Why HVAC/R Technicians Transition Well into the Food Equipment Service Industry

Close up of Air Conditioning Repair, field service technician on the floor fixing air conditioning system
By Pat Finley – Lead Master Certified Technician

Being a field service technician in the foodservice equipment industry offers perhaps the widest array of equipment to work upon of any industry. A foodservice facility, be it a restaurant, hospital, care home, indeed any facility has a dazzling array of equipment including cooking, refrigeration, ware washing and HVAC equipment. Developing the skills required to service this broad collection of equipment takes time, dedication, and training. This may sound daunting but technicians who join, be it as trainees or transition from other industries are rewarded with secure work, excellent pay opportunities and of course a wide variety of work, boredom is never an issue!

There are many career paths that lead to our industry. Some start as maintenance technicians and work their way up, some join from the military while others join from different field service industries. However, one group have a clear advantage and they are HVAC/R technicians.

HVAC/R technicians already have key skills that are used every day in food equipment service. Obviously, a trained HVAC/R tech already understands refrigeration and HVAC/R systems which is 50% of all the equipment we service! The ability to read schematics and wiring diagrams and the understanding of electrical components is a key benefit.

If you have only worked on HVAC, a lot of the same practices carry over to refrigeration and cooking equipment. HVAC technicians are used to troubleshooting. The same style of contactor, capacitor, fan motors, and compressors can be found in the commercial kitchen. We still fight airflow issues across coils. No air flow on an evaporator leads to a frozen coil. Whether it be clogged with dirt or debris, or in a/c clogged filter, it’s the same result. Dirty condenser coils lead to poor airflow and high pressures, which in turn lead to lack of efficiencies and under performance. The same goes for a walk-in freezer or your house. The same tools you check out an a/c unit with is the same I use to diagnose a reach in cooler.

You may be wondering how your skills will help with hot side or cooking side. It helps in several ways. First off gas appliances can be remarkably like a gas furnace. A pizza oven has a matchless ignition (automatic pilot), gas valves, ignitor, combustion blower, and an air blower for the heat exchanger. All of those items listed are common with a gas furnace, plus more. Electric appliances utilize heating elements. If you can use a meter to read the ohm load on an electric heat pack in a furnace, you can Ohm out an element in a fryer. Another big benefit is the ability to read and understand a schematic or wire diagram. If you can do that and understand sequence of events, then this would be a fun and rewarding career for you.

Give me an HVAC technician or electrician that wants a change of field and with the correct training and dedication on their part, they will be wildly successful. I started off as an electrician that got bored. This field has given me more than I ever thought it would. From growth and development, to training multiple product lines. There is a never-ending supply of challenges.

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