Careers In The Trades: Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning Technicians (HVAC)

Repairman is looking at documentation of HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning).
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CHARLOTTE – As we move into our third career trade overview, it has become obvious there are many viable options and alternatives for Americans without a traditional four-year college degree.

Industrial service technician at work.
Industrial service technician at work.

Our first two career fields focused on plumbers and electricians. HVAC is the perfect third field to explore because it combines both plumbing and electrical skills to become a professional craftsman in the field. It also requires mechanical aptitude and skills depending upon what particular area of expertise an individual may select to specialize in as a career path.

The basic job description for an HVAC or HVACR technician entails the installation, maintenance, and repair of various air conditioning, refrigeration, and air quality systems. The main duties include locating and diagnosing maintenance problems on equipment, conducting warranty services, and quickly performing emergency repairs on residential and commercial heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Also, in some cases, an HVAC technician may specialize in installation, repair, or maintenance.

An air conditioner unit outside a residential home's backyard.
An air conditioner unit outside a residential home’s backyard.

Furthermore, some technicians specialize in working on specific component systems, such as solar technology or commercial refrigeration. Other technicians focus on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems that control the temperature, humidity, and air quality in residential and commercial buildings, ensuring comfort and a healthy environment for occupants. Refrigeration systems allow for the safe storage and transportation of food, produce, medicine, and other perishable products.

HVAC technicians have several responsibilities depending upon the specifics of a particular job, project, or industry. The primary function is to either maintain and repair existing systems or install new equipment in households, buildings, hospitals, cold storage facilities, refrigerated trucks, and rail cars, or at various construction sites. The duties performed by of most HVAC technicians include:

  • Testing pipe or tubing joints or connections for leaks
  • Testing electrical circuits or components for continuity
  • Repairing or replacing old or defective equipment
  • Improving HVAC system performance by changing filters, cleaning ducts, or refilling refrigerants
  • Installing, connecting, or adjusting thermostats, timers, ducts, or new systems
  • Adjusting system controls to balance system
  • Assembling, positioning, and mounting HVAC equipment
  • Cutting or drilling holes in building structures
  • Performing routine maintenance on existing equipment
  • Reading and interpreting wiring diagrams, and technical data, such as pressure and temperature
  • Understanding and following government rules and regulations
  • Meeting local HVAC Codes
  • Training junior technicians

Regarding education, an HVAC technician does not need a college degree. However, there are Community Colleges throughout the surrounding area that provide excellent training programs for two-year AAS degrees and professional certification programs. These courses will give a new technician a competitive edge when entering the job market. Also, some top employers in the field provide additional education opportunities through in-house training programs, specialty certifications, and working alongside senior technicians to achieve important skill requirements for success.

Employers seek candidates who are state-certified with a license and the appropriate relevant certificates to perform the necessary tasks required. The requirements for obtaining certification vary by state, and certain licenses can only be awarded to HVAC technicians who work on projects above a certain dollar value. These certificates are important to obtain as it’s a good way for a potential employer to gauge experience and compensation.

The average pay scale for a starting technician nationwide is $23.36 per hour. There is plenty of opportunity for advancement, overtime pay, and additional training in a field that is in demand. Also, the option of becoming an entrepreneur is available to those who reach a certain proficiency in the craft. If one pursues this avenue, we would recommend taking small business courses or certificates in the areas of licensing, marketing, finance, insurance, employment law, and regulations. In our area, there are various programs and classes available to pursue at local Community Colleges, rwo-year colleges, and online courses, including seminars and workshops. Also, the Small Business Administration, SCORE Mentoring, and the CPCC Small Business Center are excellent resources to pursue counseling.

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Ed Berti
Ed is retired and remains active as a freelance writer, local journalist and independent contractor. He is engaged in print and electronic media writing stories covering business, sports, hometown news and veteran's affairs including articles of interest to various media outlets. Ed is a graduate of Wagner College where he earned an MBA and holds a BBA from Pace University.
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