HVAC (also known as heating ventilation and air conditioning) and HVAC services are always in demand. The technology of vehicular or indoor environmental management is one of America’s leading industries. In the state of Virginia, a boom in home renovation, home building and the statewide necessity for climate control in one’s home or vehicle has created a growing HVAC industry. Many of Virginia’s major cities are above the national average for annual salary granted to HVAC technicians working on various levels. The state of Virginia is bustling with newly opened HVAC service companies and also allows many the opportunity to create their own HVAC business.
If you are good with mechanics or looking to become skilled in a new and lucrative trade, becoming an HVAC technician provides many long-term opportunities. Installing, repairing and maintaining cooling, heating, ventilation and refrigeration systems are a pivotal part of everyday life. The responsibility for the upkeep and repair of such crucial appliances and systems will always be in demand. HVAC is a growing field with many aspects allowing for a variety of training and development of specialties within the field.
A career in heating, ventilation and air-conditioning will allow one to develop skills which will grant many different job opportunities in related technician fields. Entering the workforce with HVAC certification on a rookie or professional level will all but guarantee a certain amount of steady work. HVAC technicians can expect busy and productive schedules carrying out projects within offices, houses, warehouses, public buildings and other structures requiring climate control and assistance.
Because a bachelor’s degree is not required to branch into a career as an HVAC technician, the field is both desirable and profitable with comparatively little standard education required. Additionally, because of the growing cost of education and the time and difficulty of obtaining a four-year degree, HVAC becomes a highly appealing career path. HVAC technicians may expect plenty of opportunities for career advancement after several years working at entry level.
Companies who subcontract their services to others primarily hire HVAC technicians. A great many technicians maintain more than one job and work for larger companies with high demands for servicemen to fill maintenance needs. HVAC technicians are expected to use a variety of equipment and tools to complete installations and maintenance projects. They are also expected to observe areas for potential problems, and analyze complex systems and make sure all aspects of the project will run smoothly. Preventative maintenance is a huge part of an HVAC technician’s job responsibilities. Routine maintenance and observation are among the technician’s primary duties. Construction of new buildings often involves the input of HVACR technicians as building design must be evaluated in correlation with installation of wires, pipes, appliances and any other aspects of proper heating, cooling and ventilation. After construction, HVAC technicians trouble shoot any and all aspects of systems and ensure each system will run well. Residential homes as well as businesses are always in need of HVAC technicians and services. Technicians have different duties and responsibilities depending on the type of environments they are designated to troubleshoot and maintain. Work may vary greatly from day to day and project to project. However, primary job obligations are fairly set in stone. Main duties include:
• Installing and maintaining a wide range of systems for ventilation, heating and air-conditioning systems
• Carrying out general preventative maintenance on any and all HVAC systems
• Assembling and constructing systems of wires and piping
• Performing routine checks on vehicles including checking belts, handle lubrication and any other preventative care
• Insure safety of HVAC systems-- checking the security of wire connection, including repair of any loose wires
• Check thermostats and calibration along with any other controls
• Replace any worn out parts of HVAC systems and check filtering
• Servicing hot-water boilers and steam systems
• Repairing motors
• Unformed replace any worn out parts of HVAC systems and change filters
• Check chemical compositions and equipment and ensure adequacy of levels
• Handling conduit running for any equipment related to an HVAC system
• Ordering equipment or supplies necessary for installation or maintenance of an HVAC system
• Maintain a check list of needed items for each HVAC project and guarantee their availability
• Responding to emergency calls to resolve problems immediately
• Possess adequate knowledge of maintenance equipment and tools
• Replacing expired or faulty elements of an HVAC system
• Acting creatively to substitute parts or equipment in the event of unavailability
• Assess a client’s need for and HVAC system upgrade and providing solutions or necessary measures to take
HVAC technicians, depending on their special skill sets for training, may be asked to work with electrical, mechanical or plumbing elements as part of a complex heating and air-conditioning system. Technicians may be required to answer service calls at businesses or homes where systems are malfunctioning. Obviously, carrying out these tasks may require exposure to extreme cold or hot temperatures, cramped or high places and potential way, exposure to fumes, hazardous materials and electrical equipment. However, HVAC technicians will undergo safety training as part of their certification and licensing process.
