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What You Should Know About Starting an HVAC Career

Updated on April 21, 2016
Cre8tor profile image

Dan has been in the HVAC industry for 22 years with experience in aspects ranging from installation and service to sales and distribution.

Why Choose a Career in HVAC?

I've always been a firm believer in that, when choosing a career, you should choose one that serves a need. A career that serves a need never goes out of style and offers job security even in the toughest of times. It would be hard to argue that the need for heating and air conditioning will ever go away. I've been involved in the trades for 15 years and know by experience that you can take away many luxuries from people but when the A/C goes down or the heat is out, people want it back NOW! Of course with the ever rising cost of energy and concerns about efficiency, people nowadays are also searching for more efficient ways of heating and cooling their home. The demand for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals is definitely on the rise.

Residential Furnace Example

80% efficient forced air gas furnace photo.
80% efficient forced air gas furnace photo. | Source

Commercial Unit Example

Commercial Rooftop Units
Commercial Rooftop Units | Source

HVAC - Commercial and Residential

The HVAC industry is mainly divided into 2 categories, commercial and residential. Both of these categories are then typically divide into the fields of service and installation. The term residential, describes the area of HVAC professionals that work in peoples' homes, apartments, condos, etc... While commercial describes the area of the business that serves office buildings, warehouses, factories, and well, basically everything else. These days breaking into the commercial business usually involves some level of higher education, years of experience or an apprenticeship program. The residential part of the industry on the other hand, is relatively easier to enter. Whether it be through an apprenticeship program or starting on the bottom rung of the ladder and earning your way through the ranks, residential is the least involved of the two. That said, all areas of HVAC require a fair amount of smarts to be successful and obtaining an EPA license to handle refrigerant is nearly a must. (NOTE : The service side of the industry typically provides a more steady workflow while the installation side can be very dependant on the amount of new construction taking place at that time.)

How much do you already know about HVAC?

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HVAC: Tools of the Trade

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tin SnipsHand Seams / TongsTin ShearsBattery Powered Drill4' Step LadderRefrigerant GaugesRefrigerant ScaleNut DriversVoltmeterCrimping Tool
Tin Snips
Tin Snips | Source
Hand Seams / Tongs
Hand Seams / Tongs | Source
Tin Shears
Tin Shears | Source
Battery Powered Drill
Battery Powered Drill | Source
4' Step Ladder
4' Step Ladder | Source
Refrigerant Gauges
Refrigerant Gauges | Source
Refrigerant Scale
Refrigerant Scale | Source
Nut Drivers
Nut Drivers | Source
Voltmeter | Source
Crimping Tool
Crimping Tool | Source

What Does HVAC Involve?

HVAC(R), as it's commonly known today, stands for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration. If you take a second to think about this, that covers a lot of ground. At first, furnaces, air conditioners, boilers, heat pumps and things of that nature spring to mind. However, beyond that, many HVAC technicians spend their days servicing and installing walk-in coolers, hazardous gas and material ventilators, massive cooling towers, humidification (or de-) units, air filtration systems...and the list goes on. With today's rising energy costs, many companies are getting more involved in wood burning, geothermal, and solar type systems as well. There are nearly countless specialized areas one could consider when entering into HVAC(R) but knowing the type of systems out there isn't the end.

A seasoned HVAC technician/installer is truly a "jack of all trades" and will have a good understanding of other areas such as electrical, plumbing, and framing as well. They will know how to use literally hundreds of tools ranging from your everyday screwdriver to a refrigeration recovery unit and everything in between. Mathematics, reading blueprints, schematics and charts are all a part of the daily routine and learning building codes, OSHA regulations and how to use safety equipment will certainly extend your lifespan as an HVAC professional. (It might extend the lifespan of those around you too and they'll appreciate that.)

What Income Can You Expect From an HVAC Career?

First take into consideration the knowledge that we just discussed. This may not come with a dollar amount attached to it but it is yours to keep and it is quite valuable. Whether it be used to enter into another trade or to continue your education beyond working in the field, HVAC can offer a wide variety of career choices later down the road. Not to mention the money you'll save not having to pay a service company for just about anything that you may need to fix for yourself.

