Schools that offer training courses for HVAC/HVACR
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers, commonly called HVAC or HVACR technicians, install and maintain a building's climate control system. This can include installing air conditioning units outside, above or inside buildings, as well as constructing and installing a building's ventilation system, or maintaining a large refrigeration room.
With the growing complexity of HVACR and HVAC systems, technicians are increasingly coming to rely upon post-secondary training, and employers typically value an educational program or a formal apprenticeship, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov, 2012). Education programs can last from six months to two years, compared with apprenticeship programs that can last three to five years, and can also cover the complex systems that HVAC technicians work with. Community colleges or technical and trade schools can also help prepare HVAC technicians working with refrigerants for the EPA certification exams (BLS.gov, 2012).
HVAC training can include aspects of other professions such as electricians (HVAC technicians may have to wire or test electrical systems), welders and brazers (pipes and ventilation systems may require soldering to make them airtight), and plumbers (some HVAC systems use water for cooling or creating condensation, which needs to be managed).
Technical skills for HVAC/HVACR technicians
Because some HVAC technicians may have to lift or support heavy equipment, the BLS notes that dexterity and physical strength may be beneficial qualities for prospective HVAC technicians (BLS.gov, 2012). Additionally, the following skills may be helpful for HVAC installers as well:
- Time management
- Mechanical skills
- Attention to detail
- Customer service
Good math and reading skills are also reported by the BLS as being "essential" for HVAC installation and repair. Training programs can cover how to read blueprints, HVAC safety, and how to use some of the specialized tools of the trade.
Tools used by HVAC Techs
HVAC technicians can use a wide variety of tools. Some of the following tools are likely to be encountered:
- Vacuum pumps: These pumps are used to remove air and moisture from a contained system. Condensation can be damaging to HVAC parts and the ventilation systems they are attached to.
- Current clamps: These clamps can be attached to electrical cables to allow an HVAC technician to read the current of a system without disconnecting or exposing the wires.
- Air quality meters: Ventilation systems can keep harmful outside air out of a building but can also produce harmful gases that must be kept away from people. These meters are used by HVAC technicians to measure the amount of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other gases.
- Recovery machines: These machines are used to collect and recover the coolants used in refrigeration systems and prevent them from escaping into the atmosphere.
- Tachometers: Fans and other parts of a ventilation system may need to spin or rotate at a specific speed. Tachometers measure the rotation of an object.
HVAC technicians can also work with ladders or in uncomfortable positions. Some HVAC technicians may work inside buildings with broken or nonexistent cooling, heating or ventilation systems, resulting in conditions that are hot, cold or stuffy, the BLS reports.
Where the jobs are for HVAC technicians
The BLS expects national employment opportunities for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers to grow by up to 34 percent from 2010 to 2020, more than twice the projected growth rate for all other occupations (BLS.gov, 2012). The growth is projected to be a result of an increase in residential and commercial construction, maintenance of existing systems, and the growing complexity of new HVAC systems.
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers earned a national median annual wage of $43,380 as of May 2011 (BLS.gov, 2012). The BLS reports that the highest and lowest 10 percent of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers earned a national annual wage of $68,840 and $26,810, respectively, in 2011. The states that employed the highest concentration of HVAC technicians in that year were Maine, Delaware and North Carolina. Approximately one-sixth of HVAC technicians belong to unions (BLS.gov, 2012).
Sources and further reading: