Air Condtioning Contractor San Antonio TX

What it takes to earn $80,000 as an HVAC tech in Corona, California

In high school, Roger Cuadra, now 40, played football and baseball and tried wrestling and track – but he wasn’t a star student.

“High school was an adventure,” he says. “I didn’t take it seriously, to be completely honest. Although I tried to stay on the right track. My family sacrificed a lot to get us here to the US.”

Cuadra’s family was born in Nicaragua and, as a child, moved to Santa Fe Springs, California and later to Whittier, California.

After moving from Pioneer High School to La Serna High School after his junior year, Cuadra faced some serious decisions.

“I hung out with some of the wrong people for a while, but got back on track and focused more on school,” he recalls. “Unfortunately, I didn’t graduate from school there. In California, graduate schools are designed to help students who would otherwise not graduate from high school.

College felt “inaccessible,” he says. “Obviously, my family couldn’t afford to send me to college out of their own pockets. That’s why I started my career straight out of high school.”

One of his first jobs was as a bagboy at Food For Less. He remembers making $ 7.25 an hour.

He now lives in Corona, California and makes between $ 80,000 and $ 120,000 annually as a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technician. Cuadra says he wishes he could go back in time and provide guidance to his high school self.

“My advice to a 17-year-old Roger is, ‘Stay in school and do your best,'” he says, adding, “And get into the HVAC right now.”

Get the job

“I went into professional life after high school and started doing small construction jobs,” says Cuadra.
“Just really dead end jobs.”

Cuadra says his professional career was shaped not least by the fact that his father took him to work.

“My father would take me to his job sometimes and he encouraged me to become a mechanic. He was a mechanic all his life. He’s still a mechanic to this day, ”he says. “I think about him a lot when I work – [about] those moments that we shared. ”

In 2009, Cuadra learned that a local HVAC distribution center was looking for a driver. He felt that this was his opportunity to approach a job like his father’s.

He went into the office and filled out an application. He returned the next five days in a row to make sure he was considered for the role.

His persistence paid off. Cuadra got the driver job, learned about the different parts he would supply and met HVAC technicians who taught him the basics of the craft.

One of the mechanics he met was called Ishmael Valdez. In 2016, Valdez started his own HVAC company called NexGen and asked Cuadra to join.

“Back then, I was kind of holding back. I had a secure paycheck. I didn’t roll the dice and immediately took the chance,” says Cuadra. “Then I took the plunge and decided to take the chance and advance my career. I started sweeping floors. I organized our little, little camp that we had back then. I was responsible for delivering some parts for the fitters we had, that was three to four employees at the time. ”

Over time, his new colleagues offered to teach Cuadra more.

“One of my last deliveries gave me the chance to stay a little longer, clean up the mess, learn things a little more and what it means – installing this equipment that I’ve known for many years. I finally started putting it all together, like, ‘Okay, this stuff comes here, this goes there,’ “says Cuadra.” Until I finally got the chance to join a crew and be the third helper. “

In 2017, he earned $ 55,000 as the third aide on one of NexGen’s HVAC crews. After a year he rose from third helper to second helper and later to senior plumber and technician. Now his base salary is $ 80,000, but his total salary will vary based on the amount of his business. Cuadra says he can make $ 120,000 this year thanks to commission bonuses.

“I got involved. I went home and watched YouTube videos,” says Cuadra. “I’ve enrolled in some of the courses that the City of Downey has, NATE certifications, that have to do with air distribution, heat pump units and different types of systems that we use in the industry.”

NATE stands for North American Technician Excellence, and Cuadra says these courses, plus his obsession with earning positive Yelp reviews, helped him climb the ladder.

“I pride myself on having an excellent reputation online. We’ve got Yelp reviews that we’ve been getting that I’ve been getting since I became an installer. At first I didn’t really think about it much. I just did what is right and answered all the questions these customers had. At one point I saw these nice Yelp reviews. I felt good, “he says. “It made me care more about my position because customer service is a big part of the process and that position.”

A day at work

Cuadra usually works six days a week and gets up around 5:30 a.m. to go running.

“I like to keep fit,” he says. “I feel like it helps me hold out all day and deal with those 110-degree attics that we sometimes spend hours in.”

He usually arrives at NexGen’s headquarters in Anaheim between 6:30 am and 7:00 am, often before his colleagues have arrived. He uses this time to check what equipment he has in his transporter and to add what is missing.

Cuadra’s first call often comes around 9 a.m. He usually visits three to four customers a day and comes home around 9:30 p.m. He estimates he makes about $ 336 a day.

Summer is the busiest time of year in the HVAC industry, so Cuadra often takes December off.

“My girls know summer time, not holidays,” he says. “Summer is all about work for me … It’s my time to make money, then I earn most of my annual income.”

Part of the Cuadra family.

“I love being able to bid”

Cuadra has four daughters and says giving them opportunities he didn’t have motivates him to grow his income as much as possible.

“I want to give my daughters a different life than I had. Not only is it a motivation, it’s also very rewarding to know that I can do that for my girls,” he says. “This money means for me and my family that we have more freedom, more options, more security for my family’s future.”

“I love being able to bid.”

But beyond the money, Cuadra says, he finds solace in the security the HVAC industry offers. Because of climate change, “everyone always wants and needs air conditioning,” he says.

And he prides himself on his ability to make people more comfortable.

“The most rewarding thing about this job isn’t just the money, it’s just the satisfaction I get when I help these people,” he says.

“My advice to anyone in this industry would be ‘stop thinking about it and just do it,’” he says. “Take this chance.”

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