What is an HVAC technician?

HVAC technicians, also known as HVAC mechanics and installers, handle heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and cooling systems in residential homes, office buildings, schools, and factories. They usually work full time, except during cold or hot seasons when they can work overtime to keep up with demand. About one in six belong to a union, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Heating, ventilation and air conditioning technicians install, maintain and repair the systems that control the climates within the structures. They should travel to workplaces, read the blueprints and other documentation, and test the systems to make sure they are functioning efficiently. To install the equipment, they connect the systems to the fuel and to the supply lines or air ducts and include controls and wiring for their operation. They can specialize in heating, air conditioning or refrigeration, or in types of equipment, such as commercial refrigeration or solar heating for homes. Government regulations dictate how potentially hazardous HVAC substances, such as refrigerants, can be handled, repaired or disposed of properly.


Although HVAC technicians in the past could learn at work, the increasing complexity of the equipment makes formal training necessary. It is available through higher education certificates or associate degrees from community colleges and technical schools. The internships range from six months to two years. Many learn their skills through apprenticeship programs, which require a high school diploma, and are available through commercial organizations. The training lasts from three to five years and includes classroom instruction and paid internships. Certification is available, forcing you to pass an exam. Some states also require licenses.


Job vacancies for HVAC technicians are expected to increase by 34 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. This is more than double the 15 percent expected for all installation, maintenance and repair occupations, and more than the 14 percent projected for all jobs in all industries. A recovering construction sector will provide most of the demand as it builds more residential and commercial structures. The outlook will be excellent, especially for those with a formal educational level. Those who are familiar with electronics and computers find the best job opportunities because many air conditioning systems use digital controls.


HVAC technicians earned an average of US $ 45,540 per year, or the US $ 21.89 per hour, as of May 2011, the BLS notes. 10 percent of those with the highest pay received more than US $ 68,840 per year, or the US $ 33.10 per hour, while 10 percent of those with lower incomes are part of an annual deductible of US $ 26,810, or the US $ 12, 89 per hour. More than two-thirds of the 213,160 technicians worked for equipment construction contractors to receive an average of US $ 44,370 per year, or the US $ 21.33 per hour. The best pay of US $ 70,920 per year and the US $ 34.09 per hour, was for the generation of electricity, transmission and distribution.