Heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers—also called technicians—install, maintain, and repair such systems. Because heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration systems often are referred to as HVACR systems, these workers also may be called HVACR technicians.

Heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration systems consist of many mechanical, electrical, and electronic components, such as motors, compressors, pumps, fans, ducts, pipes, thermostats, and switches. In central heating systems, for example, a furnace heats air that is distributed throughout the building via a system of metal or fiberglass ducts. Technicians must be able to maintain, diagnose, and correct problems throughout the entire system. To do this, they adjust system controls to recommended settings and test the performance of the entire system using special tools and test equipment.

Technicians often specialize in either installation or maintenance and repair, although they are trained to do both. Some specialize in one type of equipment—for example, oil burners, solar panels, or commercial refrigerators. Technicians may work for large or small contracting companies or directly for a manufacturer or wholesaler. Those working for smaller operations tend to do both installation and servicing, and work with heating, cooling, and refrigeration equipment. Service contracts—which involve heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration work for particular customers on a regular basis—are becoming more common. Service agreements help to reduce the seasonal fluctuations of this work.

Job Outlook and Growth Potential:

Job prospects for heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers are expected to be good, particularly for those with technical school or formal apprenticeship training. Employment of heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2012. As the population and economy grow, so does the demand for new residential, commercial, and industrial climate-control systems. Technicians who specialize in installation work may experience periods of unemployment when the level of new construction activity declines, but maintenance and repair work usually remains relatively stable. People and businesses depend on their climate-control systems and must keep them in good working order, regardless of economic conditions.

Wages and Earning Potential:

Median hourly earnings of heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers were $16.78 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $12.95 and $21.37 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.34, and the top 10 percent earned more than $26.20. Median hourly earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of heating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers in 2002 were as follows:

Hardware, and plumbing and heating equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers $18.78
Commercial and industrial machinery and equipment (except automotive and electronic) repair and maintenance $17.16
Direct selling establishments $17.14
Elementary and secondary schools $16.80
Building equipment contractors $16.03

Apprentices usually begin at about 50 percent of the wage rate paid to experienced workers. As they gain experience and improve their skills, they receive periodic increases until they reach the wage rate of experienced workers.

Copyright © 2014, Ohio's 2-Year Council of Deans and Directors of Engineering & Industrial Technologies

Career information from Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2004-05 Edition and member schools.