Frequently Asked Questions About HVAC Technicians in Texas
Anyone who has ever lived through a sweltering Southern summer can attest to the value of a properly maintained air conditioning system. Professionals who can keep residential and commercial buildings comfortable in any kind of weather are continually in demand. HVAC trade schools in Texas can give you the practical skills-based training you'll need to gain a competitive edge in this reliable trade.
Want to learn more? Keep reading to explore the different tasks you could perform, the money you could make, and the type of training you will need to get started in the HVAC field!
What Is HVAC?
HVAC is an industry-standard acronym for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Sometimes it's written as HVAC/R, where the "r" stands for refrigeration. This trade is focused on controlling the temperature, humidity level, and air quality inside homes, offices, and other types of buildings.
Workers in this field may be known as:
- HVAC technicians
- HVAC installers
- HVAC mechanics
- Air conditioning and refrigeration (ACR) technicians
What Is the Work Like?
HVAC work involves a diverse range of tasks. Professionals in this field install, maintain, and service the heating, cooling, and refrigeration systems in homes, factories, offices, stores, hospitals, and other types of buildings. Some technicians specialize in a certain type of equipment (i.e., residential, industrial, or commercial). Some choose to focus on either the service or installation side, whereas others do both.
On a typical day, HVAC technicians might:
- Install air conditioners, humidification units, heat pumps, walk-in coolers, or air filtration systems
- Follow blueprints for installing piping, air ducts, pumps, motors, and vents
- Connect cooling and heating systems to water and fuel supply lines
- Test systems to see if they are working properly and efficiently
- Inspect systems to check for leaks, worn parts, or other issues
- Repair or replace filters, ducts, and other components as necessary
- Follow federal government regulations for the handling of refrigerants
What Training Is Required?
Many trade schools, career colleges, and technical institutes in Texas offer short HVAC training programs that can prepare you for entry-level work in this field. You can choose to get an associate degree (which typically takes two years) or a diploma (which generally takes a year or less). Programs will teach you about:
- Electrical circuits
- Piping and venting techniques
- Soldering and swaging
- Equipment design
- Pressure testing and leak detection
- Building codes
- Troubleshooting methods
- Safety protocols
Another route into the HVAC trade is through an apprenticeship, which combines paid on-the-job training with relevant classroom instruction. Most apprenticeships last between three and five years. In the beginning, you will earn about half the pay of a fully qualified worker, and your wage will go up as you move through your training. Upon successfully completing the program, you will receive an industry-recognized credential.
Registered apprenticeships are administered by the U.S. Department of Labor but developed by employers, unions, and other groups throughout Texas. Each sponsoring organization defines its own admission requirements. It's important to note that registered apprenticeships are highly competitive. You can boost your odds of being accepted to one by completing formal training at a trade school or technical college first.
What Licenses or Certifications Do I Need?
That depends on what kind of work you want to do and whether you plan to go into business for yourself.
Section 608 of the federal Clean Air Act requires that all HVAC professionals who work with refrigerants be certified in the proper handling of these substances. This involves passing a written test in one of four categories: small appliances, high-pressure appliances, low-pressure appliances, or universal (which covers all types of appliances). Many trade schools and career colleges include the exam as part of their programs. You can also take it through unions, contractor associations, or building groups.
In Texas, there are no specific certification requirements for HVAC technicians who work under the supervision of a licensed contractor. However, anyone who does maintenance work on air conditioning or refrigeration systems must register as an ACR technician with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). You don't need any experience to register, and you don't need to pass an exam.
You may choose to get certified, which can boost your employment prospects. If you pass the certification exam, you can register with the TDLR as a Certified ACR Technician. The programs at many vocational schools are designed to prepare their students for this certification.
If you want to advertise your services and work independently, you must be licensed. Texas has two kinds of licenses: Class A allows you to work on HVAC equipment of any size, while Class B lets you work on cooling units of up to 25 tons as well as heating systems with outputs of up to 1.5 million BTUs per hour. Each type of license requires passing a different exam.
You are eligible to write the licensing exam if you a) have four years of HVAC work experience within the preceding six years; or b) have been a Certified ACR Technician for at least a year and have a total of three years of practical experience in the preceding four years. The TDLR stipulates that if you have a post-secondary diploma or degree, or if you have completed an apprenticeship, a portion of your training can be applied toward the experience requirement.
Licensed contractors must also have one or both of the following endorsements:
- Environmental air conditioning—Involves treating air to keep people comfortable
- Commercial refrigeration and process heating and cooling—Involves controlling temperature and humidity to keep equipment operating properly
Each of these endorsements requires passing an exam. Class A exams have 120 questions while Class B tests have 100. For all endorsement exams, a passing grade is 70 percent.
What Are Typical HVAC Salaries in Texas?
According to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), the statewide median annual salary for HVAC mechanics and installers was $44,552 in 2018. That means half of the workers in this field made more than that amount and half made less.
But salaries vary throughout the state. For example, HVAC mechanics and installers in the Gulf Coast Workforce Development Area (which includes Galveston) earned a median annual wage of $48,779 in 2018, and those in Dallas County had a median salary of $46,464.
What Is the Outlook for This Trade in Texas?
There are lots of jobs for HVAC technicians. Data from the Occupational Employment Statistics program reveals that Texas employs more HVAC mechanics and installers than all but two other states, and Houston and Dallas both rank among the top 10 metro areas in the country in terms of the number of jobs in this field. And the opportunities should multiply rapidly: TWC says employment of HVAC mechanics and installers is expected to grow almost 23.5 percent in Texas between 2016 and 2026. That means almost 6,200 new jobs should become available in the state over that time period.
Take the First Step
A better future awaits. HVAC trade schools in Texas are ready to help you launch a new career. Check out the schools listed above or put your zip code into the following school finder to get a list of convenient nearby training programs!