Furnaces are designed to heat air before that air gets distributed, through ducts, to various parts of a building. Furnace maintenance can be learned through diploma, associate's, and bachelor's programs in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration. It may be helpful for students to have completed plenty of math and science coursework prior to admission in addition to a high school diploma or GED. Depending on the state, it may be necessary for HVAC technicians to have licenses. Testing is required to prove proficiency. Voluntary certification opportunities also exist for knowledgeable HVAC technicians and installers.
Diploma in Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
Students in diploma-level HVAC/R programs prepare for entry-level positions by learning to read blueprints, construct control units and repair mechanical components like compressors, fans and thermostats. Diploma programs typically require less than a 1-year commitment.
Through an HVAC/R diploma program, prospective HVAC technicians can learn to re-wire and otherwise fix furnaces. Coursework may include:
- Commercial controls
- HVAC/R electricity
- Gas heating
- Refrigeration systems
- Technical mathematics
Associate Degree in Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
Associate degree programs can provide students with more advanced training in air flow system design, electronics and trouble-shooting of heating and cooling systems. Programs are hands-on and require students to learn to read wiring schematics and solve problems on location. Many times, 2-year associate degree credits in HVAC/R can be transferred to a bachelor's degree program.
In addition to general education requirements, associate degree programs teach applied sciences relevant to HVAC/R repair. Classes might cover:
- Construction blueprint reading
- Heat pumps
- Residential wiring
- Sheet metal
Bachelor's Degree in Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration
Students in bachelor's degree programs in HVAC/R might study heat loss and load calculations. The curriculum typically lasts four years. Applicants to bachelor's programs can apply directly from high school or as transfer students.
Students prepare to operate as independent businessmen by learning about environmental restrictions, building codes and communication skills. Core coursework might include:
- Business management
- Mechanical systems design
- Professional ethics
- Systems installation
According to the BLS, there were 367,900 heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers employed across various fields as of May 2018. The BLS reported that in 2018, 64% of heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers were employed in the plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors industry. Other employers included commercial and industrial machinery and equipment repair, wholesalers and direct selling establishments. Approximately 9% of workers in the field were self-employed.
Graduates from associate or bachelor degree programs might find work in the following positions:
- HVAC system design assistant
- Project manager
- Shop supervisor
- Facilities repair person
- HVAC/R mechanic
- Sheet metal duct installer
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 13% increase in jobs for heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers from 2018-2028 (www.bls.gov). This growth was anticipated due to an increase in new home construction, combined with the fact that HVAC systems need to be replaced every 10-15 years.
Licensure and Certification Information
In some states, and even in some local areas, HVAC technicians must hold licensure. There are differing requirements to earn a license; however, most states and local areas require passage of an exam. HVAC technicians must be further certified if they will buy or work with refrigerants. Applicants for this certification, which is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, can choose from tests for small, low-pressure or high-pressure appliances, as well as universal certification.
A number of organizations also offer voluntary certification for HVAC technicians. Common requirements include passing a test and meeting a quota for job experience or completing an apprenticeship program. In some cases, certification is available on general or master's levels, and some organizations offer specialist exams for topics like air distribution or oil hydronics.
By earning a diploma in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration, students learn the basics of furnace maintenance like reading blueprints and repairing mechanical components. Associate's and bachelor's students learn more advanced skills such as airflow design, troubleshooting, business management, and systems installation.