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Old 02-23-2015, 12:15 AM   #1
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Default Does anyone here do HVAC controls/building automation work?

I'm about to finish third year school and decided to take an opportunity to move from the industrial division to the controls division of my company. They don't take just anybody but I had lots of internal recommendations so it does feel nice to "make the cut".

Having said that I don't really know a lot about the work itself. They're mostly focused on commercial building automation and HVAC controls, and have a small panel shop as well. I've done a lot of fire alarm and lighting controls work but nothing like this. It seems like it could be less physical than pulling 3c/500 4160v Teck cable through outdoor cable tray in snow and mud.

I guess what I'm asking is, is this work you can get bored of easily? I wanted to get into actual industrial automation, but don't have the experience for that so I thought maybe this would be a step in the right direction. Also, is this a field you can get specialized enough in to be in demand internationally?
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Old 02-23-2015, 01:29 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vintage Sounds View Post
I'm about to finish third year school and decided to take an opportunity to move from the industrial division to the controls division of my company. They don't take just anybody but I had lots of internal recommendations so it does feel nice to "make the cut".

Having said that I don't really know a lot about the work itself. They're mostly focused on commercial building automation and HVAC controls, and have a small panel shop as well. I've done a lot of fire alarm and lighting controls work but nothing like this. It seems like it could be less physical than pulling 3c/500 4160v Teck cable through outdoor cable tray in snow and mud.

I guess what I'm asking is, is this work you can get bored of easily? I wanted to get into actual industrial automation, but don't have the experience for that so I thought maybe this would be a step in the right direction. Also, is this a field you can get specialized enough in to be in demand internationally?
You will not get "Bored" if you are a good Mechanic,,If, You have "Made the Cut" then I'll bet on it, You will have to study hard and study harder when you feel like you have failed. “WORK HARDER” ..

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
Thomas A. Edison

“Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
Thomas A. Edison


My point is you have stepped into some steaming good stuff, Work harder than ever to learn commercial building automation and HVAC controls, You master that and they will still be calling on you when you're 90 years old..

Good luck and go kick butt You will be happy you worked so hard NOW!

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Old 02-23-2015, 08:50 AM   #3
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Yes do it all.the time.
We install all the conduit, pull wiring and terminate cabling.
All different manufactures , but mostly the same concepts.
If you apply the stuff you have picked up doing fire alarm you will do well.
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Old 02-23-2015, 10:25 AM   #4
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I did hvac controls for 2 years full time and still do it now part time. It's great work, more brain and less brawn. I wish I was still doing it full time. I think you'll like it.
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Old 02-23-2015, 03:23 PM   #5
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Building automation was a big change for me when I started it as far as the physical demand. Now that's about all my company does. Like what was stated above if you've done some security/fire alarm wiring the installation side will be a piece of cake. Getting familiar with the products different customers use might take sometime, but over all the products and applications are similar, just that the programing of controllers varies. I still have a customer that we use hyper terminal for some older equipment. naming for classrooms, conference rooms, etc. so their maintenance staff can be in charge of the scheduling and all customers are different as far as their scheduling software. I think that it is pretty interesting work mostly you get to work with lots of different pieces of HVAC equipment, mechanical systems, and controls. There are some days all I do to fix a problem is log into a customers system and change some parameter which is nice since I also teach at a trade school and on these cold days. Of course some customers don't want you to be able to log in remotely for security reasons.
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Old 02-23-2015, 07:54 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vintage Sounds
I'm about to finish third year school and decided to take an opportunity to move from the industrial division to the controls division of my company. They don't take just anybody but I had lots of internal recommendations so it does feel nice to "make the cut". Having said that I don't really know a lot about the work itself. They're mostly focused on commercial building automation and HVAC controls, and have a small panel shop as well. I've done a lot of fire alarm and lighting controls work but nothing like this. It seems like it could be less physical than pulling 3c/500 4160v Teck cable through outdoor cable tray in snow and mud. I guess what I'm asking is, is this work you can get bored of easily? I wanted to get into actual industrial automation, but don't have the experience for that so I thought maybe this would be a step in the right direction. Also, is this a field you can get specialized enough in to be in demand internationally?
I did it for a number of years, we have Siemens for building automation. It's easy work doing the setup and programming. The troubleshooting is even easier if you have some skill working on the equipment.
The worst part was having the normal workers claiming that "It's a control problem" when in fact it was equipment issues.
On the flip side, our current control guys won't get off their asses and do their own jobs when it truly is "a control problem".

The ability to remotely connect is a time saver all around.
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Old 02-23-2015, 08:07 PM   #7
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I think it was already mentioned, but you get to learn a lot of other systems (mechanical, plumbing) while doing HVAC controls. And definitely more brain than brawn. I'm staying with the company I am at, because they do controls. Once you're licensed, they expect you to know it. Specialize while you can. It will make you more rounded, and desirable from an employer's standpoint.
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Old 02-23-2015, 08:48 PM   #8
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I think this is absolutely a step in the right direction for you. It's just one more feather in your cap. Just one more thing to set you apart from other electricians who never specialized in something else.

One day down the line when you may be looking for work and it's between you and X amount of other guys, these skills and experience may be the difference between you landing the job versus the other guys.

Always strive to learn something more. Even if you don't end up liking the work, at least you can say you know how to do it.

Good luck!
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Old 02-23-2015, 09:01 PM   #9
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It's almost all I personally do. The guys handle all the "regular" construction and service wiring and I do all the HVAC controls, building automation, fire alarm, security, IT structured wiring, and camera installations.

I basically do all the gravy work
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Old 02-23-2015, 09:06 PM   #10
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It's almost all I personally do. The guys handle all the "regular" construction and service wiring and I do all the HVAC controls, building automation, fire alarm, security, IT structured wiring, and camera installations.

I basically do all the gravy work
Go ahead and say it. We're not gonna take it as an insult. You do more of the brain work. Honestly, I can see that about you.
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Old 02-23-2015, 09:13 PM   #11
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Go ahead and say it. We're not gonna take it as an insult. You do more of the brain work. Honestly, I can see that about you.
Well.....I didn't want to sound my own horn but......honk honk
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Old 02-23-2015, 09:15 PM   #12
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Well.....I didn't want to sound my own horn but......honk honk
I mean hey, you never did it without permission. ..... another thing I respect about you.
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Old 02-23-2015, 09:24 PM   #13
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I mean hey, you never did it without permission. ..... another thing I respect about you.
Thanks again mcclary . I truly believe in getting what you give and respect is at the top of that list. I appreciate that I get respect from someone like yourself who isn't afraid to tell it how he sees it. That, BTW, is a quality in a person that I greatly admire.


OK....enough Bromance crap now


Back to VS's original questions. I don't think you will ever be in international demand being an HVAC controls tech/installer however you should always be employed and highly employable. I don't think you'll ever get bored with the work because that section of the industry is constantly evolving and developing. I am scheduled to attend a seminar in Florida next month for training and upgrading on all the new equipment coming out from Johnson Controls. You actually have to keep abreast of this stuff......it never stays the same.
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Old 02-23-2015, 11:18 PM   #14
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It's a fun challenge, if you like learning. You'll find there are a handful of different ways to accomplish the same functionality using the different equipment speced for a given job. I wouldn't go back to lights, plugs and switches unless I was desperate for work.
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Old 02-24-2015, 01:53 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Cow View Post
I think this is absolutely a step in the right direction for you. It's just one more feather in your cap. Just one more thing to set you apart from other electricians who never specialized in something else.

One day down the line when you may be looking for work and it's between you and X amount of other guys, these skills and experience may be the difference between you landing the job versus the other guys.

Always strive to learn something more. Even if you don't end up liking the work, at least you can say you know how to do it.

Good luck!
Thanks, I am definitely always trying to absorb more stuff. My earliest apprenticeship experience from the depths of the subprime mortgage recession included watching a lot of good electricians slowly get laid off except the guy with his fire alarm certification, who kept getting busier. It definitely left an impression on me.

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It's almost all I personally do. The guys handle all the "regular" construction and service wiring and I do all the HVAC controls, building automation, fire alarm, security, IT structured wiring, and camera installations.

I basically do all the gravy work
I enjoy the technical stuff but I feel like maybe I'm "supposed" to experience more of the bread and butter tray/conduit/strut/panel type work during my apprenticeship. I'm good at that stuff too but maybe not as polished as some guys I work with. I guess on the other hand, those guys are totally unable to troubleshoot anything. On my last two sites I was always getting called for "service" type jobs and commissioning hiccups. I'm happy to take any experience I can because one day when I move back to Toronto probably the only thing available to me will be residential or low-end commercial.

here is an excerpt from a job posting my company currently has open for a J-man with building controls experience.

Quote:
The Controls Division is looking for a Journeyman Electrician to help with DDC project installations throughout Calgary. Our main business is in commercial automation installations with Staefa Control System and Reliable Control Systems. Experience in the following disciplines is a definite asset.

Staefa or Siemens installation and product line knowledge.
Distech Controls installation and product line knowledge.
Any other automation system installation experience.
Electrical controls installation experience.
Pneumatic installation experience.
Gas detection system installation experience.
Panel Building experience.
Tekmar installation and programming experience.
Ability to draw and interpret schematic drawings.
Computer skills.
Ability to train and mentor apprentices.
VFD installation and programming experience.
Service experience.
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Old 02-24-2015, 08:13 AM   #16
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Landis & Staefa was bought out by Seimens back around 1999 or so.
They wanted the BAC program and products. The program they used was called PPCL.
It is a program written in "Basic" and is easy to learn.
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Old 02-24-2015, 04:08 PM   #17
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Good advice here!! Building controls have gone from state of the art PLC's in the 80s to tying in your modems to an IP address....now WI FI....as said.. its always evolving
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Old 02-24-2015, 09:43 PM   #18
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I enjoy the technical stuff but I feel like maybe I'm "supposed" to experience more of the bread and butter tray/conduit/strut/panel type work during my apprenticeship. I'm good at that stuff too but maybe not as polished as some guys I work with.
I can't stress it enough......go techie!!! The "bread and butter" type of work that you described is important for sure but in the end is really not all there is to the trade.

I hate to upset anybody here with this statement(even though I know I'm probably going to) but.....I can train a chimp to install cable tray.

YES!!!! There are tips and tricks that make it go easier, YES.....you can do some very nice work with it when building offsets and such.....YES, I have run miles and miles of it (I started out doing cable tray at a pulp mill for the first two yrs of apprenticeship).....SO....I'm not trying to belittle anyone who does a lot of it and takes pride in what they do.

The tech side of this is where the trade is naturally progressing. I personally think we are going to see a day where we do nothing but the techie work and an electrical mechanic installs the raceways and panel tubs and pulls the wire.......at least in the industrial and bigger commercial side of things anyway. It will be those of us with the fire alarm tickets, the experience in automation and PLC's, the controls and security installers and especially us guys who can program and troubleshoot/maintain this equipment who will be the most employable.
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Old 02-24-2015, 09:57 PM   #19
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I'm about to finish third year school and decided to take an opportunity to move ... They don't take just anybody but I had lots of internal recommendations so it does feel nice to "make the cut".
Also, is this a field you can get specialized enough in to be in demand internationally?


HVAC is a Great Complement for our trade , Class A License is another . You will find having added HVAC Trade Experience will be in demand ...

Just one place is Off Shore Oil Wells , when I was going to go they liked HVAC skills also .

You will find HVAC in energy management systems for bldgs and stores .

Pete

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Old 03-01-2015, 05:32 PM   #20
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Update.

Thanks everyone for the advice and insight. In the end I turned down the building automation gig and quit the company. It was a tough choice to leave because they never did any wrong by me and were a great company to work for. They gave me an exit interview and said I was welcome to return any time.

The reason is, I was offered a spot doing industrial controls and service work with a company started by some people who left the old company. This would include my old manager, the head of the division, most or all of the project managers, foremen and a large number of electricians, ex-coworkers, friends etc. They must have talked me up because the new company has been trying hard to make me their "service apprentice" for a long time now. They have an instrumentation side as well and there is the potential to gain a second ticket.

It seems like an exciting gig and my orientation is tomorrow.
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