Not all HVAC technicians were made. Some, were born.
Like Chad Murphy, an HVAC technician with Practical Systems, an HVAC contracting business based in Hopkins, Minn., and an instructor with Hennepin Technical College, in Brooklyn Park, Minn.
Murphy got his first set of refrigeration gauges as a gift from his dad when he was only five-years-old. He spent much of his youth learning about HVAC from his father Harry Murphy, who has been in the industry for 40 years.
Growing up, Murphy would join his dad on various HVAC jobs, helping out where he could. However, as it is often between fathers and sons, he opted to take another path, deciding that the life of a carpenter would be more fitting.
“I didn’t want to grow up doing what my dad did for work,” said Murphy. “I wanted to be different.”
Murphy enjoyed his work as an interior finishing carpenter, but when the Great Recession hit, he found himself looking for work. In 2009, Murphy began taking on odd jobs while he built his own home. In the process, he invited his father over to help him install the home’s HVAC system.
That’s when the lightbulb went off in Chad’s head.
“I realized that I really enjoyed this particular work – it just felt natural to me,” Murphy said. After a talk with his dad one day, Murphy bit the bullet and decided to go back to school. Not just any school either.
“My dad specifically said I needed to go to Hennepin Technical College because they have the best HVAC lab,” he said.
Murphy received his degree in 2011. Soon after graduating the school asked him if he would be interested in substituting for an instructor who was retiring. Murphy accepted the position and was promoted to a full-time instructor, specializing in residential HVAC.
“I fell in love with teaching right away,” said Murphy. “There is a huge demand for HVAC technicians, and an even greater demand for knowledgeable instructors to prepare the students for the work world.”
When he’s not in the classroom, Murphy works part-time for Practical Systems, a residential heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractor servicing the Minneapolis, Minn. area. He turns his real-world work experiences into classroom lessons for his students. In the lab, Murphy teaches using YELLOW JACKET tools, just like he uses when on the job.
Beyond the practical skills that today’s students will need to build a long-lasting career in HVAC, Murphy enjoys sharing the “whys” of the business he loves.
“Working in HVAC isn’t always a walk in the park,” said Murphy. “Sometimes a job can make your week and sometimes it can break it. Sometimes it’s absolutely critical – like the time I serviced an HVAC system where a carbon monoxide leak sent a family to the hospital.
And then there are those long, hot days like a blistering 4th of July two years ago, where Murphy fixed the AC in a large home in the Twin Cities just as the homeowner’s guests were arriving for a pool party.
“They treated me like royalty when I got their AC up and running again,” said Murphy.
“Those are the days when I know I made the right choice, and followed my Dad’s advice. And that’s why I wouldn’t trade my life in HVAC for anything.”