What does an HVAC technician do?

HVAC technicians maintain, install, and service heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems in both homes and businesses.

HVAC technician career snapshot

Median pay

$50,590 ($24.32/hr)

Required degrees

None

10-year job growth

5% (Average)

What is an HVAC technician?

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. You may occasionally see the abbreviation HVACR used, the R denotes refrigeration.

An HVAC technician installs, maintains, and services heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems that control the air quality and temperature in homes and businesses.

There are a number of options for someone pursuing a career in HVAC. Some technicians choose residential work, where they install or service heating and air conditioning units in people's homes. Others may choose the commercial path, where they are install or service conditioning systems in hospitals, schools, and other businesses.

HVAC technicians may even specialize in a specific function such as installation, maintenance, or repair.What type of work you choose to do as an HVAC technician is ultimately up to you.

What does an HVAC technician do?

HVAC technicians install, maintain, and troubleshoot HVAC systems. Some projects involve installing systems for new construction, others involve modifying existing systems for a renovation, and some require the technician to troubleshoot a malfunctioning system.

Here are some of the main things that HVAC Technicians do:

  • Read blueprints and HVAC equipment specifications
  • Assemble and install HVAC/R units in residential or commercial buildings
  • Cut and drill holes in building structures
  • Install solar panels, thermostats, humidistats, and timers
  • Connect HVAC systems to electrical, water, and fuel sources
  • Ensure that the HVAC units are working perfectly
  • Test HVAC components and systems according to the manufacturer’s specifications
  • Test piping or tubing joints for leakages
  • Troubleshoot common HVAC system problems
  • Clean and replace air filters and other malfunctioning parts
  • Inspect, unclog, and clean ducts
  • Sell service contracts or AMCs for HVAC equipment maintenance or servicing
  • Work with architects, engineers, and contractors to coordinate specific project details

HVAC vs refrigeration

You may occasionally hear the abbreviation HVACR. While HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, the "R" stands for refrigeration. HVAC and Refrigeration are commonly treated as two separate parts of the industry.

HVAC

HVAC is primarily focused on human comfort. This could mean cooling an office building, heating your home, or reducing humidity in your basement. HVAC technicians are responsible for:

  • Heating
  • Ventilation
  • Air Conditioning
  • Air Flow
  • Air Quality & Filtration
  • Odors
  • Sounds

Refrigeration

When we refer to refrigeration, we are typically talking about commercial refrigeration. Examples of commercial refrigeration may include large refrigerators used by grocery stores to keep food fresh or large freezers used in hospitals to keep vaccines at required temperatures. Refrigeration systems in homes and residences, like your refrigerator, fall under the category of appliance repair which is often viewed separately from HVAC and commercial refrigeration. Work in refrigeration commonly requires additional training.

Residential vs commercial

Residential

Residential HVAC technicians install, maintain, and service heating and air conditioning units in people's homes. Residential HVAC requires strong communication skills as you will often be interacting directly with customers.

Commercial

Commercial HVAC technicians install and repair large heating and air conditioning systems in places like schools, hospitals, and other businesses. They may also service air conditioning systems used in grocery stores to keep food fresh.

Industrial

Industrial HVAC technicians work on large systems designed to maintain a specific temperature or humidity during an industrial process, like manufacturing.

Service vs installation

Installation

HVAC installation technicians are responsible for installing new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. These installations can be for residential properties, like homes, or for other buildings, like apartment complexes.

Service

HVAC service technicians are responsible for maintaining and repairing existing HVAC systems in homes and businesses.

Where do HVAC technicians work?

HVAC technicians can work for companies that specialize in residential projects, commercial projects, or both. HVAC systems are used almost everywhere, so any location is an option for an HVAC technician to work in.

HVAC companies range from small companies with a few employees to huge companies with thousands of employees. You have the option to choose which environment is best for you, and if you don’t like the one you choose first, there is always the option to switch to a different type of company.

Most HVAC technicians work normal business hours but may have to be on call and work odd hours to satisfy a customer’s needs. Additionally, HVAC technicians may be required to work long hours, especially during the summer which is typically the busiest season.

>> Read More: HVAC Technician Work Environment

What are the pros & cons of being an HVAC technician?

Here are some of the main pros and cons of being an HVAC technician.

Pros

  • Good pay and job outlook
  • Work in almost any location
  • Work for all kinds of companies
  • Hands-on and constantly changing job
  • No college necessary
  • Positive impact on the environment
  • Relatively easy to start your own company
  • Ability to help others
  • Typically receive full benefits

Cons

  • Physically demanding
  • Long hours during busy season
  • May be on call at times
  • Takes time to learn HVAC
  • Often work alone

How much do HVAC technicians make?

On average, an HVAC technician typically earns between $46,000 and $68,000 per year depending on experience.

In 2020, the lowest 10% of HVAC technicians earned around $31,000 per year, while the top 10% earned around $80,000 per year.

The job outlook for HVAC technicians is positive and is projected to grow 5% from 2020 to 2030. This number could increase even further with the country’s focus on creating greener and more efficient buildings.

>> Read More: HVAC Technician Salary

How do I become an HVAC technician?

Though you don't have to get a 4-year degree, there are still some HVAC technician education and training requirements. Let’s take a quick look at the different ways you can start your career in HVAC:

1. Attend Trade School

A trade school is designed to teach you the skills to start a career. Most trade schools will offer an HVAC program. These programs are typically 1-2 years long and can cost up to $30,000 per year. Some schools allow you to take advantage of federal aid to cover some of the cost of college.

2. Attend Community College

Similar to trade schools, community colleges also offer HVAC training programs. These programs can be 1-4 years long and are typically more affordable than trade school programs.

3. Land an apprenticeship

HVAC apprenticeships are a combination of on-the-job training and classroom work. As an apprentice you are hired and paid from day one. You may spend part of your day out in the field shadowing a senior technician or in a classroom learning the theory behind HVAC. Apprenticeships can be hard to get without any experience.

4. Faraday's HVAC Program

Faraday helps you land an apprenticeship program at a local company. After you apply to Faraday, we share your profile with our employer network. We also offer free online training courses that help you earn the skills and certifications you need to start your career. Our program is 100% free for students.

Costs for training and education can range anywhere from free (apprenticeship, Faraday’s HVAC Training Program) to tens of thousands of dollars (trade school, community college). You can learn more in our HVAC Education & Training Costs Guide.

>> Read More: How to Become an HVAC Technician