Air conditioning (AC) technicians are responsible for installing and maintaining air conditioning and refrigeration units. Prospective AC technicians who will work with refrigerants must be certified through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There are EPA-approved training providers across the country that offer certification preparation programs and on-site certification exams as well.
Students entering these training programs must have a high school diploma or GED with previous coursework in mathematics and reading. Other prerequisites may include the completion of a certificate program or degree in AC or related field.
Workshops and apprenticeships are also available that offer hands-on learning.
AC Certificate and Certification Programs
An AC certificate program teaches students to control indoor environments and provide comfortable conditions in an energy-efficient manner. Students of related certificate programs develop in-depth technical knowledge and proficiency in AC systems. Opportunities are also available for those who want to learn the scientific and practical applications of system design, which enhances students' capabilities in this field.
The program coursework offers an understanding of a variety of engineering fundamentals and principles. Classes continue to focus on the emerging issues facing the AC industry regarding emissions and energy efficiency. Courses in this program include:
- AC system design
- AC control and energy management
- AC and green buildings
- Facilities management: systems and technology
- Codes and ordinances
- Tools and service techniques
The EPA requires that all technicians be certified before performing installations, maintenance, repairs, or service of any appliances containing refrigerant chemicals. There are four types of certification:
- Type I - servicing small appliances
- Type II - servicing high and very high-pressure appliances
- Type III - servicing low pressure appliances
- Universal - servicing all appliances
To obtain certification at any of these levels, applicants must pass an exam that focuses on EPA regulations and recycling procedures, as well as sector-specific questions.
Those enrolled in a certification program are educated on various AC systems and become familiar with AC equipment. Candidates also learn the proper safety practices and procedures related to AC systems and competency in refrigerant handling. Topics in a certification program include:
- EPA rules and regulations
- Leak detection
- Refrigerant oils
- DOT cylinders
- Servicing small appliances
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), career opportunities among all heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers are expected to increase 14% between 2014 and 2024. The median annual salary earned by these workers was estimated at $45,110 by the BLS in May 2015.
After completing a certificate program, graduates may choose to continue their education with an associate's degree in this field. An associate's degree program offers additional training in the service and repair of AC systems. Business classes are also available within this program for those interested in starting their own business.
Completing a degree program may offer promotional opportunities and increased pay with an employer. A bachelor's degree in AC engineering offers advanced education in the design and troubleshooting of AC systems. Students in this program focus on making AC systems more effective and energy efficient, while implementing new technology into homes and buildings.
Before you can legally work with the refrigerants needed to install and maintain AC and refrigerator units , you need to be certified by the EPA. EPA-approved AC certification and certificate programs provide students with the in-depth technical knowledge and proficiency needed to earn one (or more) of the four types of certifications offered by the EPA.