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  • HVAC Tech to Plumbing Tech Conversion

    Howdy,

    I am new to the Ridgid Forum, so I'll start by introducing myself. My name is Bryan Lee, I live in Fresno, CA, (central California) and I have been a C-20 (HVAC) & C38 (Refrigerantion) California contractor for 26 years. We specialize in HVAC service & retrofit (no new construction... ever )

    As electric rates have gone up and the economy has cooleed, I see a need to move in a new "non-seasonal" direction, so I recently took the plumbing test and I am now the proud owner of a brand spankin' new 2008 California C-36 plumbing license . I know what you are thinking, oh great, another wanna be!

    Now the hard part... I am trying to decide if there is a chance in **** that I could successfully cross-train very skilled HVAC techs to be part time plumbers... at least until I can get the engine humming and can afford the real thing.

    One of the main reasons I would like to do this is that I need time to develop a solid flat rate pricing platform for the plumbing side, and I know it will be suicide to try to use a traditional "time and material" or "old school" plumber as the sounding board to create flat rate pricing. I know that if I use my own people who are use to our system, I will get fast and accurate feedback on how to set the pricing up.

    My thought is to move slow using our own people and specialize in the basics, then expand with more talent after our basic systems are set-up.

    Anyone have any experience with converting HVAC techs to plumbers? Your thoughts?

    Thanks,

    spodelee
    spodelee

    Until lions have their own storytellers, stories of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter

  • #2
    Re: HVAC Tech to Plumbing Tech Conversion

    At my company 8 out 11 tech's are licensed journeymen and HVAC techs. I see no problem at all.
    sigpic

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: HVAC Tech to Plumbing Tech Conversion

      old dog new tricks, sounds tough

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: HVAC Tech to Plumbing Tech Conversion

        Originally posted by spodelee View Post
        Howdy,

        I am new to the Ridgid Forum, so I'll start by introducing myself. My name is Bryan Lee, I live in Fresno, CA, (central California) and I have been a C-20 (HVAC) & C38 (Refrigerantion) California contractor for 26 years. We specialize in HVAC service & retrofit (no new construction... ever )

        As electric rates have gone up and the economy has cooleed, I see a need to move in a new "non-seasonal" direction, so I recently took the plumbing test and I am now the proud owner of a brand spankin' new 2008 California C-36 plumbing license . I know what you are thinking, oh great, another wanna be!

        Now the hard part... I am trying to decide if there is a chance in **** that I could successfully cross-train very skilled HVAC techs to be part time plumbers... at least until I can get the engine humming and can afford the real thing.

        One of the main reasons I would like to do this is that I need time to develop a solid flat rate pricing platform for the plumbing side, and I know it will be suicide to try to use a traditional "time and material" or "old school" plumber as the sounding board to create flat rate pricing. I know that if I use my own people who are use to our system, I will get fast and accurate feedback on how to set the pricing up.

        My thought is to move slow using our own people and specialize in the basics, then expand with more talent after our basic systems are set-up.

        Anyone have any experience with converting HVAC techs to plumbers? Your thoughts?

        Thanks,

        spodelee
        I respectfully disagree, your not some 20 yr old kid living at your parents...could not have been easy to do at your age while running a full shop.
        Congratulations, welcome to the forum sir.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: HVAC Tech to Plumbing Tech Conversion

          I do both, it's an easy thing to learn plumbing if you learned hvac. Are you going to hire a full time plumber to oversee your plumbing deptartment?
          Buy cheap, buy twice.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: HVAC Tech to Plumbing Tech Conversion

            Originally posted by gear junkie View Post
            I do both, it's an easy thing to learn plumbing if you learned hvac. Are you going to hire a full time plumber to oversee your plumbing deptartment?
            That's the plan, but I want to be operational in the fall, so I have been buying equipment and putting together our first rig. It might take a while to find that first journeyman that can lead the department.

            Our best techs are home grown and I don't want to have to "preach the value of flat rate" to a typical trade journeyman (been there an done that) while the department is in development. It could take quite a while to find a journeyman that is ready to think flat rate and also have good communication/trade/leadership skills. Which is why I think the journeyman will have to come after the engine is running.

            Thanks for the input!

            spodelee
            Is it time to retire yet?
            www.LeesAir.com
            spodelee

            Until lions have their own storytellers, stories of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: HVAC Tech to Plumbing Tech Conversion

              Originally posted by spodelee View Post
              That's the plan, but I want to be operational in the fall, so I have been buying equipment and putting together our first rig. It might take a while to find that first journeyman that can lead the department.

              Our best techs are home grown and I don't want to have to "preach the value of flat rate" to a typical trade journeyman (been there an done that) while the department is in development. It could take quite a while to find a journeyman that is ready to think flat rate and also have good communication/trade/leadership skills. Which is why I think the journeyman will have to come after the engine is running.

              Thanks for the input!

              spodelee
              Is it time to retire yet?
              www.LeesAir.com
              spodelee, you have an amazing website and your business looks incredible good luck to you and all you endeavors and welcome to the forum- Rich

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: HVAC Tech to Plumbing Tech Conversion

                Originally posted by gear junkie View Post
                I do both, it's an easy thing to learn plumbing if you learned hvac. Are you going to hire a full time plumber to oversee your plumbing deptartment?
                Wow, I have to respectfully disagree with that statement. They are 2 entirely different animals. I do both and learned both at the same time, and there are very little similarities between the two. Just because one can install a boiler, furnace or condensing unit does not give one the necessary skills to be a plumber, and vice versa.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: HVAC Tech to Plumbing Tech Conversion

                  I had a long post written and deleted it.

