How Much Does a HVAC Technician Earn Yearly?
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An HVAC technician is a highly trained worker that specializes in installing, servicing and repairing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. When you have a problem with your heating or cooling at home, an HVAC technician is who you’ll call.
However, to think that HVAC technicians are only responsible for fixing broken air conditioners would be a mistake. Instead, HVAC technicians might specialize in installation of new systems. Conversely, they might specialize in repairing old systems. And with emerging technologies like solar-powered heating and cooling, this field of work will only expand in the future.
In broad terms, HVAC technicians are responsible for installing new heating and air conditioning systems, servicing existing systems, and replacing old systems. Given the fact that HVAC systems control not just the temperature of homes and businesses but the air quality as well, HVAC technicians have a critically important job.
Some of the most common duties of an HVAC technician are outlined below.
Whether working in a newly constructed building or retrofitting an older structure with a new HVAC system, many technicians in this line of work spend the bulk of their time installing HVAC components. Technicians are responsible for everything from determining how large a system is needed to installing ductwork to running tests on systems to ensure they’re working properly.
For example, an HVAC technician that has installed an air conditioning unit in a home would run diagnostics to determine if the unit is pushing out the necessary amount of cool air to maintain the desired temperature in the home. Often, technicians will work side-by-side with a refrigerant technician, who is responsible for charging the air conditioning system with refrigerant.
From time to time, HVAC systems require service of some sort, and HVAC technicians are responsible for responding to service calls. For example, annual checks are done to inspect the blower fan, thermostat, ductwork connections, and so forth, to ensure that the HVAC system is operating as efficiently as possible.
If a major issue occurs with an HVAC system, HVAC technicians are called in to try to repair the problem. For example, if the compressor of an HVAC unit goes out, an HVAC technician would replace the broken unit with an operable one. As another example, thermostats can go out, causing problems with the interior temperature of the building and necessitating repairs.
In some areas, HVAC technicians are allowed to manufacture ductwork and install that ductwork when the HVAC system is installed. This job duty entails cutting sheet metal to size to create the ductwork, attaching the ducts to the main HVAC unit, and mounting the ductwork, usually in the floors or ceilings of the structure’s rooms.
With the ever-rising cost of power, many individuals, families, and businesses are interested in finding ways to save money and conserve energy. To achieve those ends, HVAC technicians might be called upon to conduct an energy usage inspection, in which they inspect existing HVAC systems, test their performance, install smart technologies to better manage heating and cooling, and make recommendations to the property owner for other upgrades to enhance the HVAC system’s performance.
Working as an HVAC technician is not an easy job. Though some portions of the day are likely spent in a comfortable office setting where paperwork is done and sales and service calls are made and received, the bulk of the day is spent on location working on HVAC systems. This often means crawling into attics or crawlspaces, working outdoors in the heat or cold, and driving long distances between one appointment and the next.
In other words, HVAC technicians have a wide range of working conditions, but in most cases, there’s a lot of physical exertion in tight or dark spaces that can be quite uncomfortable.
HVAC technician degree programs provide a wide range of learning opportunities that enable students to enter the workforce and complete their job duties with competence. Some of the most common learning targets include, but are not limited to:
Most HVAC technicians either pursue a certificate (or diploma) in HVAC systems or an associate’s degree.
Certificate and diploma programs often last a year or less, with many programs running just six months. These certificate programs are usually offered at trade schools, though some community colleges also offer them.
These programs focus on the hands-on skills related specifically to working as an HVAC technician. For example, a student might take a class on air conditioning maintenance that involves both classroom instruction from an experienced air conditioning technician as well as opportunities to work in a lab setting to put their learning to use.
A significant benefit of certificate programs is that they often have minimal admissions requirements, like having a high school diploma or GED.
Another option is to pursue an associate’s degree in HVAC systems or a related area. These programs usually last two years and require students to complete approximately 60 credit hours of coursework. Since a college degree is involved, students must take general education courses in math, science, language arts, social studies, and so forth, in addition to the courses required for their major, like electrical systems, heating systems, air conditioning, and so on.
