HVAC is the acronym for “heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.” HVAC technicians are the people work with the special technologies associated with automotive and indoor environments and comfort levels. In other words, thanks to HVAC, homes and cars are heated during cold winter months and cooled during hot summer months. Then, for hot and cold air to be maintained at a comfortable temperature and unwanted odors, moisture, and particulate matter to be removed from the air, proper ventilation is needed.
Working with this technology requires intense HVAC training because HVAC is based on several sub-disciplines, one of which is mechanical engineering. However, HVAC also involves learning about the principles of this type of engineering for things such as heat transfer, thermodynamics, and fluid mechanics. Additionally, technicians must be schooled in how to recover, conserve and recycle the various refrigerants used in air conditioning systems, since they are harmful if released into the environment.
For these reason, HVAC training can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years!
Vital statistics: The U.S. Bureau of Labor reports that this trade reports “greater than average” job growth (for the period between 2008-2018) and offers excellent employment opportunities, especially for those individuals who have completed training from an accredited institution or formal apprentice. 86,000 new jobs are estimated to be created in this trade by that time.
As far as the heating aspect of HVAC goes, several systems are included. The one that is used the most to heat homes and businesses is central heating. This type of system is comprised of multiple components to include a heat pump, boiler, or furnace, which is what heats water, steam, or air, which is then forced out into the indoor environment to make rooms warm and comfortable.
Another type of heating system is forced air, which works by forcing heated air through ductwork. In this case, the ductwork would also be used in the summer during which time cold air is forced through. One other system commonly used is called resistive heating. For this, the passage of electricity heats conductive filaments found in portable heaters, baseboard heaters, and various other backup heating systems.
Then for the ventilation part of HVAC training, an individual would learn about the process in which heated or cooled air is replaced. Because of this system, maintaining a comfortable temperature is possible but in addition, ventilation systems are designed to eliminate indoor odors, smoke, bacteria, carbon dioxide, dust, moisture, and others things but also replenish needed oxygen.
The third part of HVAC training focuses on air conditioning, where heat and moisture is removed from the air, lowering both temperature and humidity. As with heating and ventilation systems, there are a number of different air conditioning systems. The most popular types are radiation, convection, and heat pump. With the installation of an air conditioning system, the indoor environment is cooled and ventilated and levels of humidity are controlled.
The above information is only a brief description of what each component of HVAC involves, which demonstrates the critical nature of proper HVAC training.
HVAC training is commonly obtained in one of two ways…
- From a technical trade school, vocational school or community college. Check the Air Conditioning Contractors Of America career center to find a school near you. Any school you investigate should be accredited by one of three agencies: HVAC Excellence; the National Center for Construction Education and Research; and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Accreditation.
- From a formal apprenticeship. This can last anywhere from 3-5 years. The benefit of a formal apprenticeship is that you get paid while you work. Normally, an apprenticeship in this field will combine on the job training with classroom work. To learn more about apprenticeship programs, you will need to investigate the local chapters of related associations; Air Conditioning Contractors Of America, the Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors Association and the United Association (Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders and HVAC Service Techs).
Most states, localities and provinces will have some sort of licensing program in effect, requiring you to write and pass a test in order to obtain a license to practice. Technicians who work with, or purchase refrigerants will require additional certification, proving they are proficient in the handling of such things.
Another important aspect of HVAC training is earning your NATE (North American Technician Excellence) certification.
For companies interested in hiring an expert in this field, certification provides confidence the person has completed the most extensive education possible. As a result, the person hired would be able to step into the position and immediately provide value to the company and its clients being serviced.
Keep in mind that NATE certification is not mandatory to be hired to work in this field but having this certification will provide you with an advantage over other job candidates.
HVAC technicians can also demonstrate their competency with different types of systems (oil burning furnaces, heat pumps, etc) and equipment by taking different specific tests to certify their abilities. This is normally done after the HVAC technician is licensed and has been working for some time. Taking the tests and becoming certified in specific HVAC related fields can boost income-earning potential.
HVAC Technician Salary
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor, the median average income of HVAC techs in 2008 was $19.08 per hour. Wages can range greatly though – anywhere from $12-$30 per hour depending on a number of factors.