What Does A HVAC Technician Do?

"I am interested in tinkering with electrical connections. I don’t like to pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree, for now at least, because I’d like to work right after high school. On that note, if I need to pursue further education after high school, I don’t want it to be more than a couple of years. I told this to my uncle who said I should consider being an HVAC technician. I’m not exactly sure what this career is all about so can you please tell me more about this job? What does a HVAC technician do?"

asked by Johnny D. from Norfolk, Virginia

HVAC in the career HVAC technician stands for “heating, ventilation and air conditioning.” As you may have inferred from that description, a HVAC technician works to install, maintain and repair heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in buildings and homes. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics formally calls them as HVACR technicians because they can also work on refrigeration systems as well.

With the help of blueprints, HVAC technicians set up or repair heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems. This includes setting up the electrical wiring for these systems and testing them to ensure that they work properly. They have to be familiar with how the fuel and water supply lines and other components of the building are designed since they will be connecting heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to these during installation.

If they are called upon to fix these systems, they may also conduct tests of each individual part to find out which ones need to be repaired. Once they have isolated the problem, they may repair or replace the part as needed. It is also their responsibility to determine the energy use of a building’s HVACR systems and recommend ways to make them more energy efficient.

They are also required to observe laws and regulations when it comes to conserving, recovering and recycling refrigerants on air conditioning and refrigeration systems. HVAC technicians should handle and dispose fluids and pressurized gases following the procedures set forth by the government.

In their training, HVAC technicians learn how to install and maintain these systems. However, many technicians choose to specialize in only one aspect. Others take their specialization to the next level by being adept on only one type of system or equipment. For instance, they may work only with solar panels or with water-based heating systems.

HVAC technicians typically enter the profession by getting a certificate or associate’s degree in a program on heating, air conditioning and refrigeration right after high school. This can be obtained in a technical school or community college. The shortest program is six months long while the longest can last as long as two years. There are some who are initiated into the profession by learning from experienced HVAC technicians. They assist them with various tasks, starting from the simplest to the more complicated ones. However, this mode of entry is not anymore as common as before.

There are also HVAC technicians who get trained by entering an apprenticeship program after high school which can last anywhere from three to five years. They must complete at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and at least 144 hours of related technical instruction to graduate from the program.

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