HVACR Trade Schools

Training in heating, ventilation, AC and refrigeration (HVAC)

Any building - home, office or factory - that utilizes climate control equipment will need an HVAC and refrigeration technician at some point. That's good news for HVACR professionals who provide system installation, maintenance and repairs.

The work an HVACR mechanic (or technician) performs isn't always the most comfortable - although the result of their work will be increased comfort for a building's occupants. They work outdoors in any weather, and even when working indoors may experience discomfort due to malfunctioning heating and cooling equipment. They have to perform work at any height and in cramped spaces and awkward positions, while trying to avoid injury due to electrical shocks and burns. Heavy lifting is often unavoidable.

The most dangerous part of an HVAC mechanic's job has to do with the use of refrigerant compounds. These substances can cause injury if they are inhaled or come into contact with skin. Good thing decent wages and job stability are benefits of the HVACR technician's job.

How long will it take?

An HVAC mechanic apprenticeship can last between three and five years, by which time most technicians have become competent enough to work alone.

Many trade schools offer students educational jump-start programs that last between six months and two years. The shorter programs may be enough to prepare for a position as an apprentice, while more comprehensive programs can qualify graduates for entry-level jobs. Those who choose a technical school course over apprenticeship will likely still require up to several years of on-the-job experience before they'll be considered a skilled professional.

Some people choose to forgo either of the recommended options and learn the trade while working under a professional HVACR technician. This route can lead to the same outcome, but it takes a lot longer and might not be enough to qualify applicants for a job with many employers.

Skills and requirements

Depending on the program, students in HVACR schools learn blueprint reading, mechanical drawing, proper use and care of tools and how to use testing equipment such as voltmeters and pressure gauges.

They may also be instructed in theory, codes and regulations and the design and construction of HVAC and refrigeration equipment. Knowing the basics of electronics is becoming increasingly important as they are used in newer equipment controls. Those entering a program or apprenticeship will do well if they have some knowledge of electricity and plumbing as well as good people skills.

Any technician working with refrigerants has to become certified in handling and disposal. Groups offering this certification must be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

HVACR jobs

Most HVAC and refrigeration technicians are trained in both installation and repair but specialize in one or the other. Some may also specialize in certain equipment such as oil furnaces or commercial refrigerators. Technicians working for smaller companies often install and repair a number of different systems and equipment.