Heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration systems are known as HVAC or HVACR. An HVAC system allows building residents to provide a comfortable, climate controlled environment. The installers and mechanics for an HVAC system are called technicians.
An HVAC technician will be trained in installation and maintenance, but may specialize in one or the other. HVAC technicians can also choose an equipment specialty, such as commercial refrigeration, hydroponics, or solar panels.
The number of job openings for HVAC technicians is expected to increase by 28% between 2008 and 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment opportunities and salaries are much greater for trained and certified technicians. Jump start your career by requesting free information today from the schools below:
HVAC Technician Job Responsibilities
HVAC systems consist of hundreds of electrical, electronic, and mechanical parts. Depending upon the day, an HVAC technician may be maintaining a system, diagnosing and repairing problems, or installing and replacing components or entire systems.
Depending upon the season, HVAC technicians will perform additional maintenance or upgrades on out of season equipment. For example, in the summer, heating systems will undergo performance checks and regular maintenance to ensure their readiness for the winter. Conversely, air conditioning systems will be dealt with in the winter.
HVAC technicians typically work a regular schedule, but will be called upon out of hours for emergency repairs. Typically periods of extreme weather (such as high temperatures) will result in more calls. The beginning and end of summer and winter are also busy times. HVAC technicians should expect potentially uncomfortable working conditions, due to weather or cramped space.
HVAC Technician Training and Education Requirements
A majority of HVAC technicians receive their training from community colleges, technical or trade schools, or the United States armed forces. Training can take between 6 months to 2 years from each element of study (heating, air conditioning, refrigeration). Standards for HVAC training are set by three accrediting organizations. These agencies are HVAC Excellence, the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), and the Partnership for Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Accreditation (PHARA).
Following the completion of an accredited course, technicians will typically need 6 months to 2 years of experience before most employers will consider them proficient.
Apprenticeships are another route an HVAC technician can take. An apprenticeship will usually run between 3 and 5 years, and require a qualified mentor. Apprentices need a high school diploma at the least. An apprenticeship will combine hands-on training with classroom instruction. After completion, an apprentice will be considered a skilled trades worker.
Throughout their education, HVAC technicians will take a number of tests designed by the HVAC industry. These typically test HVAC technician’s skills at various aspects of installation and maintenance. While entry-level certification examinations can be taken after 1 year, they only test basic general competency in broad fields such as commercial refrigeration. HVAC technicians with at least 1 year of experience in installation, and 2 years experience performing maintenance and repairs can take specific certification examinations. The more advanced tests certify HVAC technicians for specific types of equipment, like oil-burning furnaces.
An HVAC technician should have excellent interpersonal communication skills. They will be depending on a variety of clients for business, and may have to sell service contracts to cover installed equipment. Given the increasingly computerized nature of HVAC systems, computer skills are helpful. Additionally, HVAC technicians should be in reasonably good shape. They will be on their feet and doing physical labor for a considerable amount of their work day.
HVAC Technician Salary and Wages
The median wages for an HVAC technician were $19.08 per hour in May of 2008. HVAC technicians working in cities and for the government received a higher hourly wage. Apprentices were paid a wage 50% less than that of an experienced HVAC technician. As the apprentice gains experience, their wage will gradually increase until it is in line with the median hourly wage for an HVAC technician.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
HVAC Technician Certifications
Depending upon the state of employment, an HVAC technician may need both a local and state license to operate.
Entry-level certification examinations are conducted by the HVAC industry to test basic competency with broad categories of HVAC installation and maintenance.
In addition, a number of HVAC agencies offers certification for more advanced HVAC technicians. Some examples of advanced certification exams include HVAC Excellence’s Secondary Employment Ready Exam and Secondary Heat and Heat Plus exams. These certifications ensure competency in various advanced aspects of HVAC maintenance and installation. Often, a certification increases both advancement opportunities and the chances of a raise. Employers suggest taking as many certifications as possible to broaden an HVAC technician’s skills.
HVAC Technician Professional Associations
Despite its name, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is an international HVAC organization and counts more than 51,000 members. First founded in 1894, ASHRAE promotes the advancement of HVAC technology for all people. It also publishes a list of HVAC standards, which are considered a guide for architects and references for building codes.
Smaller HVAC professional associations also are formed around specialties, such as the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Safety Coalition.
Roughly 16 percent of HVAC technicians belong to a union, with unions also specializing in HVAC aspects.