What’s life like as a ground source heating engineer?
The ground and air source heat pump sectors are booming, and many HVAC workers are moving in to make the most of the career opportunities on offer in renewables.
But what’s it actually like to work in these sectors, and is there such a thing as a typical career path into them?
To find out, we quizzed one of our recent placements, Jamie, to find out more about his background, skills, career journey and future plans as a Heating Engineer working with renewable technologies.
Tell us about your current role Jamie
I’ve been working as a Heating Engineer for many years and I started my new role at a heat pump installation company three months ago. So far, I absolutely love it – it’s definitely stressful, but I tend to thrive on that. It’s a good motivator and keeps things exciting.
How did you get into this industry?
Well initially I was a self-taught plumber and worked as a plumbers’ mate in hospitals. I always wanted to put myself through college and when I got there, everyone else was taking gas fitter qualifications. I knew I didn’t want to do that – I don’t like doing what everyone else is doing – so I stuck with plumbing and took my NVQ Level 2 and 3 qualifications.
How did your career progress after that?
Once I qualified, I started doing domestic plumbing. To be honest, I hated it. Going into people’s homes and having to lift up furniture, floorboards and carpets to get the job done just frustrated me. I enjoyed plumbing but I knew this wasn’t the right area for me.
So how did you get into renewables?
I knew the energy landscape was changing but when I discovered how quickly renewables were growing in the UK, I left the heating company I was working for to join a renewables business specialising in heat pumps. My first project was installing ground source heat pumps on new builds and I found it really interesting.
Since I started in renewables I’ve worked for three of the top heat pump companies in the UK. So far I’ve installed over 100 ground source heat pumps – including a 600kw ground source heat pump system – and 20 air source heat pumps.
What’s a typical day like in your current role?
It varies so much depending on the type of project I’m working on. Right now, I’m leading the installation of nine air source heat pumps for a large college who’ve been given a government grant to go carbon neutral.
Every day I get to the site and start piping out – it takes about a week to fit each pump. Throughout the day I’ll also be liaising with clients and overseeing two apprentices. We work to extremely tight timescales so there’s no margin for error. It keeps me very busy!
What are the key skills for a successful career as a HVAC engineer?
It’s knowledge, first and foremost. You need to know how all types of heating systems work, and what won’t work. A sound knowledge of old heating systems and sizes is essential.
Apart from that, attributes like communication skills, initiative and being very organised are really helpful. A technical mind is important too.
What do you enjoy most about this job?
Being out in the fresh air getting my hands dirty. There’s a good atmosphere and camaraderie on site and it’s really satisfying to see the results of your labour.
I don’t want an office job at this stage in my life so it works well for me right now, but I wouldn’t rule it out in the future. I want to progress in my career.
How does the salary stack up for you?
It’s fantastic. This is another reason why I’m glad I didn’t do a gas fitting course; gas fitter roles tend to average around £30k but plumbing and renewables have far more opportunities. I’m 32 and I used to dream of making £50k, but with my base salary and company bonus scheme, I’m already quite close to that. In the next 10 years I’m planning to be on more like £70-80k. It’s definitely doable.
What would you say to people thinking of going into renewables?
Do it. Definitely. Everyone’s got gas qualifications these days but few people have qualifications and experience in heat pumps, even though the industry’s moving quickly and there’s massive demand. In a few years time, everything will be about renewable energy, so now’s the time to get ahead of the game and build yourself a great career.
If you’re from a HVAC background, just starting out or considering a career switch to renewables, download our free Complete Guide to a Career in Renewable Energy.
A&D Recruitment are specialists in recruitment for the renewable energy and building services industries. For more tips, visit our blog section or contact us today for a friendly, informal chat about how A&D Recruitment could help you fill – or find – your next role.
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