having to jump around to various companies. I hate that. I've been with the same company for 6 years. I've rarely spent under 2 years at any one place. I'm prefer stability over an extra buck or two per hour.
    I'd rather make a difference than a dollar.

  12. #9
    Señor Member Dewey Cox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lone-wolf View Post
    Join the electrician cult with the rest of us. We meet on fridays to make fun of plumbers.
    And braid each other's hair...
    Why does the rest of the country get first dibbs on half my income?

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  14. #10
    Go Canucks Go! lone-wolf's Avatar
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    If I really wanted to, I could find pretty steady work around here and I'm not even red seal yet. I figured it'd be better out there.

    I'm going to be taking over my father's fishing fleet, if I wasn't a job for Vestas(windmills) I'd be ALL over.
    That's working where ever they want to send you. Lots of travel. Great pay. Cool work environment. As a single man, I'd be all over it, but I'm guessing that wouldn't be what you want. Although my friend who is married with kids does it. I think they do the rotation shifts, like 3 weeks on, 2 weeks off, something like that.
    Can't be scared of heights, the windmills they operate around here are 81m up.
    the wild still lingered in him and the wolf in him merely slept

    "It must be poor life that achieves freedom from fear" - Aldo Leopold

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