HVAC Installer, HVAC Service Technician, & Refrigeration Technician
Construction, Installation, Maintenance, and Repair
Required Education, Credentials, and Licenses
- High school diploma or GED
- Licenses issued by local government (if mandated)
- Valid New York State driver’s license (if travel required)
Preferred Education and Credentials
- Vocational certificate or associate degree in HVAC/R
- EPA certification
- Certification by:
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
- Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
- Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA)
- or similar organizations
- 3-5 years of experience (for mid- or senior-level technician jobs)
- Interpret schematics and technical diagrams
- Physical abilities (stand, crouch, manual dexterity, lift up to 75 pounds)
- Critical thinking
- Customer service
HVAC installers, HVAC service technicians, and refrigeration technicians are mechanics who set up, maintain, and fix heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration equipment and systems that control indoor temperature and air quality. The types of equipment they work on may include (but are not limited to) air conditioners, heat pumps, blowers, fans, variable frequency drives, boilers, thermostats, humidistats, timers, belts and pulleys, condensate drain lines, compressors, heat exchangers, and walk-in or lowboy refrigerators.
HVAC installers focus on putting in and connecting the equipment so that it is operational, while HVAC service technicians focus on maintenance and repair once the systems are installed. Refrigeration technicians work primarily on systems that cool or sustain air temperature at a desired value. In HVAC/R companies with about 30 or more employees, job duties tend to be differentiated into those roles. Smaller companies are more likely to hire technicians whose responsibilities include all aspects of HVAC/R installation, maintenance, and repair.
Emerging electricity-based HVAC/R systems are more technologically complex than traditional systems that use fossil fuels, and they are becoming more common. Therefore, while these workers’ daily tasks are expected to remain similar to tasks performed on oil or gas burning systems, they will need additional training to master the mechanics of clean energy systems (i.e., variable refrigerant flow systems, ducted and ductless air source heat pumps, and ground source heat pumps) and smart (automated) mechanical systems. Retraining may also be needed for workers to safely handle the refrigerants with low global warming potential that are expected to become more commonplace in the next few years.
Workers who install HVAC/R systems need to be able to interpret schematics, wiring diagrams, and sequence of operations, and do so with an attention to detail that ensures the installation of both hardware and software is completed in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications. They connect pipes and tubing and check for leaks, install ductwork, set up low voltage wiring to connect system controls to equipment (as permitted by local licensing regulations for electrical work), and inspect, test, and balance the system to ensure it is operating properly. Servicing the systems involves performing preventive maintenance (e.g., replacing filters, cleaning drain lines or ducts, removing and replenishing refrigerants), inspecting parts and controls, and testing the system to determine if it is running efficiently. If it is not, technicians troubleshoot and diagnose the issue, repair or replace malfunctioning mechanical or electrical components, and calibrate the system.
HVAC/R installers and service technicians use math skills to calculate the rate of airflow and heating and cooling loads. HVAC/R systems are becoming increasingly automated, and workers may be required to manage service requests electronically, so they should be comfortable using computers, tablets, and smartphones. Physical requirements for these jobs include the ability to stand or walk for extended periods, climb ladders, crouch or otherwise access low spaces, and lift materials weighing up to 75 pounds. Manual dexterity and good vision are necessary. Because of the physical nature of these jobs, regular use of tools, and exposure to refrigerants, HVAC/R installers and service technicians must follow safety procedures and comply with government codes and regulations to minimize the risk of injury.
Organizational skills are needed to properly maintain an inventory of supplies and order more as needed, keep the company vehicle orderly (if applicable), and document any supplies used and work performed when fulfilling service requests. HVAC/R installers and service technicians should have strong teamwork, communication, and customer service skills to have positive interactions with managers, helpers, vendors, and customers. They need to be able to explain the work that is necessary to improve system performance. Experienced technicians may train more junior employees and be responsible for supporting sales by providing price quotes and identifying potential contracting opportunities.
HVAC/R installers and service technicians typically travel between worksites, which can include residential or commercial properties. They may specialize in either type of HVAC/R system, depending on their personal preference and company’s size (i.e., larger employers tend to have differentiated roles). Work schedules are usually full-time, often require being on call for emergencies, and can include early mornings, evenings, weekends, and holidays.
