Part of being an HVAC technician means being prepared to handle the unexpected roadbumps – and bizarre encounters – you may face on the job. That’s why we asked Stefan, Glenn, and Jackson to tell us the craziest things they have ever encountered on a job. You’ll get a kick out of these stories!
Jackson: Slithering Terror
When working in the HVAC industry, whether it is installation or service, you should always expect the unexpected. Sometimes this is easier said than done. I have a few stories of my own about crazy things that have happened on the job.
Once, right after I started my trade education, I was on a service call with my father. When approaching the condensing unit, I noticed a very strange smell, but I disregarded the smell and proceeded to remove the service panel as I had done hundreds of times before. Just as I had removed the screws and taken a knee I took off the panel and out comes the tail of a snake, so I started to run to the service truck in absolute terror.
All the while, my father had not yet realized what happened. As soon as I could get out the words “SNAKE! SNAKE! SNAKE!” here comes my dad right behind also running for the truck. After we got our wind back and mustered up the courage to go back to the unit we found that the snake was dead. Even though it was dead I was still very weary of its location. The snake had crawled up into the panel because a screw was missing on the bottom of it. It laid down in the unit in a way that it was across all three posts of the run capacitor, causing it to blow the fuse and trip the breaker.
Although the snake was dead, I did not know that at the time I removed the panel and my heart jumped about 30 feet out of my chest. From that day on I am always very slow to take off the panel of a unit. You never know what you might run into out there.
Stefan: An Uncomfortable Situation
With all the thoughts of promise that come with finishing HVAC school, reality lies right around the corner. Going from the happy go lucky confines of the lab out into the “real world” field is every bit as ominous as the techs that visit the school said.
Not two weeks into my first installer/tech job, we got the call for a 75-unit change out at a “Medical Outpatient Facility.” Well, it turned out that was just some kind of fancy way of shining up the fact that it was a Psych Ward Patient facility. Talk about an eye-opening experience! No more tool bags, buckets or any of the other minor comforts we get to indulge ourselves day to day with. All tools had to be on person only, never left unattended. I am not lying when I tell you I have never been more uncomfortable in my life. It truly felt like the patients were looking at you as a way out. Very troubling indeed. To compound matters the facility required all prior doors to be locked before the next door could be unlocked. I am big guy and very comfortable in most situations, but the eerie feeling of being locked in a room – even if for only a split second – with someone who has a serious mental illness causing them to require constant watch will leave you shaken. I’d like to say it got easier as the job progressed but honestly it never lets you not be off balance.
Sadly, with the contract came a non-disclosure and privacy form, so no pictures are available. Truth be told though, at the end of the day, any and all people deserve comfort, so I would do the job again if asked.
Glenn: Everyone Has a Story
You don’t have to ask around about some of the crazy or wacky stories within HVAC. Most mornings as class begins, we have a class discussion about things that has happened over the weekend or overnight. All you have to do is listen!
Glenn (right) stands with classmate David in their HVAC classroom at Des Moines Area Community College.
One story was they were called out on a non-cooling call and preforming all the usual inspections found, when a spider that had gotten caught between the contacts on the contactor was not allowing the contactor contacts to close.
In another instance, my instructor was talking about a call he was on. It was on a heat pump and the unit kept going into lockout. After several trips to the residence they figured out they had a blockage in either the intake or exhaust. Not really seeing anything, they cut out the intake to inspect and found a clear plastic bag had gotten sucked into the intake and, being clear, made it very hard to notice while still hooked up.
Mice seem to be drawn to condensers. Pulling an access cover off a condenser, I have had mice run out from under and startled me and not so lucky ones meet their fate up in the electrical area. And they don’t always come out in one piece. Being the good HVAC Technician that I am learning to be, I thought it would be a good idea to go and check my own air filter. While I was pulling the filter, with some difficulty, found a large black spot towards the top of the filter, upon further inspection, I realized it was a bat. Another house where I once lived, we had a window unit and every now and then I would here a flutter noise coming from the unit. After this went on for several day’s I removed the unit to inspect, again it was a bat nesting.
Kids are always good for stories as well. My daughters were complaining about how cold it was in their bedroom. So, someone decided it was a good idea to stuff stuffed animals down into the vent. The weird thing is my daughters were too young to use hand tools to remove the vent that was screwed to the wall, and I found a stuffed animal I had never seen before, and we had lived there for at least 10 years and no complaints the year before.