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101 Ways to ‘Rock’ as a Building-Automation and Controls Technician, Part 3 of 4

Nov. 6, 2013
If you work with or know someone who wants to "rock" as a building-automation and controls technician, this list provides 101 ways to help make it happen.

Controls technicians are the vital link between your building-control-system designs and your customers. If you work with or know someone who wants to become a “controls freak”-style technician in the building-automation and controls industry, you have to check out these 101 ways they can make it happen.

I hope this list strikes a chord with the community and gets shared amongst those who are or work with controls and automation technicians.

Here is the third group of 25 ways to rock, numbers 51 through 75. If you missed the first group (numbers 1 through 25), click HERE. If you missed the second group (number 26 through 50) click HERE. Keep an eye on upcoming editions of Networked Controls Plus for the rest of the list!

51. Get your color coding for wire standardized. Electricians always use black for hot since that is the way 120 VAC works, but all DC electronics use black for ground or negative. Keep it straight.

52. Try to make it to an AHR Expo or other industry convention once or twice every few years to see what is new and make some new contacts with other industry professionals.

53. Learn what it means to “divide and conquer” when troubleshooting communications problems on daisy-chained networks.

54. Know who the customer’s IT contact is and get him on board with what you are doing. You will need their help if you are installing controllers with an Ethernet jack on it. You are in their house now.

55. Whatever communications protocol you use, learn it. When it comes to integration you will need to know all you can.

56. Never stop learning. Ask about training classes you can attend for free or paid for by your company.

57. Those who solve the biggest problems get paid the biggest money.

58. Revisit your install and review trend logs to make sure the unit is operating efficiently and as intended.

59. Copy your software install disc somewhere on the hard drive.

60. Make sure the front-end graphics work, and sit with facilities staff and let them drive while you watch and answer questions. Give any feedback to your engineering department about the user Interface if you notice problems or confusion from the facilities staff using it.

61. Help your customers understand the importance of not replacing old technology with “newer” old technology. Most times there are efficiencies in using the more current technology.

62. Be a techie and find cool ways to make your job easier. There are all kinds of apps and tools out there you can use on your computer, online, or on your phone.

63. Dust off desks and pick up large chunks off the floor after popping open a bunch of ceiling tiles.

64. Learn how to carry an 8 ft ladder over your shoulder properly and get good at going through self-closing doors and doorways without scratching or banging every solid surface on your way through.

65. Do not just seek out knowledge and information. Retain it. If you cannot do that, then things you learn on your current job or project will not carry over to the next one.

66. Clean out the bottom of your enclosures after drilling, stripping/cutting wires, etc. Make it look nice when you are done.

67. When pulling wire, use some hand soap from the bathroom to get big bundles to go through small or crowded pipes.

68. Be proud and passionate about what you do. Not many people in the world can do the things you do on a daily basis. You are that mysterious guy who cannot really explain to people what you do, but the biggest buildings and facilities would come crashing down if you were not there to keep all the systems running.

69. Requests for information (RFIs) are best done upfront, at the beginning of the project. Do not save all your questions until the end when startup dates are approaching.

70. Always check for voltage even after shutting off what you know to be the disconnect for the enclosure, unit, or equipment you are working with. If you are using a beeper voltage tester, use it before you turn off power to test that the battery is working right then.

71. Know a little of everything. As a controls person you need to know mechanical systems, hydronic systems, properties of air and water, environmental conditions, occupied space use, IT connectivity . . . everything.

72. Innovate new processes or standards. If you look back a year prior and see what you were doing and today you are doing exactly the same thing with no new changes. You are stuck. Always be thinking of something new.

73. Get an installation guide or specifications PDF for any device you will be working with or installing. Know how it works.

74. Mount damper actuators exactly perpendicular to the shaft. Do not get crooked.

75. Learn what a good set of “happy lights” looks like. Most controllers have LED lights that blink, flash, or stay steady. Know what they all mean and get to know what they look like when the controller is working properly, so you can quickly tell there might be problems when you see they are not so happy.

Abel B Ramirez II is a building-automation and controls professional who has been employed by controls contractors and integrators since 1998. He has worked on the controls systems in many facilities nationwide, and his experience has led to him speaking and writing on various topics regarding the duties of engineering professionals and technicians in the building-automation field. Ramirez shares his knowledge online—and looks for others who wish to do the same—using The Controls Freak Community Web site.