According to the New York State Department of Labor, there are approximately 16,700 HVAC/R installers and service technicians in New York State and opportunities for employment are expected to be very favorable through 2028 – the Department projects this occupation to grow by 2,290 jobs between 2018 and 2028.
Entering the Field
HVAC/R installers and service technicians typically need to have a minimum education of a high school diploma or GED, and many employers prefer to hire workers with specialized training including vocational training, a trade certificate, associate degree, or relevant apprenticeship program. Entry-level jobs may be available to candidates without any experience and the skills needed to become a proficient installer or service technician are often learned on the job over a year or more while working alongside a more experienced employee. Senior technician positions do require about seven years of relevant work experience.
HVAC/R workers who handle refrigerants must have U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Section 608 Technician Certification. Local governments may also have licensing requirements for individuals who install and service HVAC/R systems. For example, New York City requires an Oil Burning Equipment Installer license for anyone doing that type of work. A valid driver’s license is necessary for jobs that require traveling between worksites.
Employers may prefer to hire individuals who have certifications issued by HVAC/R industry organizations that demonstrate competence in general HVAC/R installation, maintenance, and repair or specialized services and equipment such as those related to electrified systems. Examples include certifications by NATE, ACCA, RETA, ESCO Group, the Building Performance Institute, Inc. (BPI), and manufacturers’ certifications for specific equipment.
Check local government requirements for more information regarding eligibility to work as an HVAC/R installer or service technician. Also, check job ads and with local employers to understand which industry certifications are valued for different HVAC/R positions.
In New York State, the median wage for HVAC/R installers and service technicians is approximately $60,700. Entry-level workers earn about $41,600 and experienced workers earn about $76,200. Those who have expertise in electrified energy efficient technologies (e.g., heat pump installers and technicians) will likely earn salaries at the higher end of this range, particularly as demand for these types of technologies continues to increase.
Annual Wage (Q1 2021 dollars, rounded to 100s) – Statewide and by Labor Market Region
|New York State||$41,600||$60,700||$76,200|
|Central New York||$36,700||$51,200||$60,600|
|New York City||$49,500||$77,000||$88,400|
|Western New York||$40,500||$52,800||$62,400|
Source: New York State Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Survey, SOC Code 49-9021 (Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers)
The largest employer of HVAC installers, HVAC service technicians, and refrigeration technicians are construction contractors whose projects focus on mechanical equipment in buildings. These workers may also be hired by retailers that sell and service HVAC/R equipment, government agencies, and large institutions like hospitals.
The top three employers with the most online job advertisements in each region in 2020 are listed below. (Note that construction jobs are often underrepresented in online job ads. Check local union or government websites for additional opportunities to gain employment as an HVAC/R technician.)
- EMCOR Group
- Service Experts LLC
Central New York
- Carrier Corporation
- Service Experts LLC
- Holbrook Heating Inc.
- EMCOR Group
- NOCO Energy Corporation
- Aqueduct Services
- T.Webber Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electric
- Northwell Health
- EMCOR Group
- A Plus Services
- Action Facilities Management Incorporated
New York City
- HomeServe USA
- New York Presbyterian Hospital
- AMS Plumbing and HVAC
- EMCOR Group
Western New York
- Emerald Heating & Cooling
- Zenner & Ritter Incorporated
Source: Burning Glass Technologies: Labor Insight™. 2021.
There are multiple labor unions that count HVAC/R installers and service technicians among their members, including local chapters of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART); International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE); and United Association (UA).
Chapters that describe their membership as including installation, maintenance, and service workers are listed below. Other local chapters affiliated with these unions that are not listed may have members who perform HVAC/R-related work in different roles. Check with the unions to confirm which chapters represent HVAC installers, HVAC service technicians, and refrigeration technicians. Contact these unions or visit their websites to see which chapters are active in various parts of the state and to learn more about the training opportunities they offer, some of which include apprenticeship programs.
