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Become An AC Technician

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Working As An AC Technician

  • Repairing and Maintaining Mechanical Equipment
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Getting Information
  • Handling and Moving Objects
  • Outdoors/walking/standing

  • Stressful

  • $41,000

    Average Salary

What Does An AC Technician Do

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers—often called HVACR technicians—work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems that control the temperature and air quality in buildings.

Duties

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers typically do the following:

  • Use blueprints or design specifications to install or repair HVACR systems
  • Connect systems to fuel and water supply lines, air ducts, and other components
  • Install electrical wiring and controls and test for their proper operation
  • Inspect and maintain customers’ HVACR systems
  • Test individual components to determine necessary repairs
  • Repair or replace worn or defective parts
  • Determine HVACR systems’ energy use and make recommendations to improve their efficiency

Heating and air conditioning systems control the temperature, humidity, and overall air quality in homes, businesses, and other buildings. By providing a climate-controlled environment, refrigeration systems make it possible to store and transport food, medicine, and other perishable items.

Although HVACR technicians are trained to install, maintain, and repair heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems, many focus their work on installation, maintenance, or repair. Some technicians specialize in one or more specific aspects of HVACR, such as radiant heating systems, solar panels, testing and balancing, or commercial refrigeration.

When installing or repairing air conditioning and refrigeration systems, technicians must follow government regulations regarding the conservation, recovery, and recycling of refrigerants. The regulations include those concerning the proper handling and disposal of fluids and pressurized gases.

Some HVACR technicians sell service contracts to their clients, providing periodic maintenance of heating and cooling systems. The service usually includes inspecting the system, cleaning ducts, replacing filters, and checking refrigerant levels.

Other workers sometimes help install or repair cooling and heating systems. For example, on a large air conditioning installation job, especially one in which workers are covered by union contracts, ductwork may be installed by sheet metal workers, electrical work by electricians, and pipework by plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters. Boiler systems sometimes are installed by a boilermaker. In addition, home appliance repairers usually service window air conditioners and household refrigerators.

HVACR technicians use many different tools. For example, they often use screwdrivers, wrenches, pipe cutters, and other basic hand tools when installing systems. Technicians also use more sophisticated tools, such as carbon monoxide testers, voltmeters, combustion analyzers, and acetylene torches, to test or install system components.

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How To Become An AC Technician

Because HVACR systems have become increasingly complex, employers generally prefer applicants with postsecondary education or those who have completed an apprenticeship. Some states and localities require technicians to be licensed. Workers may need to pass a background check prior to being hired.

Education

A growing number of HVACR technicians receive postsecondary instruction from technical and trade schools or community colleges that offer programs in heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration. These programs generally last from 6 months to 2 years and lead to a certificate or an associate’s degree. To keep program costs lower, many schools are combining online lectures with in-class lab work.

High school students interested in becoming an HVACR technician should take courses in vocational education, math, and physics. Knowledge of plumbing or electrical work and a basic understanding of electronics is also helpful.

Training

Some HVACR technicians learn their trade exclusively on the job, although this practice is becoming much less common. Those who do usually begin by assisting experienced technicians with basic tasks, such as insulating refrigerant lines or cleaning furnaces. In time, they move on to more difficult tasks, including cutting and soldering pipes or checking electrical circuits.

Some technicians receive their training through an apprenticeship. Apprenticeship programs usually last 3 to 5 years. Each year, apprentices must have at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and a minimum of 144 hours of related technical education. Over the course of the apprenticeship, technicians learn safety practices, blueprint reading, and how to use tools. They also learn about the numerous systems that heat and cool buildings. To enter an apprenticeship program, a trainee must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Pass a basic math test
  • Pass a substance abuse screening
  • Have a valid driver’s license

Apprenticeship programs frequently are run by joint committees representing local chapters of various organizations, including the following:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America, Inc.
  • Associated Builders and Contractors
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America
  • Home Builders Institute
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
  • SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers
  • United Association Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, and Service Techs
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all technicians who buy, handle, or work with refrigerants to be certified in proper refrigerant handling. To become certified, technicians must pass a written exam specific to one of three specializations: Type I—small appliances; Type II—high-pressure refrigerants; and Type III—low-pressure refrigerants. Many trade schools, unions, and employer associations offer training programs designed to prepare students for the EPA exam.

Whether having learned the occupation through postsecondary education or through other means, HVACR technicians may take several different tests that measure their abilities. These tests require different levels of experience. Technicians with relevant coursework and less than 2 years of experience may take the entry-level certification exams. These exams test basic competency in residential heating and cooling, light commercial heating and cooling, and commercial refrigeration. Technicians can take the exams at technical and trade schools.

HVACR technicians who have at least 1 year of installation experience and 2 years of maintenance and repair experience can take a number of specialized exams. These exams certify their competency in working with specific types of equipment, such as oil-burning furnaces or compressed-refrigerant cooling systems. Many organizations offer certifying exams. For example, North American Technician Excellence offers the Industry Competency Exam; HVAC Excellence offers a Secondary Employment Ready Exam, a Secondary Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology exam, and a Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology Plus exam; the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute offers a basic test and an advanced test in conjunction with the Home Builders Institute; the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association offers the entry-level Certified Assistant Refrigeration Operator and Certified Industrial Refrigeration Operator certifications; and the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) offers EPA certification and specialized-knowledge certificates.