The income from an HVAC career isn't anything to sneeze at. Starting out, you're likely to see about $26,000/yr. but after a few years experience, good HVAC professionals will earn about $47,000/yr. with specialists ranging around $60 - $70,000/yr. based on their field and experience. This is based on the national average income for HVAC. I've known techs to make a lot more than $47,000 a year when they knew what they were doing and go on to jobs making 6 figures when earning an HVAC related degree or starting their own HVAC company.

Along with your income, a typical HVAC job will come with fairly standard benefits like insurance, holidays, and vacation but there are often some perks too. Many companies I know provide their techs with company vehicles, cell phones, laptops, tool allowance, uniforms, and sometimes commission opportunities.

What's It Like Working in HVAC?

HVAC is a great career for those who don't like to be in the same place day after day. Nearly everyday brings a new place to work and a new issue to deal with. There is little monotiny in HVAC. It can also provide a sense of accomplishment and success on a daily basis. Whether it's seeing a system built from scratch or the appreciation received from a satisfied customer, there is usually something to be proud of every day. There is a certain amount of hardwork and danger involved but this is true of any trade. With the proper tools and following of safety regulations, you can enjoy a long, stable, and rewarding career in HVAC.

Is HVAC the Career for You?

Hopefully this Hub has provided you a good look into what a career in HVAC(R) is and can provide. After 15 years of installing and repairing furnaces and air conditioners, I am very happy for the experience and knowledge I've gained. With hands on experience and a bit of HVAC schooling, I went from a warehouse clerk to a small time business owner making a modest living. This is not to mention the skills I've gained being put to my own uses and I can't complain about that. Best of luck in your career search.


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    • Cre8tor profile image

      Daniel Robbins 7 months ago from Ohio

      The.Wife - In my experience yes.

      Doctor Cool - Knowing someone never hurts in any industry. That said, often times its persistence and a willingness to start cheap. Get that first job and keep it for 6 months to a year and doors will begin to open up.

    • profile image

      The.Wife 7 months ago

      Does and HVAC apprentice get paid for their time?

    • profile image

      Doctor cool 8 months ago

      Any advice on how to break into the industry? I love troubleshooting and I'm Nate certified even before finishing school and I've never had any Hvac knowledge before that. But it seams like you have to know someone!!. I'm in Texas damn it...

    • profile image

      singhharpreet 16 months ago

      HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning; also heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) is the technology of indoor and vehicular environmental comfort. Its goal is to provide thermal comfort and acceptable indoor air quality.If you are looking for a carrier in Heat Ventilation Air Conditioning Job then lots of online job portal sites are available just search and apply like shine,wisdomjobs,indeed etc.

    • Cre8tor profile image

      Daniel Robbins 18 months ago from Ohio

      Kevin - I'd agree with that statement. It's a little easier to break into the industry on the install side and I do think it's a great knowledge to have but in the end, service and supply have been much kinder to my body and state of mind throughout the day. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      Kevin 18 months ago

      I would just add the best department to be in would be Service. Installations in low crawl spaces and hot attics can be horrible to be working in for several hours out of the day.

      You stay cleaner and get paid for what you know on the Service side. Residential install is usually nasty manual work.

    • profile image

      ramiro 3 years ago

      Good career

    • Neil Sperling profile image

      Neil Sperling 5 years ago from Port Dover Ontario Canada

      Well Done -- I am a carpenter so I agree with all you said here. be of service with your career choice. I also am a salesman and have sold stair climbing hand trucks to HVAC people.

      One person can easily rake a hot water tank out of a basement full of sediment and water by himself... moving boilers is a snap.... Keep on Writing

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      Great advice for anyone choosing a career or considering a change. Unfortunately it is not a field that I can consider in this part of the world, as it would be illegal for me to work in this area as a non-resident. However, for those in the west it is worth considering!

      Thanks, SOCIALLY SHARING and voted up.

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