Work settings in the HVAC industry are usually divided into residential and commercial, meaning that HVAC professionals may work in people’s condos, apartments, homes, etc. or within the settings of commercial businesses or structures (including warehouses, factories and more). There is a comparative ease of entry into HVAC technician jobs working in residential areas. Residential work is less usually involved and requires a more minimal, entry-level skill set. Many opportunities for apprenticeships help HVAC technicians land a spot on the starting run of a corporate ladder as they move up the ranks in time. While the service side of the HVAC industry usually provides steadier work, the installation side of HVAC depends on the amount of new construction and renovation in a certain area. Virginia is a unique place due to a construction and renovation boom, thereby making the installation side of HVAC a profitable career path in the state.
HVAC technicians are expected to service boilers, furnaces, air-conditioners, heat pumps and any other environmental modulation systems. Technicians may also work with hazardous gas, large cooling towers, install walk-in coolers, work with humidification units, air filter systems, ventilators and more. Given the rising need for individuals and businesses to developed eco-friendly systems and save money on heating and cooling, many HVAC technician installations all renovations include companies with solar energy systems, geothermal or wood burning systems. HVAC technicians must possess up-to-date knowledge on all types of systems necessary to know about in order to fulfill their job duties. While HVAC technicians may have certain specialties, a broad range of knowledge regarding HVAC systems is always warranted. The long-term goal of an HVAC technician is to become an experienced tradesman with copious amounts of experience and education in the realms of plumbing, framing and electrical work. Analyzing blueprints, schematics, mathematical figures and charts are considered highly beneficial skills while working in such a field. This may require a certain amount of higher education or on-the-job experience and training.
Extensive knowledge of HVAC tools, building codes, regulations sanctioned by OSHA and proper use of safety equipment makes the difference between an HVAC entry-level employee and an HVAC professional. Tools used during HVAC system maintenance projects range from everyday items such as screwdrivers two less known or heard about tools.
In the state of Virginia, the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation’s Board for Contractors must grant certification. For those looking to branch into the field of HVACR specialists, certification and accreditation must demonstrate a broad range of skills including installation, repair and HVAC unit maintenance for commercial and residential spaces. HVAC specialists are expected to analyze humidity levels, temperature control systems and air quality. Technicians are also expected to understand refrigeration and heating systems and a broad range of electrical systems and parts including thermostats, ducts or fans. Educational requirements for specific certification may vary as well depending on whether or not someone is attempting to be certified in the entry-level or obtain advanced certification through prior credentials or experience. Prior certification is most certainly helpful in the pursuit of an HVAC technician career. While initial certification may be relatively easy to obtain, more privileges are granted through advanced certification, which will inevitably broaden the possibilities for work.
While not mandatory, national certification by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is helpful for any HVAC specialists who work in refrigerant recovery and recycling. This is due to environmental regulations regarding atmospheric pollution, ozone depletion, working with hazardous materials all recovery cylinders for such materials and other EPA mandated protocol. Accreditation granted by the EPA will not expire and will always serve one well no matter what level of technician services one wishes to branch into.
Broad certification requirements will vary from state to state. In the state of Virginia, one must possess a high school diploma. Successful completion of courses involving mathematics, shop, physics, mechanics or technical engineering are highly beneficial in the pursuit of a career as an HVAC technician or contractor. It is important to possess a skill set relevant to the fundamental elements of the profession.
Secondly, one must complete an accredited HVAC program. HVAC certification programs range in length from six months to two years. Alternately, some HVAC jobs within the state of Virginia will require or prefer an apprenticeship of extensive duration in place of formal accreditation from a career or trade school. Trade schools, community colleges and additional programs providing certification sponsored by the state of Virginia will provide graduates with a degree in entry-level service, repair and design of HVAC systems and subsequent job opportunities related to entry-level practices. Curriculum is designed such that aspiring HVAC workers will be granted on the job training and tutoring from licensed HVAC specialists or contractors. To obtain a license, passage of exams necessary to the specific job requirements after a one to two-year training or on-the-job experience program are required.
