When author R.A. Montgomery began his career, it was never with the intent of creating the "Choose Your Own Adventure" series of children’s books. He simply had a passion and a theory about innovative teaching methods. It was this passion that led him down a path of adventures through game creation, the establishment of a special summer school, and eventually creating "The Adventures of You," which came to be known as the "Choose Your Own Adventure” book series.
A career in HVAC can look much the same as Montgomery’s creative adventures, both in real life and within his books. Some HVAC contractors start into HVAC by cleaning the local shop and doing odd jobs. Others get their first taste in a shop class or trade school environment. No matter where they start, contractors with a passion for HVAC can choose their own adventure that will lead them to a successful career in HVAC. The key to these choices is knowledge.
Depending on the types of systems installed, contractors can find resources to new product knowledge in a bevy of locations. There is this publication, of which contractors can become members and share in every article written over the last decade. There are associations, union halls, contractor peers, trade schools, and manufacturers. Factor into this the increased opportunity to learn via digital interfaces and there is practically no excuse for contractors to miss out on becoming an expert in an area of HVAC. With all the choices available in this industry contractors actually may find it is harder to focus on a single topic than it is to find a webinar about their chosen topic.
After listening to a webinar about the basics of a hydronic installation the other day, a topic that I have chosen to focus on for now, it became apparent that the HVAC industry not only has a lot of choices, but it also sports diverse opinions. During the webinar, the speaker did an excellent job of pointing out the facts, providing insight, and teaching attendees how to get started in selling and designing hydronic systems. Then it happened. The crack about noise and efficiency aimed directly at the forced-air systems. It wasn’t malicious when spoken, but the opinion was said in a way that made it feel as though another fact had been provided. It wasn’t the first time I had heard the undertones of the old taunt, “I’m better than you are.”
This debate isn’t the only place that the HVAC industry squares-off against each other either. Have you heard the one where nothing but electrification is going to save the planet? What about the arguments that ductless is the best system or that geothermal is the wave of the future? Is it okay to say that oil-fired is a dirty, old technology on its way out, like some contractors and politicians do? The answer is, “no,” in case that wasn’t apparent.
After spending a decade learning about HVAC equipment, components, and how they all fit together, I am convinced that there is no HVAC technology out there that should be discounted or held above the rest. Each has played a part in the long and storied history of HVAC and will continue to do so as new technologies and standards emerge. The future of this industry will depend on contractors’ willingness to learn about new technologies and consider them as something more than shiny ideas that may never catch on.
Some contractors don’t mind trying new technologies and look for ways to integrate their current practices with the improvements of the future. For those that hold back and double-down on their limited view of HVAC technologies there may not be a future for them. I challenge every person reading this to choose an HVAC technology they have not considered valuable before and learn about it now. There is no use in being close minded. This industry is big enough for every technology and contractor.
It’s time to learn new information about hydronics, forced-air, ductless, electrification, and more. What will you choose?