HVAC Technician Job Description
HVAC technicians install, repair, and service air conditioning units, heating systems, and ventilation systems. In today’s world, we rely on these systems to be comfortable in our homes and places of business, and HVAC technicians are needed to help when the systems need to be repaired or replaced.
Though many HVAC technicians do provide services for all three types of systems, some choose to specialize and focus their career on working strictly with either refrigeration, ventilation, or air conditioning systems. Specialization often makes it easier for HVAC technicians to market their services, and it allows them to become experts at one particular type of system.
Most of the work that HVAC technicians do is done indoors, but this doesn’t mean that the work is comfortable. They often need to work in tight spaces that can be hot, uncomfortable, and difficult to move around in. Since many people don’t call an HVAC technician until a heating or cooling unit is broken, they often find themselves working in uncomfortably hot or cold indoor environments.
They also have to work outside at times when installing air conditioning units, heat pumps, or other related equipment. This can be pleasant when the weather cooperates, but when it’s cold, hot, or rainy, working outside can be very uncomfortable.
This occupation is more dangerous than most jobs. HVAC technicians are at risk of getting burned or shocked, and moving heavy equipment can sometimes result in muscle strains or other injuries. Refrigerants can also cause harm, but taking the proper safety measures can greatly reduce the chance of injury.
Most HVAC technicians work full time. When working for a company who offers emergency service, working nights and weekends is often required as well.
During busy seasons (which are normally particularly hot or cold months), HVAC technicians may need to work long and irregular hours to keep up with the demands for their service.
The majority of HVAC technicians work for construction contractors, but many are self-employed. Being self-employed does sometimes give these workers a little more flexibility in the working schedule, but they still need to be available when their customers need them.
How to Become an HVAC Technician
Some HVAC technicians learn their trade through on the job training, but since HVAC systems are becoming more and more complex, most employers prefer to hire candidates who have received formal training in the field. Some HVAC technicians learn their trade by attending a trade school, technical school, or community college. Many learn through a formal apprenticeship.
To get an apprenticeship, you will need to have a high school diploma or equivalent, be in good physical shape, and have good math and reading skills.
Apprenticeships normally last between 3-5 years. Apprentices are paid for their time, but at a discounted rate. This way, the apprentice is able to learn a valuable trade, and the employer is able to get cheaper labor than they would otherwise be able to.
During an apprenticeship, apprentices learn how to use the tools of the trade, read blueprints, diagnose problems with HVAC units, solder pipes, check electrical circuits, and perform many other tasks that they will need throughout their careers.
Many contractor and building associations run apprenticeship programs. You should check with your local chapters to find opportunities near you.
All states require HVAC technicians to be licensed. The exact licensing requirements vary from state to state, but all states require the successful completion of an exam.
Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency requires that all HVAC technicians who work with refrigerants need to be certified. There are three types of certifications available, and each one allows you to work on a different type of refrigeration system. A Type I certification lets you service small appliances, a Type II lets you work with high pressure refrigerants, and a type III lets you work with low pressure refrigerants.
There are many different certifications available to HVAC technicians as well. They are not always required for employment, but some employers prefer to hire industry certified technicians. With less than two years of experience, you can take the entry level certification exams that test competency with basic heating and cooling systems. These exams are available at many trade schools and technical schools.
With more experience, you can qualify to take more advanced certification exams. These exams are normally very specialized, and test your knowledge of specific types of equipment like compressed refrigerant systems and oil burning furnaces.
If you’re still in high school and you’re considering a career as an HVAC technician, taking courses in math, shop, and physics can be very helpful. If you have any opportunities to learn about plumbing or electrical units, that knowledge can be beneficial as well.
There are currently 267,800 hvac technicians in the United States, with 13,760 new hvac technician job openings created each year.
HVAC Technician jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
HVAC Technician Salaries
HVAC Technician salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most hvac technicians make between $33,800 – $56,100 per year, or $16.25 – $26.98 per hour.