An HVAC technician provides many services. Installation, repair and maintenance of heating, ventilation and air conditioning or HVAC systems are one choice. Specialization in heating, air conditioning or refrigeration is another. Preparing for a career in this field will entail an apprenticeship or attending classes or both. The classes may be taken at a community college, a trade school or online.
When choosing an apprenticeship, the average is from three to five years. The apprenticeships are sponsored in combination by union chapters in many areas. The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association is one and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America is another.
Licensing is required in many areas for the technician. The testing may include electrical codes, although most concentrate on HVAC knowledge. According to statistics, only about 3% of HVAC technicians have a bachelor’s degree. Approximately 39% have attended college although they did not obtain a degree. The highest percentage, 58% graduated from high school, making apprenticeships one of the major ways of training for a job as an HVAC technician.
What are the Responsibilities of an HVAC Technician?
Many technicians in this field find the prospects for advancement are quite good. Promotions and specializations within the field allow a technician to enter sales, marketing and supervisory positions or become estimators, superintendents and teachers. They may also open their own heating and air conditioning business.
An HVAC technician can be responsible for a variety of duties. The inspection and testing of systems to ensure they are working properly are part of the duties of some technicians. Others may be responsible for ensuring that standards are being complied with and procedures and policies are being followed. This will include maintaining a safe work area.
Still others may use electrical equipment to test for continuity of circuits and components. After making repairs and reassembling HVAC systems, many technicians are responsible for testing equipment to make certain the repairs were completed correctly.
Specific duties of the technician may vary according to the situation and time of year. During the winter months, the concentration is on the maintenance of heating systems. The cleaning, which allows more efficient operation as well as prevention of high carbon monoxide levels, which can be deadly is essential. Thermocouples are checked, flame levels are adjusted and testing for gas leaks are all part of the duties of a technician.
The summer months are just as important for maintenance. Checking for leaking coolants, smooth running compressors and evaporators that are working properly are a few of the summer tasks. This is typically a busy season for an HVAC technician that maintains systems.
Technicians are also responsible for arranging heating and cooling systems for newly constructed residences and businesses. Being proficient in reading blueprints is required since this involves placement of the ductwork and pipes and they must be installed correctly. For peak performance of the systems, this is essential.
Each safety aspect is also checked before and after the construction is completed. This will include checking for carbon monoxide, gas leaks or coolant leaks. Following all local building ordinances and regulations is also required, so knowledge of this aspect is crucial as well.
Salaries and Job Outlook for the HVAC Technician
Employment for HVAC technicians is highest in the building equipment contractor industry. This is followed by direct selling of HVAC units and wholesalers of hardware, heating and plumbing equipment. There are over 300,000 people employed in the U.S. as technicians in the heating and air conditioning business. The projected outlook shows an increase in the industry within the next several years.
Unemployment in this sector is much lower than other occupations. The average technician makes around $40,000 per year. However, there are areas of the U.S. that average salaries are $50,000, $60,000 and more per year. States such as Alaska, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, California, Nevada and the District of Columbia have higher median salaries. Many areas with lower median salaries are affected by the higher number of people in this occupation.
An HVAC technician will work in a variety of settings. They may include, but are not limited to retail venues, homes, factories, offices and hospitals. In addition to the knowledge required for the installation, service and maintenance of this equipment, those who choose a career as a technician should be in good physical shape as the job does require some heavy lifting.