How To Become a HVAC Technician

A career in HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration) means a promising future. The field, also referred to as HVAC-R is one of the top ten blue collar careers, according to MSN Careers.

AN OVERVIEW

All types of buildings require heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration systems. An HVAC technician is the skilled professional charged with installing, maintaining and repairing these systems.

HVAC-R systems are complicated, which means training is necessary before entering the field. These units are made up of electrical and mechanical parts, such as ducts, fans, motors, thermostats and pipes. There are warm-air units, gas and oil units, centralized heating and/or air units and all types of refrigeration units.

DEMAND

The need for heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration is needed everywhere, all the time. In cold temperatures, people need to be kept warm. In warm and hot weather, people need to be kept cool. And since everyone needs to eat, refrigeration is needed year-round. Public places, which require climate control, such as doctor’s offices and retail stores, will have HVAV techs stopping by. Plus, in areas where there is a spurt in residential and business construction, the installation side of HVAC is booming.

The US Department of Labor states that the HVAC field will grow up to 17-percent over the next few years.

VARIETY

HVAC technicians can work in a variety of aspects within the industry, such as installation, service and repair. HVAC technicians with more experience can also get into design.

HVAC technicians can work for contractors, wholesalers, retailers or work on-site for a particular company. An example of the latter would be an HVAC tech for a hospital or resort, which have heating unites, air-conditioning units and multiple commercial refrigeration units.

Those HVAC technicians working for a smaller company may take part in installation and repair, as well as routine maintained on those companies that have a service contract. Some HVAC technicians decided to specialize in one type of unit.

HVAC technicians can work inside or outside, and may sometimes have to crawl into small spaces.

PAY

Like many skilled trades, pay is decent. In 2002, the United States Department of Labor reported that the average hourly wage for HVAC technicians was $16.78. The middle 50-percent ranged from $12.95 to $21.37. The highest 10-percent made $26.20. On the lower end, techs made just over $10 per hour.

Further statistics show that the average entry-level annual income is $27,100 with the US average at $38,410. Union workers are likely to earn more.

TRAINING & QUALIFICATIONS

Since HVAC-R systems are complex, most employers prefer technicians with formal education from a technical school. Most HVAC training programs are under a year. The curriculum usually includes theory, design, electronics, installation, maintenance, repair and more. Also, those who will be handling refrigerants will need to obtain EPA certification.

Those entering the HVAC field should be physically fit and comfortable working with hands and perhaps getting dirty. Fundamental knowledge of electronics is a plus as well.

SAFETY

HVAC technicians must take special care while working, as they will have to handle refrigerants like CFC and HCFC. Also, since many units are electrical in nature, precautions must be taken to avoid any injuries or death. Safety is a major aspect of training programs at schools that offer HVAC.