HVAC technicians install, repair and maintain heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. They work in various work environments, which means they can work in homes, offices, hospitals, supermarkets and residential or commercial buildings. Becoming a HVAC technicians requires great skills like mechanical skills when the HVAC systems need to be assembled, repaired and programmed; time-management skills which is important in scheduling work hours and remaining organized; physical strength is one skill needed when lifting parts and equipment; troubleshooting skills are required when technician encounters various issues and malfunctions and have to perform diagnostics and repairs. Becoming a HVAC technician is possible through different levels of education, so starting a HVAC technician career takes time, after which you’re ready to begin with your HVAC technician work.
Earning high school diploma or GED
Getting started with HVAC training is possible if you attend high school and choose the courses which are helpful and required in HVAC industry. The courses in mathematics, chemistry and computer science are one of the most relevant ones when attending high school programs. In a high school diploma program, HVAC students learn how to follow specifications and read blueprints, how to work with electrical wiring and interpret mechanical drawings. This program prepares HVAC students for successful installation and maintenance of HVAC systems through various courses:
- HVAC system maintenance
- Installation of HVAC systems
- Basics in electricity
- Air-quality problem solving
- Industrial and commercial refrigeration systems
- HVAC systems design
- Air-conditioning control principles
- Gas and electric heating
Earn a certificate
After graduation in high school training programs or earning a GED equivalent, you are required to earn an EPA-approved certificate. Every HVAC graduate is opt to pass an EPA-approved test to earn Section 608 Technician certification. This test is specific to the type of equipment a technician seeks to work on. It is separated in 4 different types of certificate. Type I for servicing small appliances, Type II for servicing or disposing of high pressure appliances, Type III for servicing or disposing of low pressure appliances and Universal type for servicing all types of equipment. Pursuing the particular field in HVAC industry may require additional certificates depending on the location you wish to work in and experience you gained so far.
Depending on the state you live in and wish to work in, you may need to get licensed as a HVAC technician before you start your career. Licensing requirements could vary, but usually involve passing a state-handed exam, completion of a training program or gaining 2-5 years of work experience. The contents of tests are also slightly different because some may emphasize HVAC knowledge in general and some may even highlight importance of working with electrical cords and wires and hands-on dexterity.
After graduation, it is good to fill out your future job curriculum with some hands-on work experience. It is recommended for any future HVAC technician to acquire skills by assisting an experienced HVAC technician. You can start by carrying materials, insulating refrigeration lines or cleaning furnaces. Later on, as you improve, you can continue with cutting sheet metal and pipes or checking electrical wires. On-the-job training is a great opportunity to improve your skills and gain extra knowledge when doing practical work rather then just posses theoretical knowledge.
There is a wide-range of apprenticeship programs available in various states of the US. Typically, apprenticeship program can last between 3-5 years. Requirements for involving in apprenticeship programs vary, but usually they spin around the similar things like demand of high-school diploma or GED, physical strength, passing examination and oral interview, ability to read blueprints and ability to attend related training classes. There’s no high-quality HVAC technician who hasn’t got hands-on experience and the best way to earn such experience and collect a good amount of working hours is through apprenticeship program. Choosing the nest one depends on the state you live in and the field of HVAC industry you wish to pursue, so gathering information of the best apprenticeship programs is the first important step towards beginning your HVAC career. It is good to know that by finishing your apprenticeship program, you can easily get hired by the same company you worked for as an apprentice.
Skills required for becoming a HVAC technician
Having excellent traits that are praised in HVAC industry will very much help you get employed by any HVAC company. What are the essential skills to possess in order to become a high quality HVAC technician?
- Good computer skills – a great HVAC technician can use various software programs to monitor and control systems
- Troubleshooting skills – to quickly and correctly determine problems and malfunctions is the key of being a great HVAC technician
- Knowledge of technical data – good interpretation of schematics, reading blueprints and ladder logic is a mandatory skill in order to be an excellent HVAC technician
- Communication skills – just like good verbal skills are needed to communicate with customers, staff or supervisors, strong vocabulary is approved for preparing reports, specifications and instructions
- System and controls knowledge – any great HVAC technician understands how different systems work and also is familiar with the processes of hot water heating, steam heating, water cooling and air-conditioning
Work environment of HVAC technician
HVAC and HVACR technicians mostly work in homes, schools, factories, office buildings and hospitals. While some are assigned to specific job sites, many of HVAC technicians usually travel to different locations depending on their duties. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HVACR technicians held about 292,000 jobs in 2014, where most of them worked in plumbing, heating and air-conditioning contractors industry. The majority of HVACR technicians work full-time with some extra shifts and overnights. During the peak of heating and cooling seasons, many of them work overtime or irregular hours. Even though most of HVACR technicians are employed by construction contractors, some of them are self-employed which gives them flexibility in scheduling their working hours.
Technicians often do routine maintenance as well as perform repairs. When HVACR mechanics service equipment, they have to dispose of harmful refrigerants used in air-conditioning and refrigeration accordingly and recycle it using special equipment. Refrigerants like chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) or hydro chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) are considered to be 100% ozone depleting which means their purchase, installation and removal must be extracted and filtered by a certified HVACR technician.
Many of the HVACR technicians work in cramped and uncomfortable places, in extreme heights and sometimes even in dangerous conditions like extreme weather. They face numerous hazards like electrical shocks, burns, muscle strains from lifting heavy equipment and asphyxiation due to dangerous chemicals and refrigerants they handle with.
Salary of HVAC technician
The median annual wage for heating, ventilation, refrigeration and air-conditioning mechanics and installers was around $45,110 in May,2015. Apprentices usually earn half of the wage unlike the experienced workers earn. As a technician increase the number of working hours and gain additional experience, so does his/her salary increases as well. However, the annual wage depends on location, experience, certificates and working hours a HVACR technician has. Great job curriculum means more opportunities to advance and earn more money.
Job outlook for HVACR technicians
Employment of HVACR mechanics and installers is projected to grow by 14% from 2014 –2024 which is much faster than for other occupations. The ever growing number of sophisticated and modern climate-control systems is going to be the main reason for more demand of HVACR technicians. Also, commercial and residential building construction will drive employment progress too. Excellent job opportunities give more chance to any HVACR aspirant to continue his/her education and complete training programs in order to start their HVAC technician career as soon as possible. The demand of qualified and well trained technicians is constantly on the rise, due to the growing number of new climate-control systems. That means more installations or replacements and repairment and maintenance of the old systems which leads to more requirements of high quality HVAC technicians. Pursuing HVAC technician career is an excellent choice if you possess needed skills, good knowledge and strength and have a high school diploma and additional certificates. Gaining experience and collecting working hours promises good opportunity of a stable career and a stable increasing salary. Whether you’re working for a company or are self-employed, the career of a HVAC technician is surely one of the ones worth considering. Begin your own now and rest assured of a long lasting employment in this everlasting industry.