How to Become a Heating, Air Conditioning, or Refrigeration Mechanic and Installer
New HVACR technicians typically begin by working alongside experienced technicians.
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 may require technicians to be licensed. Workers may need to pass a background check prior to being hired.
Many 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.
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.
New HVACR technicians typically begin by working alongside experienced technicians. At first, they perform 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. 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.
Several groups, including unions and contractor associations, sponsor apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship requirements vary by state and locality.
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. Many trade schools, unions, and employer associations offer training programs designed to prepare students for the EPA certification exam.
In addition, some states and localities require HVACR technicians to be licensed; check with your state and locality for more information.
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 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 a list of 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.