HAVC techs What do they do?
In the chill of winter, we depend on heaters to keep our homes and offices
warm as toast. In the dog days of summer, we depend on air-conditioners to keep
our homes and offices cool and comfortable.
In short, a lot of our daily comfort depends on heating and air-conditioning
systems and the people who install, maintain and repair them--heating and
Heating and air-conditioning technicians (also known as HVAC technicians)
work on heating, air-conditioning and ventilation systems in residential,
commercial and industrial buildings. These systems are usually quite
complicated, consisting of a variety of mechanical, electrical and electronic
components, such as motors, compressors, pumps, fans, ducts, pipes, thermostats
Itís imperative that HVAC technicians know their work well, since heating
and air-conditioning is vital not only to our physical health and well-being,
but to the economic health of most of our businesses.
For example, electronic and computer manufacturers need cool, clean and very
dry air for their products. Hospitals, day care centers and community centers
need comfortable temperatures and good air quality for patients. Research labs,
medical manufacturers and food preparation companies need heating, cooling and
refrigeration equipment to keep their products pure and safe.
Printers use high-speed, multi-color printing equipment that requires strict
humidity control to ensure product quality. Even farmers need refrigerated
trucks, warehouses and display cases for their agricultural produce. All of
these businesses depend heavily on the expertise of HVAC technicians, as do
sports arenas, shopping malls, movie theatres, grocery stores and factories.
Wherever a HVAC technician may work, part of the job inevitably involves
dealing with customers. Therefore, itís important that technicians not only
know their way around a compressor, but have a good "bedside" manner
too, with the ability to be pleasant and courteous while carrying out prompt
and successful installation and repair. Specific tasks include:
- Installing and repairing furnaces, boilers, and air conditioners
- Recharging cooling systems with refrigerant gases
- Installing copper tubing systems that circulate water or cooling gases
- Replacing compressor parts such as valves, pistons, bearings, and
electrical motors on refrigeration units
- Repairing thermostats and electrical circuits
- Diagnosing causes of breakdowns
- Lifting parts into position
- Screwing, bolting, welding, and brazing parts
- Cutting, threading, and connecting pipes to units
- Connecting motors to control panels
- Connecting control panels to power source
- Lubricating machinery
HVAC AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION
Heating and air-conditioning technicians often specialize in either
installation, maintenance, repair or sales. Some specialize in one type of
- Sales and marketing specialists sell and market heating and
air-conditioning systems to small and large businesses and homeowners
- CAD designers design heating and air-conditioning systems for
todayís "smart" office buildings and homes
- Quality control engineers ensure that HVAC products work to
specification. As products come off the production line, they test, locate
and correct defects before the appliance reaches the consumer
HVAC EDUCATION, CERTIFICATION, & LICENSING
Some heating and air-conditioning technicians learn skills informally on the
job, but employers increasingly prefer to hire technicians who have completed
an apprenticeship program or formal technical training in high school, a
postsecondary technical school, community college, or the armed services.
Formal apprenticeship programs normally last 3 or 4 years and combine on-the
job training with classroom instruction. Many community colleges also offer
two-year associate degrees in heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration.
Students study theory, design and equipment construction as well as
electronics. They also learn the basics of installation, maintenance and
In Virginia technicians who buy or work with refrigerants must pass a
written exam and be certified in their proper handling by the Department of
Professional & Occupational Regulation Board for Contractors Tradesman
HVAC Excellence offers several certificate programs for heating and
air-conditioning technicians. In addition, certification in EPA regulations can
be obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency. The National Center for
Construction Education & Research (NCCER) also offers HVAC certification.
HVAC TECHNICIANS - GETTING AHEAD
For most HVAC technicians, advancement comes in the form of
higher wages. However, some technicians advance to positions as supervisor or
service manager. Others may move into areas such as sales and marketing. Those
with enough capital and managerial skill can open their own businesses,
contracting to install HVAC equipment, doing repairs, or both.
HVAC TECHNICIANS - SKILLS, ABILITIES, & PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS
- Mechanical aptitude
- Using hand and power tools
- Problem-solving and trouble-shooting
- Working well with customers
- Understanding technical drawings, diagrams, graphs, and
- Logical thinking
- Bending, stooping, and carrying
- Being consistently pleasant and polite
- Understanding the output of gauges and other instruments
- Understanding and using electronics
- Following safety precautions
HVAC TECHNICIANS WHERE DO THEY WORK:
Approximately 15% of all HVAC mechanics workers are
self-employed. More than half of those employed by others work for cooling and
heating contractors. The rest work in a wide variety of industries, including
refrigeration and air-conditioning service and repair businesses, fuel oil
dealers, schools, hospitals, office buildings and other organizations operating
large heating and air-conditioning systems.
HVAC TECHNICIANS: OUTLOOK
Prospects for skilled HVAC technicians are expected to be very good,
particularly for those with technical school or formal apprenticeship training.
In addition to job openings created by employment growth, thousands of openings
will result from the need to replace workers leaving the field.
As the population and economy has grown, so has the demand
for new residential, commercial, and industrial climate-control systems.
Technicians who specialize in installation may suffer unemployment when the
economy slows down and cuts the level of new construction, but maintenance and
repair work usually remains pretty stable. People and businesses depend on
their climate control systems and have to keep them running no matter what the
economy is like.
Rising energy costs will encourage the development of new
energy-saving heating and air-conditioning systems and also encourage home and
business owners to replace old systems with new more efficient ones. Demand for
maintenance and service work should also increase as owners try to keep systems
operating at peak efficiency. In addition, the continuing focus on improving
indoor air quality should contribute to the growth of jobs for HVAC
HVAC TECHNICIANS: EARNINGS
In most states, most heating and air conditioning technician earned between
$24,000 and $55,000 a year. Experienced techs and those who chose to start
their own business can earn more.