Students can find both online HVAC/R technician and HVAC system design certificate programs. HVAC/R technician certificate programs can be taken entirely through distance learning, and coursework covers HVAC installation, safety practices and troubleshooting. The program typically prepares students to take the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) Certification Examination upon earning the certificate. Programs might also train students to pass the EPA Refrigerant Handlers Certification Exam for workers who deal with refrigerants.
The HVAC system design certificate programs are higher-level programs aimed at students who already hold a bachelor's degree and wish to explore the engineering and design side of the HVAC field. These programs are often hosted at universities and colleges, and not all courses required for the certificate may be online, so students should keep this in mind.
HVAC/R Technician Certificates
Certificate programs require the completion of anywhere from 1-16 courses, or 320 credit hours. Students learn about heat transfer methods, safety considerations and system components. Most programs lead to licensing opportunities and prepare students for entry-level positions as HVAC/R technicians.
Program Information and Requirements
For individuals seeking entry-level positions, continuing education credits or to strengthen skills, this program offers training in installation and troubleshooting of HVAC/R systems. Computers should be equipped with the most current Microsoft or Apple operating systems and at least a 56K modem, although schools sometimes recommend that students have access to a broadband Internet connection to ensure faster transmission of course materials. Students will be notified at the start of classes or at registration if they are required to purchase special equipment or textbooks.
A course may be separated into sections, or there may be several different courses in the certificate program. These classes instruct students on everything from components of HVAC/R systems to troubleshooting techniques for repair.
Fundamentals of HVAC/R
The course introduces students to the HVAC industry and measurements for air and gas works, HVAC/R, heat energy and pressure. The second portion of this course focuses on safety. Students learn the use of personal protective equipment, techniques for safety in confined spaces and safe use of fire extinguishers and compressed gas.
HVAC/R Electrical System
Students learn about Ohm's Law and the characteristics of DC and AC circuits. The course teaches them to read and use schematic symbols for electrical circuits. In the second half of this course, students discuss the production and application of alternating currents for HVAC/R system devices.
The course covers components of refrigeration units, including compressors and condenser units. Capacity control, determining the appropriate size for piping systems and measurement of the refrigeration cycle are all portions of this course.
HVAC System Design Certificates
System design programs include instruction on code requirements, comparison of HVAC systems and digital controls. These online programs are available through a school's engineering department or continuing and professional studies department. Students learn about evaluating various systems for longevity, reviewing maintenance requirements and comparing various systems.
Program Information and Requirements
This certificate requires the completion of 4-5 courses. Students must have engineering experience and a bachelor's degree. Technical requirements include software programs, such as Macromedia's Flash Player, Adobe Reader and Microsoft PowerPoint Viewer, so students can view course materials. Students must have a computer with an Internet connection and working speakers or headphones. Pop-up blockers must be disabled.
Students learn about laws regarding the design and installation of HVAC systems, calculations for HVAC systems used in buildings and the controls used in such systems. Students may have the option to visit an HVAC construction site.
In some certificate programs, this topic is broken into four courses. Beginning courses introduce the components of HVAC systems and laws related to HVAC systems, such as classification. Advanced courses cover the comparison of different systems, including maintenance requirements and costs over the entire life of the system.
Introduction to Direct Digital Controls
Students learn how direct digital controls (DDC) can affect design processes for HVAC systems. This course details the steps in design of HVAC DDC systems and prepares students for advanced DDC controls and networks.
Students learn to calculate heating and cooling loads and other required calculations for a variety of buildings. Students explore codes and guidelines that affect HVAC calculations. An overview of computer programs used in HVAC design is also included in the course.
Although an HVAC technician is trained to install and repair related units, they usually specialize in either repair and maintenance or installation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reported that 324,310 technicians were servicing heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration units in 2018 (www.bls.gov). Those individuals earned approximately $22.89 per hour or $47,610 in 2018, according to O*Net Online (http://online.onetcenter.org').
Individuals with HVAC system design training may find work as HVAC mechanical engineers and senior engineering positions in facilities and maintenance departments, according to Payscale.com. In 2019, the site reported mechanical engineers and others with HVAC systems design training earned an average yearly salary ranging from around $51,000 to $97,000.
According to the North American Technical Excellence (NATE) organization, individuals may receive NATE certification in several specialties, including gas or oil furnaces, light commercial or commercial refrigeration, gas or oil hydronics, air conditioning, air distribution and air-to-air heat pumps (www.natex.org). The certification process includes testing in HVAC core skills and a specialty. Work experience is recommended prior to testing. Professionals must complete recertification every five years, either through completion of 60 hours of continuing education or by retaking the specialty examination.
Another option for certification is from the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). Individuals seeking AHRI certification must complete the Industry Competency Examination, which can be completed online ( http://www.ahrinet.org/).
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers offers certification in several categories, including building energy modeling (www.ashrae.org). Candidates must first pay a fee and specify how they will meet certification criteria, then pass a certification test.
HVAC/R technician and HVAC system design certificate programs are available online and prepare students to take the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) Certification Examination or EPA Refrigerant Handlers Certification Exam. Common courses include topics on design, installation, controls, and calculations related to HVAC.