                  I am not sure what you meant about being a "old school plumber".

                  Have you had bad experiences with plumbers?
                  Anyone can tear a man down, few can build one up.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: HVAC Tech to Plumbing Tech Conversion

                    Originally posted by Tyman View Post
                    I had a long post written and deleted it.

                    I am not sure what you meant about being a "old school plumber".

                    Have you had bad experiences with plumbers?
                    I suspected that "old school" comment would get someones goat just about the time I hit the submit button

                    In "old school hvac", the technician communicates as little as possible with the customer and tries to avoid giving an exact price to repair. This way, extra wiggle room is available if things don't go well.

                    In "flat rate or up-front HVAC", technicians are trained to communicate with the customer, fully diagnose the problem at hand as well as the equipment as a whole, quote the repair cost up front and receive written approval for repair. Then proceed with the repair and live within the recommendations that were made the first time, regardless of how much time or effort is required.

                    There are definitely exceptions, but teaching flat rate to an HVAC tech who has been doing business "old school" for a long time is not usually an easy proposition. It takes time and patience.

                    My assumption is that the plumbing trade has the same challenges.
                    spodelee

                    Until lions have their own storytellers, stories of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: HVAC Tech to Plumbing Tech Conversion

                      Oh yeah,
                      Watched a great plumber quit once over it.
                      The shop had just switched to flat rates and gave all the service guys books.
                      He had no concept of overhead and continually undercharged customers, beleiving the shop could bear the brunt.
                      Boss called him into the office after he charged a woman $50 for a shower valve stem...yelling, screaming and he was out the door.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: HVAC Tech to Plumbing Tech Conversion

                        I am not "old school" by any stretch as I am in my thirties, but your comment did make my eyebrow raise.

                        I consider it a honor to work with a old school master plumber. It is earned and not given and as such when I work with a master I shut up and take notes. Maybe the HVAC trade is different in that aspect.

                        I think you should hire a journeyman plumber from the start. You will find someone who agrees with you way of pricing.

                        Plumbers and heating guys are different types in my opinion. The company I work for has not be successful hiring HVAC guys to do plumbing when times get slow. They usually quake in their boots when a drain cleaning to be done, followed by a sour look and cussing. Don't even mention digging.
                        One guy even filed for Workman's comp. to get out of it.

                        I really don't blame HVAC guys, it's just not their thing.

                        Option #1 Perform clean and check on a furnace and A/C.

                        Option #2 Go in a dirt crawl space to fix a spraying water line.

                        Ya, they aren't dumb.
                        Anyone can tear a man down, few can build one up.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: HVAC Tech to Plumbing Tech Conversion

                          I dont know. I've been at it for 35 years or so and I still hate drain cleaning.

                          Thing is, to stay profitable a lot of plumbing shops need to cover a lot of ground, from drain cleaning, service plumbing, commercial and residential to boiler installs, furnace and A\C equipment. We like to cover as many bases as we can. Yes it does entail a whole lot of training, but it is well worth the expense. We do ductwork, well pump and filter systems, high pressure steam and process piping and the list goes on. It takes a huge committment to education.
                          sigpic

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: HVAC Tech to Plumbing Tech Conversion

                            Originally posted by Tyman View Post
                            I am not "old school" by any stretch as I am in my thirties, but your comment did make my eyebrow raise.

                            I consider it a honor to work with a old school master plumber. It is earned and not given and as such when I work with a master I shut up and take notes. Maybe the HVAC trade is different in that aspect.

                            I think you should hire a journeyman plumber from the start. You will find someone who agrees with you way of pricing.

                            Plumbers and heating guys are different types in my opinion. The company I work for has not be successful hiring HVAC guys to do plumbing when times get slow. They usually quake in their boots when a drain cleaning to be done, followed by a sour look and cussing. Don't even mention digging.
                            One guy even filed for Workman's comp. to get out of it.

                            I really don't blame HVAC guys, it's just not their thing.

                            Option #1 Perform clean and check on a furnace and A/C.

                            Option #2 Go in a dirt crawl space to fix a spraying water line.

                            Ya, they aren't dumb.
                            Yeah, that's my gut instinct. Train them from the ground up to do both and you will do fine. Teach an old spoiled horse new tricks (whoops, there goes that "old" word again " and you are asking for trouble).

                            Thanks for the input
                            spodelee

                            Until lions have their own storytellers, stories of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: HVAC Tech to Plumbing Tech Conversion

                              I did HVAC at a union shop then switch to plumbing. At first I was running gas and water so it was not a big deal. Within a month I was the foreman on a 9-unit condo and a 12-unit commercial shop building. I hired a union plumber to help with the ground work on both and learned the rest on the fly. The owner of the company was a GC but also held a painting license and a plumbing license. I started with a crew of so-so plumbers so I learned as I worked. Soon I had a decent crew of both plumbers and HVAC installers so I had a little more time to learn. We ended up making the owner a bunch of money.

                              Mark
                              "Somewhere a Village is Missing Twelve Idiots!" - Casey Anthony

                              I never lost a cent on the jobs I didn't get!

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