Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

What Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers Do

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNcQwekI2KQ

Work Environment

HVACR technicians work mostly in homes, schools, hospitals, office buildings, or factories. Their worksites may be very hot or cold because the heating and cooling systems they must repair may not be working properly and because some parts of these systems are located outdoors. Working in cramped spaces and during irregular hours is common.

How to Become a Heating, Air Conditioning, or Refrigeration Mechanic and Installer

Because HVACR systems have become increasingly complex, employers generally prefer applicants with postsecondary education or those who have completed an apprenticeship. Some states and localities may require technicians to be licensed.

Pay

The median annual wage for heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers was $48,730 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Commercial and residential building construction is expected to drive employment growth, and job opportunities for HVACR technicians are expected to be good.

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers—often called HVACR technicians—work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems that control the temperature and air quality in buildings.

Duties

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers typically do the following:

  • Install, clean, and maintain HVACR systems
  • Install electrical components and wiring
  • Inspect and test HVACR systems and components
  • Discuss system malfunctions with customers
  • Repair or replace worn or defective parts
  • Recommend maintenance to improve system performance
  • Keep records of work performed

Heating and air conditioning systems control the temperature, humidity, and overall air quality in homes, businesses, and other buildings. By providing a climate-controlled environment, refrigeration systems make it possible to store and transport food, medicine, and other perishable items.

Some HVACR technicians specialize in one or more specific aspects of HVACR, such as radiant heating systems, solar panels, testing and balancing, or commercial refrigeration.

When installing or repairing air conditioning and refrigeration systems, technicians must follow government regulations regarding the conservation, recovery, and recycling of refrigerants. The regulations include those concerning the proper handling and disposal of fluids and pressurized gases.

Some HVACR technicians sell service contracts to their clients, providing periodic maintenance of heating and cooling systems. The service usually includes inspecting the system, cleaning ducts, replacing filters, and checking refrigerant levels.

Other workers sometimes help HVACR technicians install or repair cooling and heating systems. For example, on a large air conditioning installation job, especially one in which workers are covered by union contracts, ductwork may be installed by sheet metal workers, electrical work by electricians, and pipework by plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters. Boiler systems are sometimes installed by a boilermaker.

Home appliance repairers usually service window air conditioners and household refrigerators.

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers held about 376,800 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers were as follows:

Plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning contractors 66%
Self-employed workers 7
Wholesale trade 4
Educational services; state, local, and private 3
Retail trade 3

HVACR technicians work mostly in homes, schools, stores, hospitals, office buildings, or factories. Some technicians are assigned to specific jobsites at the beginning of each day. Others travel to several different locations, making service calls.

Although most technicians work indoors, some may have to work on outdoor heat exchangers, even in bad weather. Technicians often work in awkward or cramped spaces, and some work in buildings that are uncomfortable because the air conditioning or heating system is not working properly.

Injuries and Illnesses

HVACR technicians have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Potential hazards include electrical shock, burns, muscle strains, and injuries from handling heavy equipment.

Appropriate safety equipment is necessary in handling refrigerants, because they are hazardous and contact can cause skin damage, frostbite, or blindness. When working in tight spaces, inhalation of refrigerants is also a potential hazard. Several refrigerants are highly flammable and require additional care.

Work Schedules

The majority of HVACR technicians work full time. Evening or weekend shifts may be required, and HVACR technicians often work overtime or irregular hours during peak heating and cooling seasons.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Boilermakers

Boilermakers assemble, install, maintain, and repair boilers, closed vats, and other large vessels or containers that hold liquids and gases.

High school diploma or equivalent $63,100

Electricians

Electricians

Electricians install, maintain, and repair electrical power, communications, lighting, and control systems.

High school diploma or equivalent $56,180

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters

Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters install and repair piping fixtures and systems.

High school diploma or equivalent $55,160

Sheet Metal Workers

Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets.

High school diploma or equivalent $50,400

Solar Photovoltaic Installers

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers assemble, set up, and maintain rooftop or other systems that convert sunlight into energy.

High school diploma or equivalent $44,890

General Maintenance and Repair Workers

General maintenance and repair workers fix and maintain machines, mechanical equipment, and buildings.

High school diploma or equivalent $39,080

Wind Turbine Technicians

Wind turbine service technicians install, maintain, and repair wind turbines.

Postsecondary nondegree award $52,910

Stationary engineers and boiler operators

Stationary Engineers and Boiler Operators

Stationary engineers and boiler operators control stationary engines, boilers, or other mechanical equipment.

High school diploma or equivalent $62,150

For details about apprenticeships or other work opportunities, contact the offices of the state employment service, the state apprenticeship agency, local contractors, or local union–management HVACR apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship program online or by phone at 877-872-5627.

For more information about career opportunities, training, and certification, visit

Associated Builders and Contractors

North American Technician Excellence

Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association

Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association

Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

United Association Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, and Service Techs

O*NET

Heating and Air Conditioning Mechanics and Installers

Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers

Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heating-air-conditioning-and-refrigeration-mechanics-and-installers.htm (visited ).