One available job that we haven’t talked about much is an HVAC contractor.
A contractor specifically working in HVAC is responsible for completing and overseeing an entire project including scheduling, budget, timeliness, and quality of work. The difference between a contractor and a technician is that a contractor is hiring other subcontractors or companies to actually complete the work, not doing it himself. A technician would be the one working on the project.
How Do I Become an HVAC Contractor?
Contractors usually have years of hands on experience prior to becoming a contractor. This is usually important because they need to be familiar with how to properly install or work with a variety of different components. On big projects, HVAC contractors need to be able to quality control the work of their sub contractors and be familiar with industry standards.
Apart from experience, HVAC contractors need to be able to communicate well to be successful. They will be working with many other companies, and tight deadlines. Being able to effectively communicate with other sub contractors is key to a successful project. Also, being a great people person doesn’t hurt. The ability to win people over and lead a team will be crucial.
Do I Need To Go TO School To Be An HVAC Contractor?
The short answer is no, you do not need to go to school to become an HVAC contractor.
The longer answer is that it might help. The main thing needed is a solid understanding of HVAC systems, installation, maintenance, and repair. So if you have those skills, then you should be okay.
Do I Need HVAC Certification To Be A Contractor?
This question is a bit tougher to answer.
Every state has different laws around the requirements for working as an HVAC contractor. Some states do not require and certification other than EPA 608 while others require a state specific license and exam. To find out what the law is in your state, head over to our state requirements page and find your state.
HVAC Contractor Salary
Salaries range for contractors from $55,000 to $100,000+ per year depending on the specific nature of the work. Large commercial projects with complex HVAC systems often pay extremely well an many contractors bring in over six figures on a regular basis. For smaller jobs, a contractor can expect to make $55,000 to $75,000 annually.
A career as an HVAC contractor can be a rewarding one with great pay. If you are a technician wanting to grow into a contractor role, ask your boss or your contractor friends how they got started. They will give you a good idea on what it takes to get into the role.
A lot of people who are new to the HVAC industry are curious as to whether or not it is even worth it to become HVAC certified.
This is an absolutely valid question. I mean, let’s be real, exam prep materials are not cheap and people don’t want to spend their time studying for a certification that isn’t going to give them some sort of return. So is it worth it?
My Take: Certifications Can’t Hurt
There are a lot of different situations and circumstances that could play into this decision, so only you can decide whether or not certification is something you want to pursue. However, I am always of the opinion that if you have the opportunity to get a certification, it can’t hurt.
The HVAC industry is competitive, and there are lots of qualified candidates out there and personally, I want every advantage I can get. Whether its for a position I am applying for, or a position within another company, the certifications will always be helpful.
Companies Like HVAC Certified Employees
Just like you find yourself competing for a job, HVAC companies compete everyday for customers.
And just like you, they want to be able to tout as many accolades as they can. This is why many companies are willing to pay for their employees to become certified – because they want to be able that all of their technicians are certified in one way or another.
This is why if you are applying for one o these types of companies, you are immediately more desirable. They don’t need to invest more money into you because you have already put in the work and time needed to obtain certification.
Apart from your résumé, a good cover letter is one of the best ways to make a great first impression on your prospective HVAC employer.
What Is A Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a brief personal letter outlining your motives for applying and maybe a few points about why you would be a good fit for the position.
You can consider your cover letter an introduction to you and what you are all about.
HVAC Technician Cover Letter
There are a few specific points that you will want to make on your cover letter when applying for an HVAC Technician position.
First, this is a very technical role, meaning that a specialized training or education is needed to be proficient at the job. Your cover letter is a great place to point out any of your certifications and/or trainings that are relative.
Also, you may want to explain about why you are applying for this position. What is it about this company that makes you want to work for them? What are your future goals and aspirations? What unique benefit will you bring to their company? These are all things that you could speak about in your cover letter.
Don’t Be Pushy
One last tip about the writing in your cover letter is to avoid coming off as cocky or obnoxious. It’s important that you sell your strong points but do so in a manner that preserves a sense of humility. Remember that this is going to be the persons very first impression of you.
Once you have your letter sent off, remember to follow up in a few days to make sure that they have receive it and your resume. Let them know that they can always reach out to you if they have any questions or need any more information.
I hope these cover letter tips help you land that HVAC technician position you are applying for.
The AABC (Associate Air Balance Council) offers 4 different types of AABC certification for members. The certifications are as follows:
- Test and Balance Engineer (TBE): According to the AABC, all members must have at least one TBE on staff at all times as they are the person responsible for certifying all test and balance reports. The great thing about this is that it immediately creates a demand for engineers with AABC certification. This person must have a minimum of 8 years of testing and balancing experience. If you have an engineering degree, they will credit you 4 years experience. In order to become certified, you must pass the AABC TBE certification exam which is administered in Washington DC or at one of their Annual meetings. The exam covers:
- Air and Water balance
- Sound and Vibration testing
- Fan and Pump laws
2. Test and Balance Technician: All technicians working for an AABC agency must be certified. You must have 4 years of test and balance experience and have been working for an AABC agency for a minimum of 12 months. You are required to obtain field and classroom training as well as pass an exam to become certified.
3. Cleanroom Certification: You must already be a TBT or TBE to obtain cleanroom certification. You will be responsible for understanding cleanroom applications and testing procedures. You must pass the cleanroom certification exam in order to become certified.
4. Commissioning Certification: This person performs functional tests for HVAC systems in the building commission process. Qualified candidates must show knowledge with the commissioning process. You must pass a real-life examination to become certified.
All of the info above was taken from the AABC official website. Please check with their site for more information about how you can obtain your AABC certification.
The EPA 608 certification is the first HVAC certification you should pursue. Why? Because it is a federally mandated certification! That means that if you are going to be buying or working with refrigerants, you are going to need to pass this test first.
Types of EPA 608 Certification
As discussed in our What is EPA Certification? post, there are 3 types of EPA 608 certification available. They are:
- Type I – Small Appliances
- Type II – High-Pressure
- Type III – Low Pressure
There is a specific exam associated with each of the separate types of certifications. In addition, you will need to pass a CORE exam that is required for all certifications.
The CORE EPA 608 certification exam covers a wide variety of HVAC topics – it is the least “focused” exam, if you will. The exams relating to the Type I, Type II, and Type II certifications are much more centered around their applicable topic, and rightfully so. According the EPA, the CORE exam consists of the following topics:
- Destruction of ozone by chlorine
- Presence of chlorine in CFC and HCFC refrigerants
- Identification of CFC, HCFC, and HFC refrigerants (not chemical formulas, but idea that R-12 is a CFC, R-22 is an HCFC, R-134 is an HFC, etc.)
- Idea that CFCs have higher ozone-depletion potential (ODP) than HCFCs, which in turn have higher ODP than HFCs
- Health and environmental effects of ozone depletion
- Evidence of ozone depletion and role of CFCs and HCFCs
Clean Air Act and Montreal Protocol
- CFC phaseout date
- Venting prohibition at servicing
- Venting prohibition at disposal
- Venting prohibition on substitute refrigerants in November, 1995
- Maximum penalty under CAA
- Montreal Protocol (international agreement to phase out production of ozone-depleting substances)
Section 608 Regulations
- Definition/identification of high and low-pressure refrigerants
- Definition of system-dependent vs. self-contained recovery/recycling equipment
- Identification of equipment covered by the rule (all air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment containing CFCs or HCFCs except motor vehicle air conditioners)
- Need for third-party certification of recycling and recovery equipment manufactured after November 15, 1993
- Standard for reclaimed refrigerant (ARI 700)
Substitute Refrigerants and oils
- Absence of “drop-in” replacements
- Incompatibility of substitute refrigerants with many lubricants used with CFC and HCFC refrigerants and incompatibility of CFC and HCFC refrigerants with many new lubricants (includes identification of lubricants for given refrigerants, such as esters with 134; alkylbenzenes for HCFCs)
- Fractionation problem–tendency of different components of blends to leak at different rates
- Refrigerant states (vapor vs. liquid) and pressures at different points of refrigeration cycle; how/when cooling occurs
- Refrigeration gauges (color codes, ranges of different types, proper use)
- Need to avoid mixing refrigerants
- Factors affecting speed of recovery (ambient temperature, size of recycling or recovery equipment, hose length and diameter, etc.)
- Need to evacuate system to eliminate air and moisture at the end of service
- Risks of exposure to refrigerant (e.g., oxygen deprivation, cardiac effects, frost bite, long-term hazards)
- Personal protective equipment (gloves, goggles, self-contained breathing apparatus–SCBA–in extreme cases, etc)
- Reusable (or “recovery”) cylinders vs. disposable cylinders (ensure former DOT approved, know former’s yellow and gray color code, never refill latter)
- Risks of filling cylinders more than 80 percent full
- Use of nitrogen rather than oxygen or compressed air for leak detection
- Use of pressure regulator and relief valve with nitrogen
- Labels required for refrigerant cylinders (refrigerant identification, DOT classification tag)
EPA 608 Certification – Wrapping Up
As you can see, there are quite a few topics here. In a later post we are going to dive into the EPA 608 certification exam in much more detail to hopefully shed light on some of the topics you may not be familiar with.
Also, you may want to have a look at the HVAC training locations in your state.
Have you taken the EPA 608 Certification exam? Have any tips you would like to share with others? Was it a piece of cake? Impossible? Let us know your thoughts!
NATE certification (North American Technician Excellence) is widely considered to the be the gold standard of excellence in HVAC training and certification. Consumer Reports has recently started recommending that any HVAC work you are having done be completed by a NATE certified contractor.
NATE certification does not have any eligibility requirements – no previous work experience or training needed. All you have to do is register for, and pass the exam. After passing, you will receive a NATE ID card to show to prospective employers and/or clients to prove that you are NATE certified.
NATE certification exams consist of a core exam and a specialty exam. You are offered the choice of a focus of either installation or service. There are a total of 21 specialty exams for you to choose from. Each of the specialties listed below are offered with the focus of installation or service.
- Air Conditioning
- Air Distribution
- Air-to-Air Heat Pumps
- Gas Furnaces
- Oil Furnaces
- Hydronics Gas
- Hydronics Oil
- Light Commercial Refrigeratioin
- Commercial Refrigeration
- Ground Source Heat Pump Loop Installer
- HVAC Efficiency Analyst (This exam is a Senior Level exam – there is no specific focus attached)
As an example, you could choose to take the Core installation exam, along with the Air Distribution installation exam to become certified. You could also choose to take the Core service exam, along with the Air Conditioning service exam to become certified.
NATE does not administer the exams themselves so you will need to locate a testing location near you. Testing locations can be found on the NATE website. You must pass both the core and specialty exams in order to become certified. If you pass one exam and fail the other, you will have 2 years to pass the other exam. If 2 years have elapsed since you passed the first exam, you will need to retake both exams. Once you have passed, your NATE certification will be good for 5 years. You may retake the tests prior to the 5 year mark to regain certification for an additional 5 years.
NATE certification exam fees vary so please check with your local testing location for fee information.
Have you already received your EPA Certification? If not, check out our article explaining what you need to know to become EPA Certified.
Washington HVAC Technicians or Contractors License
Washington currently does not require HVAC technicians or contractors to be licensed by the state.
Please keep in mind that federal law requires EPA 608 certification. Here is a list of our Washington HVAC training schools.