Almost every home in the country has a need for heating and/or cooling throughout the year. From the rural home to the urban apartment, wherever electricity is available there are air conditioning and heating units that break down and need repair. Add in refrigerators and the HVAC technician could just be the person most called for installation and repairs of some of the most necessary home appliances.
HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) technicians are trained professionals who generally focus on either installation of these types of systems or repair and maintenance of systems already in place. HVAC/R is an acronym for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration, however, refrigeration is a part of the education in the majority of training programs and it is generally not necessary to specify HVAC/R.
Those who would like to enter this growing field should begin with a high school diploma, a GED, or equivalent. HVAC installation, maintenance, and repair is considered a trade and education for this career is undertaken at a trade school, either in person or online. As with many other trade fields, the technical knowledge needed is a huge part of the curriculum, as is a general understanding of the field, beginning with the basics.
Most commonly, the student HVAC technician first gets a comprehensive look at what makes all these systems run in residential and commercial buildings – electricity. From delineating AC & DC circuitry to gas values, the whole of the power structure as it relates to HVAC industry situations is detailed. Students not only learned the correct operation of each of the individuals systems, but how to troubleshoot to facilitate repairs once they are in the field.
Following this detailed introduction, components of the HVAC technician’s job are broken down into system parts. The course load will generally consist of the tools and other equipment used in the trade, basic and advanced air conditioning (residential and commercial), heating, building construction and ventilation, and residential and commercial refrigeration.
Good trade schools will also provide mathematics instruction as it relates to each area of the HVAC technician’s scope of work, from general principles to the specifics of correct implementation of tools used in the profession.
Part of the HVAC technician’s training includes understanding the mechanics of the different systems they will encounter in their work world. As such, education in this field generally consists of the following:
The majority of homes and businesses generally operate on one of three systems: gas, oil, or electricity. The technician will learn the actual mechanics of each system, the operation of both the parts and the whole, and repairs and maintenance of each. Each of the different furnaces are covered, as well as the tools used.
From residential to commercial construction, the different types of ventilation systems are learned, inclusive of their installation and proper maintenance. Repair of these systems is detailed, as are the tools used. Installation of duct work, from sizing to fabricating, is detailed. Area specific instruction is also included, such as soldering, pipe threading and brazing from both an installation and a repair perspective.
Light commercial and residential air conditioning systems are taught, from theory to operational application. System details such as charging, recovery, and maintenance are part of the course materials. Circuitry is covered, along with the tools needed to perform each function of proper AC work.
Though most commonly thought of as pertaining to residential and commercial refrigerators, cooling and maintaining a cooler temperature applies equally to air conditioners, along with commercial refrigeration, such as that used in storage warehouses and restaurants. The cycle of refrigeration is explained and how compressors and condensers work is learned. The tools needed to measure and monitor the handling and charging of systems is a part of this course work for both commercial and residential application.
Students who undertake a trade school program to become an HVAC technician are required to undergo testing that, while it may vary somewhat state to state, generally consists of passing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certifications test (for working with chemicals used in refrigeration).
In addition to testing, HVAC technicians may have an apprenticeship requirement that can range anywhere from two to five years and depending on the state in which they plan to work, an HVAC technician may need to take an additional licensing exam.
Programs that offer an HVAC education may result in the technician receiving a certificate or diploma and in some cases may be a part of an associate’s degree. HVAC technicians can also specialize in a certain area or areas of this field with additional training.
The field of application for the technical knowledge and skills learned in an HVAC program is wide ranging. Many HVAC technicians will go into business for themselves (usually after working in the field and gaining additional experience), while others will work for a contractor who already has this type of business. In addition, nearly every business with heating, air conditioning and/or refrigeration is a potential customer. HVAC technicians can work for utility companies, food stores, restaurant chains, and school districts, just to name a few.
With the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a growth of 34% through the year 2020 – “much faster than average” (for all occupations) – this is an area with ongoing opportunity for both job opportunity and employment. The trained HVAC technician is poised to participate in vital and growing career field.
Learn more about this field through an available course or jump right into your career through participating in an online degree.