Choosing a career in any field available on the market becomes a struggle, especially now that it overflows with potential possibilities and offers advertised by many and misunderstood by many more.
Becoming a HVAC engineer is no exception. Hypothetical risks accompanying any idea should be the first and foremost priority to take care of and eliminate on the road to success. The only proper way to do it is by acknowledging their existence and understanding the main aspects associated with your choice.
Putting aside all the secondhand information available online for any probable candidate, there is a variety of accurate resources to help guide you through the process. We composed a genuine resource guide for anyone considering a career as a HVAC mechanic.
HVAC System Breakdown
What exactly is HVAC?
It would be a good idea to understand the abbreviation itself before progressing onto more complex issues regarding training, certifications, or salaries.
Briefly, HVAC stands short for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning – therefore, all the significant features related to temperature management in majority of residential households and commercial buildings all over the country.
- This element is mainly used during cooler period of the year
- There are three types of heating systems available:
- Forced air heating system, by far the most recognizable, uses furnace as a medium to heat the air. The ductworks and vents disperse generated heat throughout the house.
- Radiant heating systems produce heat via boilers or heating stoves, which then use electric heating coils or hot water tubing to distribute heat throughout the house.
- Geothermal heating generates heat through heat exchanger. Where does the heat come from? In fact, it is derived from the very constant temperature of the ground.
A ventilator helps establish a normal breathing for a person with respiratory problems. For a literary work, this would be a perfect metaphor. Your house’s breathing is almost as significant as your lungs air intake, and it would be unfair to separate the two.
- Ventilation system aids in maintaining indoor air quality
- Proper ventilation means healthier home by preventing airborne disease transmission, according to World Health Organization.
Source: Natural ventilation for infection control in health-care settings. (WHO, 2009)
HVAC system is also responsible for maintaining cool temperature during warmer months. Here are the very concise steps your AC takes to keep you comfortable during summer:
- Warm vapor refrigerant is passed through the compressor to be changed into hot refrigerant vapor and proceed to the condenser.
- In the condenser, hot vapor is cooled and turned into hot liquid.
- The hot liquid passes through the expansion valve creating cool liquid mist.
- As it evaporates, it absorbs heat and returns it to the compressor.
These are very general, wide-ranging characteristics of any common HVAC system available today.
Next, we will move on to building your career as a HVAC specialist.
- HVAC technicians’ workplace is that of residential and commercial buildings, such as homes, institutions, or factories.
- As Alberta Learning Information Service states that worksites of HVAC vary from clean office rooms to compressor rooms and roof tops.
- United States Department of Labor describes places of work as being often exposed to various temperature changes, which is due to the need of repairing diverse parts of the system.
- According to CollegeGrad, technicians work full time with exceptional night and weekend shifts. During peak seasons, they may find themselves working overtime or irregular hours.
- Riley Guide calculated that only about 4% of HVAC mechanics work less than 40 hours per week.
- As Bureau of Labor Statistics states, provided employment tends to be stable, as most companies prefer or require a year-round service contracts.
- CollegeGrad argues that the rate of illnesses and injuries is one of the highest among HVAC technicians due to moving and lifting items weighing over 25 kilograms.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics claims that most of the injuries experienced by HVAC mechanics include electrical shock, burns, muscle strains, as well as injuries resulting from lifting heavy equipment.
Job Responsibilities and Duties
- CollegeGrad summarizes the following:
- Use of blueprints or design specifications to repair or install an HVAC system
- Inspecting and maintaining proper functioning of the installed system, as well as repairing or replacing specific elements as needed
- Connecting systems to many components, such as fuel and water supply lines or air ducts
- Determining systems’ energy use
- Traveling to different worksites
- MyPlan.com refers to installing or repairing heating, air conditioning, or refrigeration systems, such as oil burners, hot-air furnaces, and heating stoves.
- HVAC career involves time standing, walking, or running, as reported by iseek.org, which may require strong physical endurance.
- Alberta Learning Information Service estimates earnings to vary between $30 and $45 an hour with extra benefits (2014)
- According to iseek.org, US low wage is calculated to be around $16.87, median $21.76, and high $28.03, which varies greatly by state.
- Gadsdenstate.edu reports median hourly wages to have been $19.08 in 2008; however, the earnings vary depending on the type of employment.
- Median hourly wage in local governments were $22.79, whereas in building equipment contractors industries were $18.26, as reported by South Plains College (2008).
- According to CollegeGrad.com, apprentices are more likely to earn half of the wage of an experienced worker; as they obtain more skill and experience, the earnings gradually reach the pay of an experienced HVAC technician.
- Explorethetrades.org claims that working for a larger company may results in an annual pay of $80,000 or more.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the median pay of 2014 to be about $44,630 per year.
- Education.org states that the average hourly wage of HVAC technicians is $20.31, while median is about $19.08.
- As stated by Bureau of Labor Statistics, HVAC mechanics occupied about 292,000 jobs in 2014.
- Education.org specifies that about 13% of HVAC technicians are self-employed.
