HVAC installers may be required to secure state licensure or certification before beginning work. The requirements for licensure vary by state and specialization. Voluntary certification are also available through several professional organizations.
Becoming a Licensed HVAC Installer
The licensing requirements for HVAC installers vary by state, but typically include completing postsecondary education and on-the-job training as well as passing one or more exams. Some states have several examinations that require applicants to gain several credentials. Kentucky, for example, has examinations for limited journeymen, journeymen and master HVAC contractors. Installers who work with refrigerants must be certified in handling and transportation of refrigerants. Examinations must be approved by the EPA.
State requirements for licensure are also subject to change at any time, so aspiring installers should check their local regulating authority for the most up to date requirements.
The EPA requires that all HVAC installers be certified in the proper handling of refrigerant materials. For certification, aspiring installers must pass a written exam in one of three specializations:
- Small appliances
- High-pressure refrigerants
- Low-pressure refrigerants
Voluntary certifications are also available to installers through professional organizations. These include the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society and the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute. Some employers prefer to hire HVCA technicians who are industry certified.
Most HVAC installers and mechanics begin training at community or technical colleges. The programs generally culminate in a diploma or certificate. Additionally, many HVAC installers are trained through 3-5 year apprenticeship programs. There are several organizations that accredit HVAC training programs, including the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation.
Training programs cover a wide range of career-focused topics, including:
- Blueprint reading
- Sheet metal fabrication
- Digital electronics
- Basic electricity
- Electrical troubleshooting
- Mechanical troubleshooting
- Corrective maintenance for furnaces and air conditioners
In some programs, installers also receive training in the handling of refrigerants to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, including transfer and storage. Programs dealing with refrigeration techniques may also be known as HVACR (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration) programs.
HVAC professionals install and maintain heating, ventilation, air conditioning and cooling systems. The occupation requires workers to be skilled in electrical work, plumbing, sheet metal work and air conditioning. Specific job duties include:
- Installing electrical wiring
- Connecting systems to power and water supply lines
- Inspecting systems
- Replacing malfunctioning parts
- Evaluating energy efficiency
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for HVAC professionals are expected to increase by 14% from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than the national average. As of May 2016, the mean annual wage for these workers was $48,320.
HVAC professionals are required to be certified by the EPA if they work with refrigerants, otherwise voluntary certifications are available from many different organizations. Some HVAC techs are also required to earn state licensure; the requirements to earn this vary by state.