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.

What Do Heating and Air Conditioning Installers and Repairers Do?

Duties

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.

Other workers sometimes help HVACR technicians install or repair cooling and heating systems. For example, on a large air conditioning installation job, especially one in which workers are covered by union contracts, ductwork may be installed by sheet metal workers, electrical work by electricians, and pipework by plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters. Boiler systems are sometimes installed by a boilermaker.

Home appliance repairers usually service window air conditioners and household refrigerators.

Career Snapshot

Very simply, Heating and Air Conditioning Installers and Repairers install, service, or repair heating and air conditioning systems in residences or commercial establishments.

(Other job titles in this sub-sector may include: Air Conditioning Technician; Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning Installer; Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning Mechanic; Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning Service Technician; Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Specialist; Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning Technician; Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Technician); Service Technician; Systems Mechanic)

Job Details

Heating and Air Conditioning Installers and Repairers typically do the following:

  • Test pipe or tubing joints or connections for leaks, using pressure gauge or soap-and-water solution.
  • Test electrical circuits or components for continuity, using electrical test equipment.
  • Repair or replace defective equipment, components, or wiring.
  • Discuss heating or cooling system malfunctions with users to isolate problems or to verify that repairs corrected malfunctions.
  • Repair or service heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to improve efficiency, such as by changing filters, cleaning ducts, or refilling non-toxic refrigerants.
  • Install, connect, or adjust thermostats, humidistats, or timers.
  • Connect heating or air conditioning equipment to fuel, water, or refrigerant source to form complete circuit.
  • Study blueprints, design specifications, or manufacturers' recommendations to ascertain the configuration of heating or cooling equipment components and to ensure the proper installation of components.
  • Comply with all applicable standards, policies, or procedures, such as safety procedures or the maintenance of a clean work area.
  • Install auxiliary components to heating or cooling equipment, such as expansion or discharge valves, air ducts, pipes, blowers, dampers, flues, or stokers.

Education and Experience

HVACR systems have become increasingly complex. Therefore, employers generally prefer applicants with postsecondary education or those who have completed an apprenticeship. Some states and localities may require technicians to be licensed. 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.

Career Outlook

  • Annual pay: In 2019, Heating and Air Conditioning Installers and Repairers earned an average salary of $49,000
  • Employment of commercial and residential electricians is projected to grow 13 percent from 2018 to 2028. 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.
  • Entry-level education: Post-secondary education and/or an apprenticeship

Career Growth Opportunity

Most Heating and Air Conditioning Installers and Repairers work for construction contractors, but approximately one out of 10 are self-employed. As well, post-secondary education may provide opportunity for future careers in project management, sales, and design and engineering.

Professional Associations

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America - This organization works to promote professional contracting, energy efficiency, and healthy, comfortable indoor environments.
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers - ASHRAE’s mission is to serve humanity by advancing the arts and sciences of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration and their allied fields.
  • Mechanical Service Contractors of America - MSCA is the leading organization for HVACR contractors, providing education, marketing, and labor/management services to assure its contractor members deliver quality performance, value and expertise for all building system needs.
  • North American Technician Excellence - NATE is the nation’s largest non-profit certification organization for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians.
  • Indoor Environment Energy Efficiency Association - The ACCA’s claim to fame is that it is not just an organization for HVAC/R companies, independent contractors, or customers; it represents the interests of all three.
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society - RSES has as its mission to provide opportunities for enhanced technical competence by offering comprehensive, cutting-edge education and certification to our members and the HVACR industry. To advance the professionalism and proficiency of our industry through alliances with other HVACR associations.
  • United Association Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, and Service Techs - The mission of the US is to help their members build a better life for themselves and their families.
  • Consortium for Energy Efficiency - The CEE was developed by a group of Canadian and US energy efficiency managers with the goal of creating energy-effective products, services, and buildings.
  • Air Movement and Control Association - The AMCA is designed to provide education, legislative protection, and standards for businesses and individuals who work in the air control industry. They are a huge influencer of national standards for design and installation of air conditioning units, having created documentation that covers benchmarks from duct-sizing to air conditioning sound levels.
  • Radiant Professionals Alliance - The RPA is focused on building the skills of its independent contractor membership. Members have access to radiant heating research, cutting edge installation and fitting techniques, and collaboration with other professionals.
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association – PHCC is dedicated to the advancement and education of the plumbing and HVACR industry for the health, safety and comfort of society and the protection of the environment.
  • Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association - RETA is an international society of individuals and companies involved in the design, operation and service of industrial refrigeration systems. Its purpose is to provide education and training, as well as networking benefits, to both experienced operators and those who have recently entered this rapidly expanding field.
  • Home Builders Institute - This organization’s mission is to advance and provide education, career development, training and placement of men and women serving the building industry.
  • Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. - ABC's mission is the advancement of the merit shop construction philosophy, which encourages open competition and a free enterprise approach that awards contracts based solely on merit, regardless of labor affiliation.
  • National Association of Home Builders - NAHB represents the largest network of craftsmen, innovators and problem solvers dedicated to building and enriching communities operating at the local, state and national levels.
  • National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) - This mission of this organization is to build a safe, productive and sustainable workforce of craft professionals. Their vision is to be universally recognized by industry and government as the training, assessment, certification and career development standard for construction and maintenance craft professionals.
  • International Institute of Refrigeration - Members of this organization work with technologies such as cryogenics, air conditioning, refrigeration processes and equipment, refrigerants, and heat pumps.
  • The Associated General Contractors of America - The Associated General Contractors of America works to ensure the continued success of the commercial construction industry by advocating for federal, state and local measures that support the industry.
  • National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies - Search here for NASCLA accredited electrical examination programs.

Publications