What You Need to Know Before Starting an HVAC Career


If you want to spend your workdays at the same location every day, a career in the HVAC industry isn’t for you. If you’re looking for a job that involves little responsibility, you probably shouldn’t consider becoming an HVAC technician. If your main goal is to collect a paycheck instead of enjoying a sense of accomplishment at the end of a workday, it’s unlikely you’ll succeed as an HVAC employee.

Working as an HVAC technician gives you the chance to work in a new location almost every day. This line of work challenges even new technicians with the responsibility of identifying and fixing problems for clients who are often anxious and stressed. Serving others in your role as an HVAC employee typically provides a level of satisfaction that is more rewarding than the pay you receive, because you restore a sense of normalcy for people every day you’re on the clock.

HVAC Industry: The Basics

While the satisfaction that often comes from being an HVAC technician may appeal to you, you should learn more about the HVAC industry to determine if this line of work is right you for. You may already know that HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, but there’s one more element that’s at the core of the industry: refrigeration.

Those four areas involve a lot of different equipment and they require HVAC technicians to have a broad base of knowledge and a wide skill set. HVAC employees often spend their time installing and servicing large units, such as walk-in coolers, hazardous gas ventilators, large cooling towers, and air filtration systems in addition to air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, and heat pumps. And that’s just the short list of equipment HVAC technicians install and service.

With energy costs increasing and more and more residential and commercial clients worried about their impact on the environment, HVAC technicians are now working with alternative systems in addition to more conventional HVAC units. This means it’s likely you’ll have opportunities to install and service wood-burning, geothermal, and solar HVAC systems if you decide to become an HVAC technician.

HVAC: An Industry Divided

The HVAC industry is split into two primary categories: residential and commercial. Each category is further divided into two main kinds of work: service and installation. HVAC companies which serve the residential market work in people’s homes regardless of whether they live in a house, townhome, condominium, apartment, or another kind of structure. Companies that serve the commercial niche work in just about every other kind of building, including warehouses, factories, hospitals, and grocery stores.

Whether you want to work in the commercial or residential side of the HVAC business, you’ll normally need to earn a license to work as an HVAC technician in your state. To work in commercial settings, you’ll often need to have some advanced education and several years of field experience or a completed apprenticeship under your belt as well. To work in the residential side of the HVAC business, you can normally start with an apprenticeship or as a new technician who needs to work their way up the ladder.

No matter which side of the HVAC business you work in, you’ll typically have to earn your EPA certification to handle refrigerants.

Skills Successful HVAC Technicians Have

To succeed as an HVAC technician, it helps to have at least some of the skills which successful HVAC employees have. If you’re lacking some of these critical skills, that’s not a reason to give up your dream of becoming an HVAC technician, because many of them can be acquired over time.

In general, great HVAC technicians have a solid understanding of different trades that directly impact their own, such as electrical work and plumbing. They also know how to use hundreds of tools and enjoy mechanical work. Successful technicians are normally good at math and adept at interpreting complex blueprints and schematics.

If you want a career which is often rewarding and satisfying, requires you to solve challenging problems, and engages your many skills every day, consider a career in the HVAC industry.