HVAC Training Schools: FAQs and Answers
Check out the answers to your top questions surrounding training and careers in this skilled trade. Find out about educational requirements, certification, salary expectations, career opportunities, and a lot more!
What do HVAC and HVAC/R stand for?
HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. The additional R stands for refrigeration. It's an industry-standard abbreviation for the broad field of indoor heating and cooling. The field also includes temperature and humidity control for home or office.
What are the requirements for training programs?
Attending a formal HVAC training school will likely require a high school diploma or a recognized equivalent (such as a GED).
How long does it take to complete training?
Training can take anywhere from less than a year (certificate) to five years (apprenticeship). Many diploma programs take an average of two years. An apprenticeship requires between three and five years of paid, on-the-job training and classroom instruction.
Occasionally schools will offer degree programs, which often combine communications, science and business education with hands-on training. Degree programs typically last between two and four years.
What skills can I learn in school?
A typical school offers hands-on instruction in the design, installation and maintenance of residential or commercial heating and cooling systems. Students learn the principles of heating and cooling as well as repair and safety. Students also learn how to read blueprints, use common tools and equipment found in the industry, and much more.
Do I need certification to start working?
It's becoming increasingly common for employers in this industry to require formal education and certification from employees. Most schools prepare their students for required certification exams.
Is an HVAC mechanic the same as an HVAC technician?
Yes, they are essentially the same. By seeking out and completing training, students should feel confident to pursue work as a mechanic, installer, or technician. Many professionals may specialize in installation or maintenance, but are proficient in both areas.
What are the standard job duties?
HVAC techs install and maintain furnaces, air conditioners and heat pumps. They work with their hands on motors, fans, compressors, duct work, electronics, fuels, coolants, heating coils and related equipment. The work is often physical, takes place in cramped quarters or at heights, and demands workers are fit and able to carry or lift significant weight.
What is the average income?
In this profession, you can expect to earn anywhere from about $15 to $30 per hour. Based on a 40-hour work week, that translates to an annual salary range of $30,811 to $67,357. The national average in the field was $48,000 annually, as of March, 2014.**
Is it possible to pursue heating, ventilation, and air conditioning training online?
It's possible to pursue training online.
What career options will I have?
After completing training, the majority of technicians work with contractors. Others work at service and repair shops, while many sell furnaces, air conditioners and heat pumps at the retail level. Additional opportunities exist with governments, school boards, and hospitals, or as small-business owners.
Three Different HVAC Jobs to Consider
Although your training will prepare you to both install and maintain the equipment necessary to run HVAC systems, you will probably end up specializing in either the installation of these systems, or their maintenance and repair.
As an installer, you will use blueprints and your knowledge of mechanical and electrical principles to install gas, oil, electric, and multiple-fuel heating and air-conditioning systems. You will also need some basic knowledge of plumbing and sheet metal technology for installing water and fuel supply lines, vents, air ducts, pumps, and other related components. Plus, once you have finished installing the equipment, you will need to check that it is functioning properly. This is done by using specialized testing equipment, such as carbon monoxide/oxygen testers and combustion analyzers.
The other side of the equation is, of course, the maintenance of these complex systems. As a service technician, you will replace malfunctioning parts (filters, pipes, and ducts), and take on repair work, such as overhauling compressors. Just like an installer, you will need to enjoy working with your hands, and be good at dealing with people.
It also helps to have some fairly refined problem-solving skills. Training can definitely help you build these skills by teaching you about common problems and how to diagnose and fix them.
Another consideration that potential installers and service technicians should be aware of is the increasing sophistication of industry technology. A course or two to develop your computer competency can be very helpful, especially considering the increased presence of complex, automated systems in modern buildings.
Energy Efficiency Specialist
Service technicians already have a certain amount of environmental awareness built into their job requirements—they must know how to properly conserve, recover, and recycle the potentially harmful refrigerants used in air-conditioning systems.
However, if you are interested in going one step further, you can turn your training into a truly "green" career, and take advantage of the rising awareness of the need to reduce energy consumption. To become an energy efficiency specialist, you could gain on-the-job training in the new energy-saving air conditioning and heating systems. Or, you could try to find a program that incorporates some of this knowledge through courses that teach you how to perform energy audits. Finally, you could take a program in energy efficiency that will complement your HVAC training with learning to analyze the energy usage of residential and commercial systems.
As an energy efficiency specialist, you can learn how to analyze existing systems and then either adjust them to be more efficient, or recommend alternative technology. You can also learn about the installation and maintenance of solar energy technology, and other renewable energy technologies.
*Skills Canada - Ontario, web site accessed March 17, 2014.
**Payscale.com, HVAC Technician Salary (Canada), web site accessed March 11, 2014.