There a number of online HVAC technician certificate programs available that can teach students about electrical circuits, heating devices, refrigerants and safety strategies. Although courses are taken remotely, programs may require students to seek out a local HVAC firm or technician to supervise hands-on training or an internship.
Many programs prepare individuals for a variety of certifications with organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute and North American Technician Excellence. Students interested in these programs may need some construction experience to enroll.
HVAC Technician Certificate
Most structures use systems to control their interior environments, including gas or oil heating, central air conditioning, solar hot-water circulation and plumbing. Increased demand for environmental controls, along with the need to maintain, repair and upgrade existing systems, is expected to keep the demand for trained HVAC technicians high.
Many certificate programs are open to all interested applicants; some require a high school diploma or equivalent. Applicants with few building trade skills may benefit from a brief job or internship in the construction industry to gain carpentry, wiring, plumbing or metalwork experience. Applicants should review their host schools' requirements carefully.
Distance learning courses require a computer with graphic and sound capabilities, and a fast connection to the Internet. Most online HVAC programs are a series of asynchronous modules combining prerecorded video, reading assignments, exercises, quizzes and exams. Students can complete modules at their own speed; students can reasonably expect to finish all coursework in 2-3 years of part-time study.
Many industry associations support development of a standard curriculum for HVAC technicians, and online programs reflect this approach. Upon completion of the program, students will have experience in most aspects of HVAC technology. Subjects include:
This course covers terminology and fundamental concepts of electricity. Topics include direct versus alternating current, circuits, components, schematics, symbols and wiring. Common building codes and safety practices are reviewed.
Control components in HVAC systems are evaluated, including thermostats, relays, rheostats and microcomputer circuits. Students learn to install different devices and use diagnostic tools to measure their efficacy.
Students learn basic electric motor theory and the operation of different devices, including single- and multi-phase motors, capacitor motors and hermetically sealed motors. Applications for each device are discussed, as well as installation instructions and troubleshooting procedures.
Students learn common terms and components of the mechanical compression refrigeration cycle. Refrigeration components include compressors, condensers, evaporators and metering devices. Also covered are the design and installation of piping, control devices and the proper handling of refrigerants.
This course covers the fundamental principles of oil and gas heating systems, including fuel delivery, storage, pipes, ducts and the function of burners and furnaces. Safety procedures, building codes, basic troubleshooting and system maintenance requirements are discussed. Traditional heating systems are compared to heat pump technology.
Technicians commonly specialize in either installation or repair, and often limit their practice to a subset of HVAC technology rather than work in all areas. The field of home HVAC repair and maintenance, however, often requires the skills of a generalist. The impact of unions may affect the types of work available to technicians on job sites. Experienced technicians may find job advancement opportunities in management, sales, general contracting and consulting to the building trades.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 14% growth of jobs for all heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers from 2014 to 2024, a rate much faster than the average of all U.S. jobs. The median wage for HVAC mechanics and installers in 2015 was $21.69 per hour (www.bls.gov).
Several states require HVAC technicians to obtain a license to practice, and to pass an examination in each specialty. All U.S. technicians handling refrigerants must be certified. Common certification exams include the ARI Industry Competence Exam and the NATE Core Exam, and schools offering HVAC certificate courses often schedule a proctored exam at the end of the program.
To enter the HVAC field, students may consider pursuing an HVAC technician certificate online. These programs can generally be completed in a part-time manner in 2-3 years and may allow students to get hands-on training though an internship.