How To Become A HVAC Technician
Career Video: HVAC Technician
If you are fascinated with the inner workings of heating and air conditioning systems then you can consider a career as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technician. They are also called HVACR technicians because they are trained to work on refrigeration systems. In this profession, you will have the chance to install, repair and maintain heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems of buildings, homes and businesses. This includes connecting them to wirings and their corresponding controls and conducting the proper tests to ensure that these are working properly. You are also tasked with finding out how much energy these systems use and come up with the necessary recommendations to make these more efficient.
You diagnose these systems and if there are trouble spots, you fix or replace the worn out parts so that these are working again. You are expected to have knowledge of these design specifications so that you can address these issues. When a client brings a problem for you to address, you are expected to perform the necessary tests of each individual part so that you can find out what the problem really is and provide the best solution. You are expected to follow the proper procedures when it comes to recovering, handling and disposing of these systems.
As a HVAC technician, you perform a very important job because homes and buildings won’t even be habitable without heating and air conditioning systems that ensure that their air quality, temperature and humidity are just right for people to survive and work in. Without functional refrigeration systems, food would not last nor would it even be possible to transport them to other locations. This would hold true to other items that would spoil—e.g. medicines that would lose their efficacy unless kept in a certain temperature—without refrigeration.
Thus, you need possess mechanical skills to be able to succeed in this profession. In addition to the knowledge you have about these systems, you need to have the manual dexterity needed to be able to put together all the components of these systems piece by piece and tear them apart when needed to find out what the problem is. These types of equipment are heavy so it’s essential that you are physically strong to be able to lift and install these. Patience and excellent customer service skills are also integral in this job since you are going to be giving service to distraught customers whose air conditioning or refrigeration systems have bogged down.
Why Become A HVAC Technician
One reason to become a HVAC technician is that it gives you the opportunity to work with your hands and tinker with electrical equipment, if this is where your interest lies. You don’t even need a four-year bachelor’s degree to be able to work as a HVAC technician, making this a more affordable alternative tuition-wise to an engineering degree. It is also a rapidly-growing occupation that is projected to have a lot of job opportunities in the coming years. For a profession that only necessitates a two-year training at the most, this career also pays well.
HVAC Technician Work Environment
HVAC technicians work in schools, homes, buildings or factories. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that about 61 percent of them worked in the plumbing, heating and air conditioning contractors industry. At work, some of them can work in specific work sites while others are tasked to do service calls in various locations.
Work is often done fulltime, with some shifts assigned during weekends and evenings. When the heating and cooling seasons are at their peak, they can expect to extend work hours or may be asked to be on call and work any time. Due to the nature of their work, HVAC technicians are among those with the highest injury and illness rates compared to other jobs. Possible dangers of the job are burns, electrical shock and muscle strains. Technicians who work with refrigerants need to be extra careful because these can lead to frostbite, burns, skin damage or even blindness.
HVAC Technician Salary
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed in its Occupational Employment and Wages report that heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers received a mean annual wage of $46,110. In 2012, the agency reported that the top 10 percent of HVACR technicians were paid more than $68,990 while the lowest 10 percent got less than $27,330. At this time, their median annual wage was $43,640. Experienced HVAC technicians naturally earn more than their apprentices who only get about half their wages. As they hone their skills, they get periodic pay increases until their salary becomes at par with that of their seasoned counterparts.
HVAC Technician Career Outlook
The job outlook of HVAC technicians is rosy for the next few years. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022. This rate is faster than the average for all job types. Thus, from the 267,600 technicians employed in 2012, their number is expected to rise to 323,500 in 2022.
Growth will be fueled by the construction of commercial and residential buildings as the construction industry gets back on its feet from the latest recession. Moreover, the increasing number of advanced climate-control systems will fuel the demand for HVAC technicians. In addition, the need for these systems to be replaced after 10 or 15 years will also contribute to their demand.
HVAC Technician Degree
In order to become a HVAC technician, high school graduates can get instruction in heating, air conditioning and refrigeration programs from technical and trade schools or community colleges. This can take anywhere from six months to two years. Another way to enter the profession is through an apprenticeship program. An apprenticeship can last from three to five years. The apprentice must complete no less than 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and at least 144 hours of technical education. In order to enter an apprenticeship program, the potential trainee must be at least 18 years old, possess a valid driver’s license, pass a basic math test as well as screening for substance abuse and hold a high school diploma or its equivalent.
There are different certification exams for HVAC technicians. Entry-level certification can be obtained by those who have already taken up the necessary coursework and less than two years of work experience. Specialized exams may be taken by those who already have at least one year of experience in installation and at least two years of maintenance and repair work. Obtaining a certification will highlight their competence in various types of equipment.
HVACR technicians who handle refrigerants are required by the US Environmental Protection Agency to obtain certification in proper handling of these materials. There are four types of specializations and applicants need to pass one to be certified. Type 1 Certification is for those who work with small appliances. Type II Certification is needed for those who work with high-pressure refrigerants while a Type III Certification is needed for those who handle low-pressure refrigerants. The Universal Certification is the highest form of certification and given only to those who can work on all kinds of HVAC units.