The field of HVAC, which stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, includes technicians that are responsible for controlling the heating and cooling systems of residential, industrial and commercial properties. Additionally, technicians working in this field are trained to install, repair and maintain equipment that controls humidity and air quality. HVAC systems consist of a number of different mechanical, electrical and electronic components that are integral to the safe and efficient operation of heating and air conditioning systems. In order to perform their jobs effectively HVAC technicians must have a broad knowledge of these systems, how they operate and how to repair them. HVAC technicians must also be able to read blueprints and schematics of ventilation systems so that repairs can be made in a timely manner.
In general, HVAC technicians provide services when they are needed at different locations each day. While industrial projects may require technicians to remain at job site for several hours or days, HVAC service jobs may require the professional to travel to different work locations each day. The specific location will be dependent upon to type of HVAC work required by the customer. Because of the nature of their work, HVAC technicians enjoy an independent work environment in which they are responsible for managing their work schedules, problem solving and decision making.
Individuals seeking a career as an HVAC technician will be trained to perform similar job duties regardless of the type of HVAC equipment being serviced. HVAC systems installed in commercial and residential properties require similar types of service and maintenance and most technicians have similar job responsibilities. Because most states require licensure of HVAC technicians, education and training programs for these professionals are fairly uniform. In order to make themselves more marketable, professionals working in HVAC may choose to acquire additional training and certification as a refrigeration mechanic. Individuals with this type of certification will be able to install, service and repair refrigerating equipment and systems. Because refrigerants can be harmful to the environment, professionals working on these systems must have specialized training to use these materials. In some instances, HVAC technicians may require the support of other professionals to complete their jobs including: welders, electricians, plumbers and pipe layers.
Salaries for HVAC technicians will be contingent upon the specific organization in which the technician is employed. HVAC technicians working in local government offices will command higher salaries than those working for building equipment contractors. Average hourly wages for HVAC technicians were $19.08 in 2008. The top earners in the field were paid $30.59 per hour while the lowest earners made $12.19 per hour. Professionals seeking to enter the field without formal education may qualify for an apprenticeship position. Individuals employed as HVAC apprentices typically earn 50 percent of what certified technicians earn. Most HVAC jobs are full-time positions which provide professionals with access to benefits including: healthcare, dental care, paid time off and vacation time. Of the HVAC technicians currently employed in the field, 15 percent are members of a union. Unions that represent HVAC technicians include: Sheet Metal Workers International Association and the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry.
The job outlook for HVAC technicians is quite good overall. In addition to increased demand for technicians in the field for new construction projects, demands for technicians will increase in coming years as more HVAC systems require repair. Generally speaking, HVAC systems need to be repaired to be replaced after 10 to 15 years. The recent boom in housing and commercial real estate means that many HVAC systems currently installed will need to be replaced in the coming years. In order to meet demand for service more HVAC technicians will be needed. Trained professionals are especially needed. Modern HVAC systems have become more complex due to changes in technology and efforts to protect the environment. In order to manage the changing demands of the industry, HVAC companies will need more professionals that are able to tackle these challenges. Professionals with additional training in computer systems and electronics will have access to additional job opportunities.