DDC Controls and Building Automation Systems Are More Than Just HVAC

Change Ahead Career OpportunityWhen people hear me say I do ‘HVAC Controls’ they say, “OH! You’re an Air Conditioning guy.” Well not be snobby or say anything bad about all the great A/C tradesmen out there, but… Once you are programming DDC Controls and Building Automation Systems; ya really don’t do JUST Air Conditioning.

You gotta learn computers and IT networks, maybe some programming skills or even do a little CAD drawing. If you are in the field, for sure you better brush up on your basic electronics. Know all you can about voltages, amperage, relays, resistors, capacitors and how to use your freakin’ multimeter for something more than touching the two probes together to make it BEEP!


It Is A Wild and Out of Control World Out There

In one building, I installed a complete DDC Controls System that included HVAC, Card Access, Elevator  Controls and Lighting Controls. Yup the whole enchilada!There are so many things people take for granted or don’t even think about that happen behind the scenes and require someone like me, a Controls Freak… *ahem* THE Controls Freak to make work. Pretty much any mechanical piece of equipment that keeps everyone else comfortable, secure or moving along with ease; takes some sort of machine, system or process to bring it all together.


Door Controls Proximity Card ReaderIf you were an employee at a company on the 3rd floor and you arrived early before the doors were open to the public you would just swipe your ID badge on the proximity card reader out front and the doors would open. At this moment the Building Automation System database knows what floor you work on and it already made sure to enable the A/C and turn on the appropriate lighting zones for your walking path.

Once inside the lobby you would head to the elevators that were locked out to the point the buttons won’t light up unless you once again swipe your clamshell proximity card. In doing so the elevator controls allowed you to only push the floors you have access to.


There’s No Experience Like On-the-Job Experience

As you might expect having a job with a controls integrator or building automation contractor is going to be your best bet in being able to gain experience and come across different opportunities outside of HVAC like controlling industrial machinery such as food, plastic and even cosmetic manufacturing equipment.

I am currently working on a series of emails that will be sent via email subscription to people looking for some tips about what they need to learn or show off at an interview that will land them their first or next job position in building automation or DDC controls.


Jump In, The Water Is Fine!

Future Career Opportunity Next Exit

There’s never been a better time to get your feet wet. If you are at a point in your career where you can afford to take an entry level position or a position where you know that there will be a large learning curve…then DO IT!

The DDC Controls and Automation Industries are still in their infancy when compared to other computer and IT driven industries. If you were to enter at a lower paid position now, I can honestly say in 3 to 5 years you would be prime to be making a salary of $35k-$55k depending on the route you take within the industry. More on that in another post.  :mrgreen:

Meanwhile continue to explore this blog and Google all the various terminologies and catch phrases you can to learn more about our industry so you can get a better grasp of what is out there. Here are a few you can click on to search Google for now:

If you are in the industry now…

What off the wall situation have you come across that had a controls or automation solution to it? Did it turn into a continuing business?



9 Responses to DDC Controls and Building Automation Systems Are More Than Just HVAC

  1. ben February 29, 2012 at 19:46

    Able, this is a good post. I’m new to the industry and working for a up-and-comer in the programmable thermostat sector. Some of our technology involves automation, although nothing too crazy. Looking to learn all I can so I can advance my career in the right direction. $35-$55K for an experienced controls technician doesn’t seem like too much $$$ potential though (compared to other industries).

    Nevertheless, as you say the industry is in its infancy compared to the IT sector and home/building controls automation has a long way to run before it plateaus. Just looking to learn all I can, and reading your blog is part of the process. Good stuff.

    • The Controls Freak March 1, 2012 at 20:12

      Well I will hope that others might comment here on some salary ranges across the US, but here in Texas that is pretty good for a field technician. Now if you are a project manager or an engineer/designer then you could be looking at $55-75k, but you better know your stuff. I am in that range myself.

  2. Chris March 21, 2012 at 00:10

    I’ve been in all sectors of HVAC, from industrial to residential. Only in the trade for 5 years now and am currently making about 35-40K and all health ins premiums paid for me (gotta include that value). I have two kids now and can’t take a big hit, but I do intend to switch from the mechanical side to the controls side. One, I REALLY prefer electrical work over mechanical as I continue in my career and I enjoy math as well. Two, it seems a bit easier on the body (just gotta find other ways to get my exercise). I will take a pay cut to make the transition, but I see the value of controls techs increasing. I actually had an interview with one of the largest electronics and automation company in the world. I can work there as a tech for a few years then switch to their controls division, if I get the job. I personally know three controls techs that travel the country doing this work. They could also choose to stay in the city as well. They can almost pick the company they work for, if they’re good. Keep up the good work The Controls Freak.

    -PS, I’m in Ohio.

    • The Controls Freak April 16, 2012 at 22:50

      That sounds great Chris. I am glad you see the value in learning the controls side and all the points you made are absolutely correct about the controls versus the mechanical side.

      I acutally know of a company in Ohio looking for a Senior Engineering Manager and the position pays $75k + Bonuses! Put in the hard work now to really get paid for your experience later.

      Good Luck!

  3. Alfonso Garcia April 16, 2012 at 21:44

    Hey Abel, I’m out of South Texas and really appreciate what you have to offer. Keep up the good work, and keep them DDC videos coming! One quick question if I may, at the school district where I work, they seem to keep loosing the data base for some reason and certain wings will be without a/c. After a few min. have gone by the controls guy at our school will reset them from his computer from his office and they will work for a couple of weeks until this happens again. Oh and also their chiller will run all day and by the next day it has to be manually reset. This has been going on for a long time from what I here. I’ve been with this district for 4 mon. and would like to get to the root of the problem. Any ideas? If additional info. is needed let me know.

    • The Controls Freak April 16, 2012 at 22:45

      Thanks for the comment Alfonso… as to your controls issue: I would love to help out and see if I can’t figure out the problem. Why don’t you use my ‘Contact Me’ form and email me some more information and I will take out any private information and make an article about how to troubleshoot your issues.

      What brand of controls do you have?
      How much access do you have to the ‘controls computer’?

      Let me know the answers to the above in your email and we can go from there.

  4. ELFEEGO ARANA March 15, 2014 at 23:12


  5. Ruud Commercial HVAC October 1, 2014 at 02:22

    Yes! Finally something about How Much Do Commercial HVAC Techs Make.

  6. Steve from Cooper Poole October 3, 2015 at 06:32

    HVAC job opportunities can’t get anymore cooler than that! Sure darn glad to work in this industry. :)


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