In the heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC) industry, a technician’s salary will vary according to their skill level, experience, and in direct relation to the certifications of training and expertise that the technician has attained. According to the National Labor Board statistics for this trade, wages may range between $12.29 per hour and over $30.59 per hour. About half the workers are paid earnings between $14.94 and $24.84 an hour.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
HVAC technicians are highly trained professionals who work on environmental systems within buildings. These systems include heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration. Servicemen may install or repair equipment and parts for all these related systems, including creating custom ductwork and pipe bending. These professionals work in all types of buildings, including residential property, industrial workplaces, commercial business locations and others.
Certain systems control building comfort, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning. These systems affect the overall temperature, air quality, and humidity in a building. Refrigeration systems make preservation of food, medicine and perishable items possible and affordable. These systems have critically important equipment such as gauges, motors, fans, compressors, thermostats and other parts that must be maintained and installed by persons who are specifically trained in this field. The reason is that improperly working equipment can have fatal results. Parts may contain sensitive mechanical, electrical or electronic components.
In the course of their work, HVAC and HVACR (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration) technicians use special tools and test equipment to make settings and adjustments to the systems. An HVAC technician may specialize in one or more areas of the field, such as installation or repair, or they may specialize in a particular type of equipment, such as solar equipment.
For new installations, HVAC technicians follow blueprints and technical specifications. Once the large equipment is installed, the technician must connect the parts, which may include ductwork, water lines, pipes, electronic controls, automation equipment, pumps, and wiring. Some work is potentially hazardous, and care must be taken, for example, to not inhale asbestos fibers or other particles that may be present at the work location. Refrigeration technicians must know how to test and control refrigerant materials that may be toxic to the environment.
HVAC technicians are trained in how to use special equipment and tools. These include torches, hammers, wrenches, metal snips, pipe cutters, pipe benders, gauges, thermostats and others. The working environment may vary through all temperature ranges. Technicians may work inside buildings, outside, or on rooftops in all types of weather conditions. Many hazards could be present, including getting burned by fire, heat or steam, electrical shocks, and muscle strains from lifting heavy equipment. HVAC technicians need to take precautions against inhaling toxic materials, particles or fumes in the course of their work.
Installers and repair service technicians may work a 40-hour week, overtime, or on call. Much of the work for heating and cooling is rather seasonal, with busiest times being during the winter heating and summer cooling seasons. HVAC companies try to get customers to have maintenance scheduled during the slower times in spring and fall, to fill up the work schedules.
The job outlook for skilled, trained HVAC technicians is excellent, especially for those who have technical school training or a formal apprenticeship, and who have certifications like the professional NATE certifications.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
HVAC technicians can be trained on the job by working with skilled mentors or supervisors. They can also become trained in apprenticeship programs or by attending HVAC training in college. The key for advancement is to become certified and trained in as many specialty programs as possible. Training is definitely required and pay relates to the amount of training the HVAC technician has accomplished. Upon completion of training, the technician must have six months to two years of on-the-job work experience before they are considered to be proficient. Education in this career can also be provided during military service. Many industry associations, including the Mechanical Contractors Association of America, the National Association of Home Builders and others, offer formal HVAC training apprenticeships.
A good basic education in mathematics, electronics, physics, engineering, blueprint reading, chemistry, drafting and computer studies are valuable for entry into this career. Business operations, plumbing and communications also provide a good entry background for HVAC training.
Certifications can determine the areas the technician is able to do work in. For example, those who want to work with refrigeration must be certified to handle refrigerants properly because they are hazardous. Some certification programs require that the technician have a certain amount of on-the-job experience prior to taking an examination. Refrigeration technicians can take exams that are sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Certifications in HVAC training are offered following completion of school and/or training courses. Certification that is offered by North American Technician Excellence, Inc. (NATE) represents the best in HVAC training. Other certifications can be obtained from the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society, The Carbon Monoxide Safety Association, HVAC Excellence, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Safety Coalition and others.
HVAC technicians can join many associations, including:
- American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers
- Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
- Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
- Hydronic Heating Association
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers
- ting, Air-Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVAC) Technician Salary