Workers employed by New York State or local governments may also belong to unions. Check with local communities to see if there are public unions that represent HVAC/R installers and service technicians.
International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Chapters
International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Chapters
- UA Local 1
New York City
- UA Local 7
Capital Region, Mohawk Valley
- UA Local 13
Finger Lakes, Western New York
- UA Local 21
- UA Local 22
Finger Lakes, Western New York
- UA Local 81
Central New York, Finger Lakes, North Country, Southern Tier
- UA Local 112
Central New York, Mohawk Valley, North Country, Southern Tier
- UA Local 200
- UA Local 373
- UA Local 638
Long Island, New York City
- UA Local 773
Capital Region, North Country
Education and Training Programs
Manufacturers and distributors of HVAC/R equipment provide training courses that will help workers acquire the knowledge needed to start working as an HVAC installer, HVAC service technician, or refrigeration technician, or they may expand their skillset to include environmentally-friendly technologies. Examples of training programs offered by manufacturers are listed below. Additional training may be offered through other manufacturers and distributors in the industry, some of which partner with NYSERDA through Clean Heat Connect. Check with individual manufacturers and distributors for a complete list of online or in-person offerings.
HVAC/R industry organizations that offer certificates or continuing education units also have coursework that focuses on emerging technologies.
NATE offers entry level “Ready-to-Work” and “HVAC Support Technician” certificates as well as certification exams for more experienced workers or those looking to expand their skills in a specialized area. Workers can prepare using NATE’s study guides or online Training Academy, and they can take exams to become a NATE-Certified HVAC Professional or demonstrate knowledge of sustainable HVAC/R systems by passing exams on ground source heat pump installation, air to air heat pump installation or service, air distribution installation or service, and low global warming potential refrigerants.
Steven Winter Associates, Inc.’s Building Electrification Training Series has seven courses that include topics such as heat pumps and managing refrigerants in commercial and residential buildings.
ITEC Training & Education Center offers a variety of HVAC courses, including some specific to heat pumps.
The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials has online courses related to ground source heat pumps.
ACCA has in-person and online training options for residential and light commercial HVAC (some of which include heat pumps) as well as refrigerants and a course on improving communication with clients.
RETA offers an apprenticeship program, online training, and certifications specific to refrigeration, including the Certified Refrigeration Energy Specialist certification.
ESCO Group training and certification topics include low global warming potential refrigerant safety and heat pumps, among a variety of HVAC/R offerings.
BPI offers certification as an Air Conditioning & Heat Pump Professional (among other HVAC/R-related certifications). While they do not have an affiliation with training centers, check to see if a local BPI test center offers training.
Certificate and associate degree programs that prepare workers for jobs as HVAC installers, HVAC service technicians, and refrigeration technicians are available across New York State. In addition to the programs listed below, adult continuing education or career training departments at local colleges may offer HVAC/R technician training. Check with schools directly or see which partner with ed2go, an online continuing education provider that includes HVAC/R courses.
|Hudson Valley Community College||Applied Technologies||No||•Yes||No||No||No|
|Central New York|
|Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES||HVAC/R Technician||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES||Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Monroe Community College||Applied Technologies Center||•Yes||•Yes||No||No||No|
|Dutchess Community College||Business, Aviation, and Construction Professions||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Electrical Training Center||HVAC/R Program||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Suffolk County Community College||Heating, Ventilation, AC and Refrigeration Technology||•Yes||•Yes||No||No||No|
|Fulton-Montgomery Community College||Technology Programs||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Mohawk Valley Community College||School of STEM||•Yes||•Yes||No||No||No|
|New York City|
|Apex Technical School||HVAC & Refrigeration||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|New York City College of Technology (CUNY)||Environmental Control Technology||No||•Yes||No||No||No|
|SUNY at Canton||Canino School of Engineering Technology||No||•Yes||No||No||No|
|SUNY at Delhi||School of Applied Technologies||No||•Yes||No||No||No|
|Western New York|
|Erie 1 BOCES||HVAC||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Erie Community College||Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration||•Yes||No||No||No||No|
|SUNY at Alfred||Building Trades||No||•Yes||No||No||No|