Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems.
What they 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.
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers typically do the following:
- Install, clean, and maintain HVACR systems
- Install electrical components and wiring
- Inspect and test HVACR systems and components
- Discuss system malfunctions with customers
- Repair or replace worn or defective parts
- Recommend maintenance to improve system performance
- Keep records of work performed
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.
Some HVACR 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.
HVACR technicians work mostly in homes, schools, stores, hospitals, office buildings, or factories. Some technicians are assigned to specific jobsites at the beginning of each day. Others travel to several different locations, making service calls.
Although most technicians work indoors, some may have to work on outdoor heat exchangers, even in bad weather. Technicians often work in awkward or cramped spaces, and some work in buildings that are uncomfortable because the air conditioning or heating system is not working properly.
How to become a Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanic and Installer
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.
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.
The median annual wage for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers was $48,730 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,610, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $77,920.
Employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Commercial and residential building construction is expected to drive employment growth. The growing number of sophisticated climate-control systems is also expected to increase demand for qualified HVACR technicians.
Repair and replacement of HVACR systems is a large part of what technicians do. The growing emphasis on energy efficiency and pollution reduction is likely to increase the demand for HVACR technicians as climate-control systems are retrofitted, upgraded, or replaced entirely.
Similar Job Titles
A/C Tech (Air Conditioning Technician); HVAC Installer (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning Installer); HVAC Mechanic (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning Mechanic); HVAC Service Tech (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning Service Technician); HVAC Specialist (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Specialist); HVAC Tech (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning Technician); HVAC Technician (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Technician); Service Technician; Systems Mechanic, Transportation Refrigeration Technician, HVAC/R Service Technician (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning/Refrigeration Service Technician); Refrigeration Mechanic; Refrigeration Operator; Refrigeration Technician (Refrigeration Tech)
Electrician, Elevator Installer and Repairer, Mobil Heavy Equipment Mechanic (except Engines), Millwrights, Motorboat Mechanic and Service Technician, Control and Valve Installer and Repairer (except Mechanical Door)
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Air Conditioning Contractors of America
- American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers
- International Union of Operating Engineers
- Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
- United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada
- International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration
- North American Technical Excellence
- Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association
- Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
Magazines and Publications
- HVACR Business Magazine
- Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News
- Green HVACR Magazine
- Thermal Control Magazine
Whether at work or at home, we depend on heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers, called HVACR technicians, to keep indoor air clean and comfortable in all seasons. HVACR technicians install electrical wiring and connect fuel and water supply lines to create climate control systems. They also connect systems to air ducts, and install controls for customers to set temperature and humidity levels. Some HVACR technicians specialize in areas such as commercial refrigeration or solar panels. Following government regulations is critical for installation and repairs, including proper handling and disposal of fluids and pressurized gases, and recycling or conservation of refrigerants. HVACR technicians work, at times, in thorny conditions: they have one of the highest rates of injuries due to electrical shock, burns, muscle strains, and injuries from heavy equipment. They often work in cramped spaces, sometimes in high heat or deep cold. Most technicians work for construction contractors on systems in homes, schools, hospitals, stores, or office buildings. Working full time is typical, with occasional evening or weekend shifts. During peak seasons, they often work overtime or irregular hours. As systems become increasingly complex, employers generally prefer applicants with a certificate or related associate’s degree, or those who have completed an apprenticeship. Workers may need to pass a background check. Some locations require HVACR technicians to be licensed.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOne Stop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org