Whether a student gets a certificate or an associate’s degree, most jobs in this field include a period of on-the-job training to provide even more knowledge and skills. Often, HVAC technicians will also enter into an apprenticeship in which they work under an experienced technician for a period of three to five years.
HVAC technicians are not required to be certified unless they are involved in buying, handling, or working with refrigerants. In that case, the Environmental Protection Agency requires workers to take and pass an EPA certification exam to ensure they have the competence to install and service refrigerant-based systems.
Some, though not all states require HVAC technicians to be licensed. The licensing requirements vary from one state to the next, and often from one municipality to the next. However, licensure usually requires that applicants have the proper training, certifications as applicable, and have completed a specific number of hours in an apprenticeship before licensure will be administered.
HVAC technicians rely not only on the knowledge and skills they acquire in their training, but also on a variety of tools that help them do their job. Though not a complete list, the following are among the tools an HVAC technician uses on a regular basis:
A manifold gauge is used to find leaks in an HVAC system. It’s also handy for removing refrigerant from air conditioning systems.
HVAC technicians often use thermometers to determine the change in temperature that results from installing or fixing an HVAC system.
This tool enables workers to determine if an electrical line is live or not before they begin work.
A good cordless drill will likely be the most used tool in an HVAC technician’s toolkit because they’ll be used to fasten and unfasten screws on control units and throughout heating systems and cooling systems.
Many HVAC technicians work with sheet metal, so snips or shears are necessary to do sheet metal work onsite.
Flathead, Phillips, and hex screwdrivers are often necessary for use in tight spaces where a battery-powered drill with screwdriver bit cannot fit.
A pipe wrench is used to connect HVAC systems to water supplies as well as natural gas lines.
As noted earlier, HVAC technicians need the requisite training in a certificate or associate’s degree program as well as several years of on-the-job training or an apprenticeship to be fully prepared to work on one’s own. Additionally, there are certain skills, qualities, and traits that enable HVAC technicians to do their jobs well. These include, but are not limited to:
Entering the workforce as an HVAC technician offers many different benefits from job opportunities to pay to career advancement. Some of the top benefits of a career in this field include:
As with any career, there are a few drawbacks of becoming an HVAC technician. Among some of the most important disadvantages to consider are:
According to a 2016 report by Bureau of Labor Statistics, the HVAC technician field is expected to grow at a rate of 15 percent between now and 2026. This growth rate is much faster than average, which stands at about a six percent rate of growth for the same time period.
The primary reason why HVAC technicians are predicted to be in such high demand is the increasingly complex nature and sophistication of today’s heating and cooling systems. With air conditioning and heating in residential and business locations involving automation, including app-based and cloud-based controls, many HVAC companies are seeking out a new generation of technicians to fill positions that require a high level of technical knowledge.
Additionally, job growth in this line of work is expected to rise because of the increasing need for older heating and cooling systems to be updated to more efficient, environmentally-friendly systems. As individuals and businesses choose to upgrade those systems, more jobs in this field will become available.
There are a number of different occupations that offer similar work experiences as an HVAC technician. Some of the most common of these jobs are as follows:
Electricians are responsible for installing, servicing, and repairing electrical systems, lighting, communication systems, and control systems. This includes installing wiring, inspecting electrical components, troubleshooting electrical problems, using tools to repair broken electrical components, and ensuring that all work that’s done adheres to the appropriate regulations.
Plumbers install and repair pipe systems in homes, businesses, factories, and many other types of construction. In addition to putting new plumbing systems in, plumbers are often asked to troubleshoot plumbing problems and repair any damage they find as part of the inspection process. Replacing plumbing fixtures like sinks, toilets, bathtubs, and valves is a central part of the job as well.
A sheet metal worker fabricates various products that are made of very thin metal. For example, a sheet metal worker might fabricate the ductwork for the HVAC system in a high-rise building. Though the fabrication might take place in a factory setting, often, sheet metal workers will be asked to make minor adjustments to their work at the construction site to account for unforeseen obstacles.
A solar voltaic installer is responsible for the installation of consumer and business-grade solar panel systems for generating electricity. This job entails many facets, from planning the arrangement of the solar array to designing and fabricating the support structure for the solar panels to testing and servicing solar panel arrays.