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Become An Air Conditioning Specialist

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Working As An Air Conditioning Specialist

  • 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

  • $45,977

    Average Salary

What Does An Air Conditioning Specialist 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 Air Conditioning Specialist

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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Air Conditioning Specialist Demographics

Gender

Male

76.6%

Female

21.6%

Unknown

1.8%
Ethnicity

White

77.6%

Hispanic or Latino

13.0%

Asian

7.5%

Unknown

1.3%

Black or African American

0.6%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

22.2%

Danish

11.1%

Irish

11.1%

Chinese

11.1%

German

11.1%

French

11.1%

Cantonese

11.1%

Mandarin

11.1%
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Air Conditioning Specialist Education

Schools

California University of Pennsylvania

9.8%

University of Central Florida

7.8%

University of Phoenix

7.8%

University of Northern Colorado

5.9%

Iowa State University

5.9%

Towson University

5.9%

Indiana State University

5.9%

University of Florida

3.9%

Ferris State University

3.9%

Clarke University

3.9%

Arizona State University

3.9%

University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire

3.9%

Georgia Southern University

3.9%

Virginia Commonwealth University

3.9%

Wayne State University

3.9%

University of Montana

3.9%

University of Idaho

3.9%

Grossmont College

3.9%

Hanover College

3.9%

Minnesota State University - Moorhead

3.9%
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Majors

Kinesiology

36.0%

Business

12.4%

Health Education

7.3%

Exercise Physiology

6.2%

Physical Therapy

5.6%

Health And Wellness

3.4%

Education

3.4%

Management

2.8%

Heating And Air Conditioning

2.8%

Health Sciences And Services

2.2%

Health Care Administration

2.2%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

2.2%

Engineering

2.2%

Accounting

2.2%

Electrical Engineering Technology

1.7%

English

1.7%

Athletic Training

1.7%

Liberal Arts

1.7%

Sociology

1.1%

Medicine

1.1%
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Degrees

Bachelors

36.1%

Masters

27.4%

Other

20.0%

Associate

6.5%

Doctorate

5.7%

Certificate

3.5%

License

0.9%
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Top Skills for An Air Conditioning Specialist

StrengthTrainingTrainingProgramsHvac/RPhysicalTherapyDevelop/FacilitateCustomerServiceTeach/InstructInjuryPreventionMedicineAthleticTrainersAthleticPerformanceComputersCSCAdministerOlympicLiftsPhysicalFitnessPotentialClientsWeightTrainingRehabilitationProgramsWeightLossInterpret

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  1. Strength Training
  2. Training Programs
  3. Hvac/R
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Maintained required documentation of training programs and participation.
  • Maintain, and repair HVAC/R equipment and systems.
  • Assist and train new employees on therapeutic exercise technique for physical therapy.
  • Received numerous recognition rewards from fellow employees and senior management praising my customer service.
  • Present at sports medicine conferences, and gather research data for endurance athletes and return to play protocol.

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