- United States Department of Labor projects the employment to grow by 14% between the years of 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the average occupations.
- Around 14% of all HVAC mechanics are members of a union, as stated by Education.org
- The highest concentration of HVAC employees is has Delaware, while the second highest concentration is assigned to Florida (Education.org)
To understand the nature of HVAC technician’s work more clearly, the following websites have been chosen by our team to ensure you receive the best possible information available online:
- South Plains College – explores the nature of work as an HVAC technician
- HVAC Education – HVAC technician guide
- Alberta Learning Information Service – provides accurate occupational profile
- CollegeGrad – valuable information for anyone interested in becoming an HVAC mechanic
- United States Department of Labor – trusted government source of work description and statistics regarding HVAC industry
- Explore The Trades – gives an overview of advantages in becoming an HVAC tech
- Education.org – provides up-to-date statistics regarding an HVAC industry
- HVAC Excellence – non-profit organization dedicated to educate and improve competency within HVAC industry
- Ofwguide.com – brief overview of the nature of work performed by HVAC technicians
- isustainableearth.com – summarizes job requirements and employment
- onetonline.org – information regarding tasks, tools, and technology used by HVAC professionals
- citytowninfo.com – HVAC industry in terms of employment, training, certifications
Begin Your Career in HVAC Industry
Now that we have provided you with general knowledge regarding current HVAC industry standards, nature of work, and information related to employment, it is time to introduce you to the next element of this guide. Prepare yourself for the road to become a certified HVAC technician.
- As citytowninfo.com suggests, HVAC industry is more fond of HVAC mechanics trained by formal schooling with proper certifications or through apprenticeships rather than off-the-record training in this area of expertise.
- As of April, 2016, there were 66 training programs found in Illinois itself, as researched through onetonline.org (keep in mind that you may choose the preferred state of training).
- According to isustainableearth.com, the typical requirement for an employee in HVAC industry is one or two years of on-the-job training.
- Brightwood.edu offers a program with the hands-on training required for entry-level employment for an HVAC technician.
- Alberta Learning Information Service provides opportunities for apprenticeship as an HVAC professional with average wages and requirements.
- The standard education for an HVAC professional needed for entry is the postsecondary nondegree award, while the typical on-the-job training is long-term.
- Gadsden State Community College’s Engineering Technologies Division provides students with three learning outcomes, which include demonstration of mastery skills to manage controlled refrigerants, demonstration of skills to measure superheat and air flow, as well as demonstration of skills to measure voltage, current, and resistance.
- South Plains College offers a program where students are required to pass an industry approved competency test (capstone) at the end of the course to graduate.
- According to rileyguide.com, some of the courses required to obtain an HVAC certification or diploma include Fundamentals of Air Conditioning and Refrigeration I and II, Fundamentals of Controls, Basics of Heating Systems, Heating Systems II, Steam and Hot Water Systems, Duct Layout and Fabrication.
- Hvacexcellence.org offers resources to scholarship opportunities and recruitment tools.
- Let HVAC Career Now connect you with top local schools for heating and cooling repair.
HVAC Career Now works with the top HVAC training programs across the country. Visit our website and fill out the form to get the information that matters to you about your local HVAC training program. Use our free service to find out how long your local program takes to finish, how much it costs, and how easily it will fit your schedule.
License and Certifications
- Some states and localities require HVAC technicians to be licensed, where the contents of the test vary by state. It may include completion of formal apprenticeship program.
- So far, three agencies established academic standards for accrediting HVAC educational programs: National Center for Construction Education and Research, HVAC Excellence, and The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation.
- National Center for Construction Education and Research allows a candidate to:
- HVAC Excellence provides employment-ready certification exams. Other include:
- Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology (HEAT)
- HEAT Plus
- Specialty Certifications:
- System Performance
- Duct and Envelope Testing (written and hands-on)
- Green Awareness
- Residential Heat Load Analyst
- Residential Energy Auditor
- Certified Carbon Monoxide Inspector
- Professional Level Technician Certifications
- Master Specialist Certifications
- ESCO Institute is the provider of certification testing
- You may take a free practice exam
- Verify your certification
- Find an accredited HVAC Program
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers Section 608 Technician Certification of 4 different types.