Certifications can be helpful because they show that the technician has specific competencies. Some employers actively seek out industry-certified HVACR technicians.

Some states and localities require HVACR technicians to be licensed. Although specific licensing requirements vary, all candidates must pass an exam.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. HVACR technicians often work in customers’ homes or business offices, so it is important that they be friendly, polite, and punctual. Repair technicians sometimes must deal with unhappy customers whose heating or air conditioning is not working.

Detail oriented. HVACR technicians must carefully maintain records of all work performed. The records must include the nature of the work performed and the time it took, as well as list specific parts and equipment that were used.

Math skills. HVACR technicians need to calculate the correct load requirements to ensure that the HVACR equipment properly heats or cools the space required.

Mechanical skills. HVACR technicians install and work on complicated climate-control systems, so they must understand the HVAC components and be able to properly assemble, disassemble, and, if needed, program them.

Physical stamina. HVACR technicians may spend many hours walking and standing. The constant physical activity can be tiring.

Physical strength. HVACR technicians may have to lift and support heavy equipment and components, often without help.

Time-management skills. HVACR technicians frequently have a set number of daily maintenance calls. They should be able to keep a schedule and complete all necessary repairs or tasks.

Troubleshooting skills. HVACR technicians must be able to identify problems on malfunctioning heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems and then determine the best way to repair them.

Because HVACR workers often work in and around people’s homes, they may need to pass a background check before being hired.

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AC Technician Career Paths

AC Technician
Hvac Technician Maintenance Supervisor Supervisor
Service Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Hvac Technician Maintenance Supervisor
Maintenance Director
11 Yearsyrs
Hvac Technician Maintenance Supervisor Facilities Manager
Director Of Facilities
11 Yearsyrs
Technician Foreman Superintendent
Construction Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Technician Engineer Project Engineer
Engineering Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Technician Electrician
Maintenance Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
Electrician Foreman Superintendent
Construction Superintendent
9 Yearsyrs
Electrician Foreman Manager
Facilities Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Engineer Owner Maintenance Manager
Facilities Maintenance Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Engineer Project Manager Owner/Operator
General Contractor
5 Yearsyrs
Lead Technician Manager Service Manager
Installation Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Lead Technician Owner Maintenance Director
Director Of Plant Operations
13 Yearsyrs
Lead Technician Owner Chief Engineer
Chief Building Engineer
10 Yearsyrs
Field Technician Field Service Technician
Technical Services Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Field Technician Journeyman Maintenance Electrician
Senior Maintenance Technician
8 Yearsyrs
Field Technician Shop Foreman Lead Person
Maintenance Lead Person
6 Yearsyrs
Hvac Mechanic Journeyman Maintenance Electrician
Maintenance Lead Technician
7 Yearsyrs
Hvac Mechanic Journeyman Journeyman Electrician
Maintenance Technician Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
Hvac Mechanic Lead Installer Service Technician Lead
Technical Services Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
Maintenance Lead Person Maintenance Director Airport Maintenance Chief
Chief Maintenance Engineer
7 Yearsyrs
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Top Skills for An AC Technician

  1. Air-Conditioning Units
  2. Hvac
  3. Duct Board
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Assisted with rebuilding air-conditioning units that ranged in size from 3000 to 50,000 pounds.
  • Complete HVAC commercial & residential insurance replacement.
  • Prepare duct board fiber glass to precision length for air flow.
  • Perform preventative maintenance to prevent equipment from failing unnecessarily and possibly jeopardizing the mission.
  • Preformed change outs, retro-fits, and completed new installs.

AC Technician Demographics

Gender

Male

81.3%

Unknown

14.0%

Female

4.6%
Ethnicity

White

51.0%

Hispanic or Latino

25.5%

Black or African American

13.3%

Asian

6.5%

Unknown

3.7%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

89.3%

French

7.1%

Cherokee

3.6%

AC Technician Education

Schools

Everest Institute

11.1%

Universal Technical Institute

9.8%

Florida Career College - Miami

7.2%

Houston Community College

5.9%

University of Phoenix

5.9%

Refrigeration School Inc

5.2%

South Texas College

5.2%

St. Philip's College

5.2%

ITI Technical College

5.2%

Texas State Technical College - Waco

4.6%

Palm Beach State College

4.6%

The Academy

3.9%

Sheridan Technical Center

3.9%

Kilgore College

3.9%

Valencia College

3.3%

Indian River State College

3.3%

Everest University-Tampa

3.3%

Hodges University

3.3%

Huertas College

2.6%

Del Mar College

2.6%
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Majors

Heating And Air Conditioning

30.5%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

17.2%

Business

7.5%

Automotive Technology

6.6%

Electrical Engineering Technology

6.1%

Electrical Engineering

4.4%

Criminal Justice

3.5%

General Studies

3.3%

Mechanical Engineering

2.4%

Computer Science

2.3%

Information Technology

2.1%

Precision Metal Working

1.9%

Graphic Design

1.9%

Education

1.7%

Liberal Arts

1.7%

Industrial Technology

1.6%

Accounting

1.6%

Management

1.2%

Psychology

1.2%

Engineering

1.2%
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Degrees

Other

45.1%

Associate

17.7%

Certificate

13.8%

Bachelors

12.8%

Diploma

8.2%

License

1.5%

Masters

0.8%

Doctorate

0.1%
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