14-year-old Aaron Grace checks up on the furnace he installed while leading a two-man crew.
TAYLOR, Mich. - At age 11, Aaron Grace was installing HVAC systems. He was also taking, and passing, NATE exams. Now he is a seasoned veteran at age 14, expanding his knowledge of HVAC service and installation in both the commercial and residential markets.

He has a set of tools that would rival any veteran service tech's and his dedication to a job well done and good customer service skills takes no back seat to any of his peers, even if most of them are decades older. "He can service just about anything out there," said his father Art Grace, vice president of Krutsch Mechanical Services Inc., Taylor, Mich. "And he has been doing installations on his own since age 12."

Aaron said he enjoys what he does and has felt no pressure from his dad to go into HVAC service. He has been working with his dad since age 8 but only because "I like what I do," he said.


On the day ofThe NEWS'visit, Aaron and Art were at the home of a customer who had a complete furnace and A/C system installed by Aaron in December. The 14-year-old had completed all of the work with only the assistance of his friend, Yung Sboe Kim, a 15-year-old exchange student from Korea.

Homeowners Greg and Nancy Migrin were very impressed with Aaron's workmanship. The Migrins have known the Grace family for several years, having attended the same church. Greg Migrin, a pipefitter by trade, knew what to expect when Aaron showed up for the job.

"I looked forward to having Aaron work on my system," he said. "I think it is neat that someone Aaron's age is learning the trades."

Migrin said that Aaron and Kim began work at 9:30 a.m. (during a day off from school) and finished the job by 8 p.m., when Art Grace showed up to finish wiring the thermostat.

"I think Aaron did an excellent job," said Migrin. "He was very professional. I had a hard time getting him to take a lunch break - he was out there laying on his back on the frozen ground doing his soldering. He has the motivation to get the job done. I was very impressed."

14-year-old Aaron Grace puts some finishing touches on an outdoor condensing unit he installed in December.
Migrin noted that young people like Aaron are in demand now, especially with homeowners becoming more energy-conscious.

"Guys like Aaron are creating their own future," he said. "It is a credit to Aaron that he is dedicated to his work. A lot of kids his age would rather sleep and play video games all day."

Mike Krautner, a homeowner in the Detroit area, had a geothermal system installed by Aaron and other installers from Krutsch. He was left with quite an impression. "Aaron is a lot older than he appears," Krautner said. "His workmanship was outstanding. With Aaron, I had nothing to worry about."

Krautner said that Aaron installed a lot of the ductwork and did whatever needed to be done, including acting like the boss.

"He took charge and supervised a lot of the work himself. He is a great kid who is definitely going places."

Dave Wertman, a local builder in metro Detroit, had high praise for Aaron, too. "He understands volume control and the right amount of flow - he pays attention to detail," he said.

"He's a good kid and is very conscientious, which is hard to find in a kid today.

"One of my guys said he is destined to be the boss someday."

Grace makes last minute tweaks on the condensing unit he installed.


Art Grace said he would like to see Aaron talk to his fellow classmates and relate his experiences in the HVAC trade to them. "It would be neat for kids like Aaron to teach other kids in high school," he said. "It is all about being able to catch a dream - that is what is important."

Aaron spends a lot of his time on weekends working and works full time in the summer, when a lot of other young people are doing anything but work. Art feels that his son is a good role model for young people interested in the mechanical trades.

His work ethic seems to have rubbed off on his friend and exchange student. "Kim seems to like the hands-on work," said Aaron.

"Aaron asks questions whenever he doesn't know something," said Grace.

"That is very important. He asks questions of the other employees. He had to earn their respect and I know he has."

Migrin, whose son works with CAD design software, knows the importance of teaching young people how to use tools at an early age, much like the large tool collection of young Aaron. "It's important for young people to have real tools to work with, rather than play tools," he said.

And what about customers who just aren't sure that a 14-year-old can service their HVAC equipment? Art Grace has an answer for that. He asks Aaron to troubleshoot a system first, and then confirms Aaron's findings before talking with the customer. "That way, people will have no doubts," Art added.

Aaron plans to continue to learn and grow in the HVAC business, and has no designs on his dad's job - yet. And he continues to build his favorite and not-so-favorite task list. "I enjoy working with sheet metal," he noted. "But I don't like the tearouts too much, especially the old lowboys and highboys."

In a couple of years, Aaron will be able to drive himself to the jobsite. For now, a lift from mom or dad (along with a few "attaboys") will suffice.

Publication date: 02/06/2006