What does an HVACR technician do?
Heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers are more commonly known as HVAC or HVACR technicians. It's their job to keep the temperature and air quality in buildings comfortable. To do that, they may perform any or all of the following tasks:
- Install new heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems.
- Inspect, test and maintain HVACR systems.
- Troubleshoot and repairmalfunctioning systems or components.
- Recommend system upgrades or replacements to clients.
HVACR training can prepare you to do a wide variety of jobs, but some technicians prefer to specialize. For instance, they may work as one of the following:
- Commercial HVACR technicians work exclusively with the larger systems used in businesses and industrial buildings.
- Residential HVACR technicians are hired to install and repair furnaces, air conditioners and other systems found in single family homes or similar dwellings.
Within each of these categories, HVACR technicians may further specialize by working only on installations or repairs.
How to Become an HVACR technician
HVACR systems are complex so most employers are looking for workers with formal training. Some states also regulate HVACR jobs, and that may affect your career path. However, the following is an example of the steps commonly followed by those pursuing HVACR careers.
- Enroll in a HVACR degree program. You can get HVACR training from trade and technical schools across the nation. Most programs run from 6 to 24 months and result in a certificate or associate degree. Some schools offer online courses in HVACR for those who can't study on campus.
- Complete an apprenticeship. If you finish an HVACR degree program, you probably won't need an apprenticeship. These programs last 3-5 years and combine classroom instruction with paid on-the-job training. They may be offered by unions or contractor associations.
- Become licensed: Check with your state's licensing board to determine whether licensure is required before you begin working as an HVACR technician. Many states only license HVACR contractors but a few require licensure of anyone working in the industry.
- Earn a professional certification. Any technician working with refrigerants must have EPA 608 Certification. Other professional credentials are offered by HVAC Excellence and North American Technician Excellence. These certifications are voluntary, but employers may prefer to hire certified workers.
Important Skills and Abilities for HVACR Technicians
People with the following attributes may be more likely to have successful HVACR careers:
- Troubleshooting: Given the complexities of HVACR systems, technicians must be able to work through a variety of possibilities to determine the cause of a malfunction.
- Installation: Installing an HVACR system requires special skill to properly assemble parts, wire machinery and connect components.
- Problem Sensitivity: To work efficiently, HVACR technicians need to have problem sensitivity, which is the ability to anticipate when and where something might go wrong.
- Finger Dexterity: A technician has to grasp, move and manipulate small parts when installing or repairing a system.
- Near Vision: Good vision is important to ensure a technician can see components clearly while working.
Career Outlook and Salary for HVACR Technicians
If you are interested in becoming an HVACR technician, it can help to know what salary and job growth numbers to expect. For an idea of what those may look like in the coming years, check out this data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||342,040||$51,420|
Professional organizations for HVAC
- American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) holds events at the local, regional and national level and features multiple publications for members
- Air Conditioning Contractors of America is a national organization with over 60,000 members that holds its annual conference alongside the Indoor Environment & Energy Expo (IE3)
- Refrigeration Service Engineers Society offers proprietary training, in-depth technical resources, opportunities for volunteer work & member discounts on insurance
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers, Accessed July 2019, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heating-air-conditioning-and-refrigeration-mechanics-and-installers.htm
- 3 Must-have HVAC Certifications for Top Techs, November 10, 2015, Advanced Technology Institute, Accessed July 2019, https://www.auto.edu/blog/3-must-have-hvac-certifications-for-top-techs/
- HVAC License Requirements by State: Next Insurance Guide, Next Insurance, Accessed July 2019, https://www.next-insurance.com/blog/hvac-license-requirements/
- Heating and Air Conditioning Installers and Mechanics, O*Net OnLine, Accessed July 2019, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/49-9021.01