- Other helpful certification resources include:
The following resources will help you find an accredited training program:
- North American Training Center
- HVAC Schools Guide
- Bevill State Community College (Alabama)
- Central New Mexico Community College (New Mexico)
- Pikes Peak Community College (Colorado)
- Lincoln College of Technology (Florida)
- College of Lake County (Illinois)
- College of Southern Idaho (Idaho)
- Gadsden State Community College (Alabama)
- Georgia Piedmont Technical College (Georgia)
- Meyers Education Center (New York)
- Greenville Technical College (South Carolina)
- Ivy Tech Community College (Indiana)
Other training programs:
- RedStone College
- Santa Fe College
- YTI Career Institute
- Remington College
- Service Canada
- Brightwood College
Let us help you find a job
These resources will assist you in job searching:
- Pipe Trades – connects you with potential employers
- Career One Stop – job banks according to states, where you post your resume and register your job search
- HVAC Agent – job search engine
- HVAC Web Connection
- HVAC Crossing
- Associated General Contractors of Iowa
- The Associated General Contractors of Illinois
- HVAC Job Finder
- Georgia Department of Labor
- O*net Online
- Riley Guide
- How to get a job in HVAC industry
- Air Conditioner Repair in La Grange, IL
- Air Conditioner Repair in Western Springs, IL
- Air Conditioner Repair in Burr Ridge, IL
- Air Conditioner Repair in Hinsdale, IL
- Air Conditioner Repair in Glen Ellyn, IL
- Air Conditioner Repair in Wheaton, IL
- Air Conditioner Repair in Elmhurst, IL
- Furnace Repair in La Grange, IL
- Furnace Repair in Western Springs, IL
- Furnace Repair in Burr Ridge, IL
- Furnace Repair in Hinsdale, IL
- Furnace Repair in Glen Ellyn, IL
- Furnace Repair in Wheaton, IL
- Furnace Repair in Elmhurst, IL
Connect With Others
Whether you are a newbie to the profession or a veteran with years of experience, HVAC industry offers a variety of social media tools to stay informed, be connected, and share your knowledge with others.
- One of the most popular ways to connect with a wide range of people from all sorts of backgrounds or interests is blogging. This tool serves a few purposes, mainly to inform and entertain. HVAC industry is no exception. This blogging platform allows you to interact with individuals sharing the same interest as you. It notifies of the latest updates regarding HVAC profession, for both employees and employers.
- goodway.com is another great blog featuring everything that is related to HVAC profession.
- Another, more direct, way of interacting with others online is forum engagement. HVAC-talk.com is an educational forum for everyone interested in its topics. You may start your own thread and engage others to interact, or ask for advice other technicians.
- HVAC Pro Forum – another discussion board related to HVAC industry.
- Use hashtags! Twitter also contributes to #HVAC growth. You may tweet using an application free for download on your phone and be constantly connected or informed about latest HVAC advances.
- Facebook is also a useful tool to engage yourself in various discussions on many different fan pages with a great diversity of people from around the world.
- Youtube has a variety of helpful multimedia sources.
Women In The Workforce
Georgia O’Keeffe once said, “To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.” As for the artist, we assume she meant fine arts. Art is anything we manage to define as the possessed skills. HVAC industry is the art in itself. And women with enough courage and passion are no exception in this profession.
- With the equal opportunity in question, construction industry still struggles with the gap, since only about 7 percent of all companies are women-owned.
- Co-chair of The Dwyer Group, Dina Dwyer-Owens, states that it is important to overcome the lack of female representation in HVAC industry.
- Womeninhvacr.org is a great resource for educational and inspirational purposes, which includes updates on current events for boosting female employment in HVAC profession.
- Nawic.org – a resource related to Women in Construction (WIC)
- Womeninmanufacturing.org – Women in Manufacturing (WIM)
- Scholarship – opportunities for women in HVAC.
- AFUE – Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency
- Air Cleaner – a device removing allergens, pollutants, and other particles from air
- Air Filtration System – a device removing allergens, pollutants, and other particles from air
- Air Handler – an indoor component of air conditioner or heating system that moves air throughout home
- Allergen – substance causing an allergic reaction
- All-In-One System – all the components of the system are located in one cabinet
- BTU – British Thermal Unit
- Capacity – the producing capability of a piece of cooling or heating equipment
- CFM – Cubic Feet per Minute, a standard of airflow measurement
- Compressor – the heart of an air conditioning or heat pump system
- Condenser Coil – changes the refrigerant from vapor to liquid
- Control – a temperature-control device
- Cycling – process of turning on and off the HVAC system
- Damper – movable plate that opens and closes to control airflow
- Ductwork – pipes and channels that carry air throughout home
- Furnace – an indoor heating unit
- Heat Pump – an outdoor unit that warms or cools home
- Explanation of pros and cons of Heat Pumps and Furnaces
- Home Automation – remote or automatic control around the household
- HSPF – Heating Seasonal Performance Factor
- Humidifier – a device that adds moisture to the air
- Humidity – the amount of moisture in the air
- HVAC – Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning
- Indoor/Outdoor System – comfort system consisting of components in two locations
- Load Calculation – analysis of home’s energy needs
- Matched System – a system where all components are matched in capacity and efficiency
- NATE – North American Technician Excellence
- Outdoor Coil – in outdoor unit, changes the refrigerant from vapor to liquid
- Outdoor Unit – outdoor portion of split system
- Packaged System – all the components of the system are located in one cabinet
- Refrigerant – a substance producing cooling effect
- SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio
- SEET – Seasonal Extreme Environmental Test
- Smart Home – advanced system that offers remote or automatic control, not limited to HVAC
- Split System – a system consisting of components in two locations
- Thermostat – temperature-control device
- Ton – a unit of measurement for determining cooling capacity