First of all, what is HVAC? HVAC stands for Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning. Basically, it is the technology that drives both indoor and vehicular environmental controls. It is technically a sub discipline of mechanical engineering, but it is a trade in its own right. Getting started in an HVAC career means first getting to know exactly what the trade entails.
The two types of HVAC
The HVAC industry can be broken down into just two main categories, residential and commercial. These two categories can then be divided into installation and service. While the installation side of the business can involve more money, typically the service aspect provides more steady employment.
HVAC professionals that work on the residential side do so in people’s homes, condominiums, and apartments. Commercial HVAC means working on the larger systems that usually are found in factory settings, power plants, office buildings, and warehouses. Working on the commercial side typically means having some sort of higher education and even more experience. Getting started at the residential level is definitely the more expedient route to take.
These days HVAC is also sometimes referred to as HAVC(R), with the R standing for Refrigeration. While the core of HVAC works lies in heating and air conditioning, those two categories alone cover everything from air conditioners to furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, and more.
An HVAC specialist may have to install and service walk-in coolers, hazardous gas and material ventilators, massive cooling towers, humidification and de-humidification units, air filtration systems, just to name a few. And in today’s ever-changing energy industry, that can sometimes even mean working with geothermal, wood-burning, solar, and waste-to-energy systems.
An experienced HVAC technician must know how to deal with all these types of systems, as well as have a cursory knowledge of plumbing and all things electrical. Skills include a proficiency in mathematics (especially geometry), the ability to read and decipher blueprints, charts and schematics as well. An extensive knowledge of OSHA regulations is also a must.
Life as an HVAC technician
For those thinking about entering the trades, HVAC is one of the better choices both in diversity of work and pay scale. Financially speaking, an HVAC apprentice can pull in twice the minimum wage while learning on the job. The average HVAC tech makes upwards of $50,000 a year working full time, considerably more with overtime and even more if he or she has a specialty.
Being an HVAC technician means never having to stare at the same four walls every day. It means moving from job to job even if you work for the same company. This not only keeps the job fresh, it allows you to learn about all the different types of systems. Whether it’s assembling an HVAC system from scratch or building a strong customer base through service, a career in HVAC is something that lasts a lifetime.
So is a career in HVAC what you’re looking for?
That’s for you to decide. Quite frankly, HVAC of the best and highest paying of all the trades and can even lead to jobs working overseas. Most HVAC technicians stick with the profession for a lifetime.