Skilled Trades Careers

What is an HVAC Tech and What Do They Do at Work?

DateSeptember 29, 2023
what is an hvac technician

Have you ever wondered how you stay cool in the scorching summer or warm and cozy during the chilly winters? It's all thanks to the unsung heroes known as HVAC technicians.

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning - a technology that keeps our homes, offices, and commercial buildings comfortable year-round. HVAC technicians are the skilled professionals who install, maintain, repair, and clean these systems.

From air conditioning units to heat pumps and refrigeration systems, HVAC techs are experts in working with a variety of complex systems. They ensure that humidity levels, climate control, and air quality systems meet environmental regulations and individual customer needs.

With a combination of technical skills and interpersonal skills, HVAC technicians provide top-notch customer service. They respond to service calls promptly, conduct load calculations, and perform routine maintenance to keep our infrastructure running efficiently.

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What is an HVAC technician?

An HVAC technician is a skilled professional who specializes in installing and maintaining climate control technology. This includes air conditioning units, heat pumps, refrigeration systems, and ventilation systems in residential and commercial buildings.

These trade workers ensure that humidity levels, temperature, and air quality systems meet environmental regulations and the specific needs of customers. With a combination of technical expertise and interpersonal skills, these technicians play a crucial role in ensuring optimal comfort and air quality in various settings.

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What does an HVAC tech do at work?

HVAC workers cover a variety of tasks and responsibilities to ensure the proper functioning and maintenance of heating, cooling, and ventilation systems. This includes installation and maintenance, troubleshooting and repairing, conducting tests and evaluations, and maintaining compliance with regulations.

Many HVAC techs will interact with their clients and need to provide excellent customer service and communication. They are responsible for ensuring compliance with codes and regulations in their work and continuously learning and training to stay updated with the latest industry advancements.

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What are the main types of HVAC technician?

In the HVAC field, there are several main types of technicians based on their roles and specializations.

  1. Residential HVAC: These technicians focus on installing, maintaining, and repairing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in residential buildings. They work closely with homeowners to ensure optimal comfort and air quality in their homes.
  2. Commercial HVAC: Commercial technicians work with HVAC equipment in office buildings, commercial settings, and larger residential buildings. They are responsible for installing and maintaining complex HVAC systems that provide climate control for large spaces.
  3. Industrial HVAC: Industrial HVAC technicians are specialized in handling heavy-duty HVAC equipment found in industrial settings such as factories and warehouses. They have expertise in configuring, troubleshooting, and maintaining complex systems in demanding environments.

HVAC Specializations

Refrigeration Technicians: These technicians specialize in installing, maintaining, and repairing refrigeration systems. They work with various types of refrigeration equipment, including walk-in coolers, refrigerated displays, and refrigeration units.

HVAC Maintenance: These technicians focus on regular maintenance and service of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. They perform routine inspections, cleanings, and repairs to ensure the optimal performance and efficiency of HVAC systems.

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How much does a HVAC tech make on average?

These skilled professionals work in various settings and can specialize in different areas, so their income can vary depending on the type of work they do and their level of experience.

average HVAC salaries

An apprentice HVAC technician earns an average salary around $34,320 per year. They always work on projects with more experienced technicians so they can get some hands-on experience and learn the local service standards.

Journeyman technicians typically make more, with median salaries ranging around $48,630 per year. They typically work as team leaders and are responsible for maintaining safety regulations and helping new workers learn.

Master technicians are responsible for projects and ensure everyone understands evolving safety standards, and communicating with other contractors such as construction crews. They earn an average salary of around $102,210 according to the latest data.

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Is HVAC work stressful?

HVAC work is unlikely to be considered one of the most demanding skilled trades, however depending on your unique stress tolerance it may or may not be ideal. You may need to be comfortable working in cramped spaces or installing rooftop units.

If you don't like heights or tight spaces, you may want to consider another path. Despite these stress factors, HVAC work can also be rewarding and fulfilling. By understanding the challenges and demands of the job, those interested can prepare themselves for a rewarding career in the HVAC field.

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Is HVAC work physically demanding?

Like most skilled trades, HVAC work can be physically demanding, especially for apprentices who may be expected to handle most of the common tasks and manual labor.

Lifting heavy equipment and working in cramped spaces can make your day extra exhausting, so having a decent level of muscular strength and endurance is ideal for this career.

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What skills do HVAC workers need the most?

HVAC workers play a crucial role in maintaining comfortable indoor climates in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. With regular maintenance and service calls, these skilled professionals are responsible for keeping the temperatures, humidity levels, and air quality systems in check.


To excel in this field you'll need a combination of technical and interpersonal skills, along with practical experience in working with complex HVAC systems. If you're interested in pursuing a career in HVAC, consider learning through trade schools or apprenticeship programs, where you can learn all about climate control systems.

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Apprentice job description and top skills

Apprentice responsibilities generally include assisting with the installation, maintenance, and repair of heating and cooling systems in residential and commercial settings. They may also include load calculations, diagnostics, and compliance with environmental regulations.

Apprenticeships are the best way to gain on-the-job experience, from installing air conditioners to repairing heating systems. Sign up for a free SkillHero account to explore apprenticeship opportunities and start your HVAC career on the right foot.

Journeyman job description and top skills

A Journeyman HVAC tech is an experienced professional responsible for the installation, maintenance, and repair of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Their job involves troubleshooting and diagnosing issues, performing routine maintenance, and ensuring proper functionality of HVAC equipment in residential and commercial buildings.

Journeymen must have excellent problem-solving abilities and strong communication skills so they can interact with clients and help manage teams of less experienced workers.

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Master job description and top skills

Top skills required for this role include proficiency in installation techniques, comprehensive understanding of HVAC systems, and the ability to diagnose and solve problems in a variety of settings. They should possess excellent troubleshooting skills to identify issues and carry out accurate repairs.

Attention to detail is crucial for conducting thorough inspections and ensuring proper functioning of the systems. Strong communication skills are essential for interacting with customers and providing exceptional service. Time management skills are necessary to complete tasks efficiently and meet deadlines.

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Education and training

Becoming an HVAC technician requires a combination of education and hands-on training. Prospective HVAC workers typically need a high school diploma or equivalent like a GED. From there, they can pursue formal training programs such as trade schools or associate degree programs.

These programs typically last between six months to two years and cover a range of topics, including electrical systems, refrigeration, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. Students gain both theoretical knowledge and practical experience through hands-on training.

In addition to formal education, aspiring HVAC technicians can also participate in apprenticeship programs. These programs provide on-the-job training alongside experienced professionals, allowing individuals to learn the trade while earning a salary.

Once the education and training requirements are completed, some states may require HVAC technicians to obtain a license. Licensing requirements typically involve passing an exam that assesses the technician's knowledge and skills in the field.

Licenses and certifications

In addition to completing education and training programs, HVAC technicians can enhance their credentials by obtaining licenses and certifications. These credentials demonstrate proficiency and expertise in the field, furthering career prospects.

One highly regarded organization that offers HVAC certifications is the North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE provides four optional certificates for technicians to showcase their knowledge and skills.

By obtaining licenses and certifications, HVAC technicians can demonstrate their commitment to professionalism, expertise, and keeping up with industry standards. To connect with local businesses that are actively hiring, sign up for a free SkillHero account today.

Get started today

First, sign up for a free SkillHero account to connect with trade schools, certificate programs or degree programs, and potential employers related to cooling and heating systems.

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