When Scott Graenser used to drive around his hometown of Brighton, Michigan as a teenager, he often caught sight of the white building by the railroad tracks. Labeled “Refrigeration Research,” he knew it was a plant that manufactured commercial components for refrigeration and air conditioning equipment—known among professionals as HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning).
He only knew this, really, because a friend’s grandfather had established the business in 1944. He soon added to that knowledge after graduating high school in 1999, when he got what he thought was a summer job in the plant while he attended community college. He wanted to get into the business of personal computers—then still relatively new.
He certainly didn’t expect to still be at that white building 20 years later—and to be one of its top experts as Quality Control Manager today.
That’s what stepping into the HVAC world can do for you, he says.
From Cutting Tubing To HVAC Management
“When I first started,” he says, “I was cutting the tubing. The company was flexible with me in allowing me to attend college while I worked. Over time, I started doing other jobs at the plant. I went from tube cutter up to the press department, where we might spot weld an end tag on a shell. I worked back in the copper room, too.
“I shifted around like that, and after about five years, I was asked if I would want to do some of the inspection of the production.”
It was 2005, just six years after Scott had finished high school. And it was a professional turning point. No longer on the computers track, he enrolled in the HVAC program at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The classes, he says “showed me a different side of the industry. While I was manufacturing HVAC stuff at work, at school, I was working on residential air conditioning units that sit outside your home. I remember seeing some of our parts when I was doing that. It was interesting, doing both the school and the actual manufacturing side of HVAC.”
It was also the path to Scott’s profession. Today, he can walk you around the plant and explain everything about everything. He monitors incoming materials, checks blueprints to make sure they conform to specified product dimensions, knows the specific descriptions of what each workstation needs to accomplish, and more.
He also knows a lot about working with people, both subordinates and executives.
HVAC Offers Perpetual Employment
At the same time, there is virtually no chance Scott will be laid off or that the plant will close. Refrigeration Research is one of very few domestic manufacturers of commercial HVAC components. The bigger manufacturers have moved overseas.
Plus, as long as people need refrigerators and air conditioners, HVAC, and those who work in this trade, will be in demand.
Now married, Scott owns a home in Howell, Michigan where, naturally, he’s had to work on his own air conditioning system at times—which takes him back to those HVAC classes.
It’s just a win-win-win kind of life. Scott encourages people to consider the HVAC path. “Just the fact that it will always be a growing field is one benefit,” he says. “There will be a demand for skilled technicians in the industry who not only find it interesting, but like working on the equipment and enjoy troubleshooting.
“That’s a big part of HVAC. It’s a good career for people who like a challenge and enjoy problem solving with practical applications. You go out to a house and have to figure out what’s going wrong. While there are only a few components in a refrigeration system, there are so many conditions that might cause problems. There are a lot of troubleshooting steps that have to be taken.
“And then, you can see the results once you determine the problem and resolve it. It gives you a great sense of accomplishment.”
Interested in starting your own HVAC career? Look into schools near you.
Read more about becoming an HVAC technician.