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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:
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.
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:
Apprenticeship programs frequently are run by joint committees representing local chapters of various organizations, including the following:
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.
Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before Air-Conditioning Mechanic
Top Careers After Air-Conditioning Mechanic
Hispanic or Latino16.3%
Black or African American0.5%
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Community College of the Air Force10.9%
University of Phoenix8.7%
Lincoln Technical Institute6.5%
Los Angeles Trade Technical College6.5%
Ferris State University6.5%
Apex Technical School6.5%
Bucks County Community College4.3%
Sacramento Job Corps Center4.3%
Nassau Community College4.3%
Tidewater Community College4.3%
Raritan Valley Community College4.3%
Northern Virginia Community College4.3%
Santa Fe College4.3%
Northeastern Technical College4.3%
Saint Leo University4.3%
Fayetteville Technical Community College4.3%
State University of New York Oneonta2.2%
Eastern Michigan University2.2%
Refrigeration School Inc2.2%
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|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||B & A Marine Co. Inc.||New York, NY||Jan 28, 2010||$73,045 -
|Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics||Air Perfect Corp.||New York, NY||Dec 20, 2011||$64,000|
|Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics||Nick J Kokonis, Inc.||Beltsville, MD||Apr 26, 2013||$63,586|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||Har Mart Corp||Aurora, CO||Jul 25, 2014||$55,723|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||All Nations Trading, Inc.||Chantilly, VA||Feb 19, 2014||$55,224|
|Heating, Air Conditioning * Refrigeration Mechanic||Mazur Mechanical Inc.||Stamford, CT||Mar 05, 2010||$54,575|
|Heating, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Mechanics & Installers||Mazur Mechanical Inc.||Stamford, CT||Feb 08, 2008||$54,575|
|Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics||Brown's Refrigeration Air Conditioning & Heating||College Park, MD||Feb 08, 2011||$54,454|
|Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics||Brown's Refrigeration Air Conditioning & Heating||College Park, MD||Feb 23, 2011||$54,454|
|Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics||John Nugent & Sons, Inc.||Sterling, VA||May 22, 2012||$54,454|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||S.K. Market||Inglewood, CA||Sep 19, 2013||$53,685|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||JMS Air Conditioning and Heating||CA||May 06, 2014||$53,685|
|Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics||WS Mechanical L.L.C.||Garfield, NJ||Sep 26, 2008||$51,966|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mech||Kool Rite Cooling Corp||New York, NY||Jul 09, 2008||$51,966|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||Thermobile North America LLC||Darien, WI||Mar 05, 2009||$47,368|
|Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics.||MR. G's Heating and Air Conditioning||Rahway, NJ||Aug 27, 2008||$47,291|
|Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers||Pacific Eagle Trading, Inc.||Dallas, TX||Jun 30, 2014||$46,000|
|Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics||L&B Universal, Inc.||Centreville, VA||Mar 06, 2009||$45,977|
|Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics||Clover Contracting Inc.||Fairfax, VA||Apr 15, 2008||$45,977|
|Heating, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Mechanic||R & R Mechanical Services LLC||MI||Apr 22, 2014||$45,831|
|Air Conditioned &Refrigeration Mechanics||All Standard Appliance's, Inc.||Centreville, VA||Oct 30, 2007||$45,831|
|Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics||Airplus Mechanical Company||Springfield, VA||Nov 09, 2007||$45,831|
|Air Conditioning and Appliance Mechanic||Refri Cool Appliance Corp.||Miami Beach, FL||Jan 17, 2008||$41,740|
|Air Conditioning and Appliance Mechanic||Refri Cool Appliance Corp.||Miami Beach, FL||Feb 23, 2009||$41,740|
|Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics||Air Force Mechanical Corp.||New York, NY||Mar 12, 2010||$41,740|
|Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics||HMFL Management Inc.||New York, NY||Jan 27, 2010||$41,677|
|Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanic||Bass Mechanical Corp.||NY||Apr 01, 2011||$41,677|
|Heating, Air Conditioning Mechanic||Cool Air Inc.||New York, NY||Dec 03, 2010||$41,677|
|Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics||Tragar Fuel Oil Co Inc. D/B/A Golden Touch Fuel Oil||Wantagh, NY||Apr 29, 2008||$41,427|
|Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics||M. Lapenna Refrigeration, Inc.||Rockville Centre, NY||Feb 07, 2011||$41,427|
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