What Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Installers Do?
HVACR technicians install, maintain, and repair heating, cooling, and refrigeration systems.
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.
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.
HVACR technicians work indoors and outdoors.
Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers held about 332,900 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers were as follows:
Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 64%, Self-employed workers 9%, Educational services; state, local, and private 4 %, Retail trade 4%, Wholesale trade 3%
HVACR technicians work mostly in homes, schools, stores, hospitals, office buildings, or factories. Some technicians are assigned to specific job sites 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.
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 median annual wage for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers was $47,610 in May 2019. Oregon is slightly lower at $46,970 (2019) The median wage -US 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 $29,460, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $76,230 (United States)