For advanced certification in the HVAC industry, processes may include a wide array of training in credential services including the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) industry competency exam, which provides several HVAC are specialty certifications and including HVAC efficiency analyst certification, air distribution certification, HVAC performance verifier certification and other senior-level or managerial position titles. The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) works in partnership with NATE to offer certification exams in heating, HVAC are electrical, commercial refrigeration and air-conditioning and EPA section 608 certification.
While HVAC employment may be obtained with minimal certification, the more certification the better, especially when moving up the corporate ladder and gaining skills. The timeline for state or national level certification and licensing varies. The average time span of HVAC apprenticeship programs is 3 to 5 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Students are expected to commit to roughly 2000 hours of training and roughly 144 hours of standard education. Apprenticeship programs are often conducted by or sponsored by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) or the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). Virginia allows special access two HVAC technician associates degree programs providing graduates with NATE and industry competency exams (ICE) certifications.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for HVAC technicians and specialists as of September 2015 ranged from 41,000 to 44,000. In the state of Virginia, jobs on entry and advanced level are always in high demand an easily available through large and small companies, indeed.com and other business networking portals. According to the US Department of Labor, HVAC technician jobs are projected to experience a 21% growth in the next 10 years. This means that the employment rate for HVAC related jobs such as heating and air conditioning, refrigeration, appliance installation and mechanical services are expected to grow in the years 2012 to 2022 by 21%. Many additional jobs are expected to open up in the state of Virginia due to a positive fluctuation in the number of new businesses and individuals needing HVAC services. A good HVAC technician has the ability to move up the corporate ladder to a managerial role or possibly a marketing and sales role. It is not out of the question to in time become a distribution manager within a few years.
ATI – Advanced Technology Institute
The HVAC training program at ATI is a total of 1100 clock hours and covers courses in electricity and circuits, pipe brazing, air conditioners, sheet metal fabrication and digital controls. ATI is a Yellow Ribbon School where the school can contribute up to 50% of the tuition expenses and the VA will match with the same amount. They are also a Military Friendly school and ASE NATEF Certified to Operate by SCHEV. The HVAC program is available at 5700 Southern Blvd Virginia Beach, VA 23462 and 1429 Miller Store Road Virginia Beach, VA 23455.
You could graduate from the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Diploma program at Tidewater Tech in 45 weeks. After graduating you’ll have the chance to sit and take the EPA certification and Industry Competency Examination. Tidewater Tech is located at 5301 East Princess Anne Road Norfolk, VA 23502. The college is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
Tidewater Community College
At TCC you’ll get hands-on instruction on HVAC equipment in state-of-the-art labs. The program at TCC is one of only 3 colleges in Virginia that offers students the chance to earn their HVAC/R Associate’s Degree. Tidewater is located at 121 College Place Norfolk, VA 23510.
Northern Virginia Community College
The HVAC program at NOVA is 16 weeks in length. The school offers 3 different levels of HVAC program that fits your needs. The first level is a certificate based program, the second includes courses in English and math and the highest is their associate’s degree. Financial aid is available to those who qualify. The college is located at 6699 Springfield Center Drive Springfield, Virginia 22150.
One of the most important things in your career is finding the right HVAC company to work for. Like with any job, every company will run their operation differently. Below are just some of the main things we feel you should consider before taking a job.
1. Travel: Cities in Virginia are big and with large cities means traffic. Make sure you are looking into companies where your region is an area you feel you can cover so you aren’t spending all of your time on the road in traffic.
2. Truck/Tools: Does the HVAC company you are looking into provide you with a truck, gas and insurance? Do you give you a tool allowance? Often this is a benefit companies use to attract the best HVAC technicians to come work for them. If they don’t provide this it could mean a big expense to you.
3. Signing Bonus: We have recently seen HVAC companies in Virginia give signing bonuses to new HVAC technicians. As competition grows companies often offer a signing bonus as well as additional benefits including vacation, sick days and retirement accounts.
Virginia HVAC Resources
Explore the Trades. “Why Become An HVAC Technician.” 2016. http://www.explorethetrades.org/hvac/why-become-an-hvac-technician/
Salary.com. “HVAC Mechanic Salary.” 2016.
Tough Nickel. “What You Should Know About Starting an HVAC Career.” 21 Apr. 2016. https://toughnickel.com/industries/hvaccareer