How to Become an HVAC Tech in Colorado
Tradesmanship has become a massively overlooked career path in the 21st century, as there is increasing pressure for individuals to obtain a four-year academic degree. However, the trade industry is not just an alternative to college, but a wise career path that offers job security and advancement for less time and money than a degree would cost. Becoming an HVAC technician is a rapidly growing occupation across the United States, as benefits like pay, job growth, and opportunities to innovate, greatly outweigh the effort it takes to become one. The HVAC industry is increasing in popularity constantly, and it has become easier than ever to become a technician here in Colorado.
The industry of heating and air conditioning has been around for centuries, dating as far back as ancient Egyptian culture where they utilized mud and hard clay when constructing buildings to keep cool. This fascinating history of the HVAC industry (https://www.jccomfort.com/history-of-hvac/) has hundreds of benchmarks throughout time, ranging from makeshift ventilation systems implemented for the French Mines in 1500, to chimneys becoming a revolutionary architectural design implementation in American Colonial homes, and to the first AC system installation in a Minneapolis mansion in 1914. The timeline continues, each decade serving as a major advancement in different ways to improve the way that we heat and cool our buildings. Today, the HVAC industry is still an area of study, as technicians and engineers are interested in the ways technology can help us reduce energy use and maximize efficiency.
The HVAC industry is still in demand today, and becoming a technician has never been more valued. The Wirenut has created this guide to outline the process of what it takes to become an HVAC technician, because we believe in this industry as a great career path. This resource explains the benefits of choosing this industry as a career, outlines exactly how to become an HVAC technician in Colorado, and provides additional resources for further reading.
What is an HVAC Technician?
HVAC, which stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (sometimes referred to as HVACR, which includes Refrigeration), is a unique trade, as technicians are responsible for repairing, diagnosing, installing and maintaining many different systems within both residential homes and commercial buildings. As technology advances and construction rates continue to rise, the skill set that an HVAC technician has is invaluable for all industries. Older homes, new builds, commercial buildings, and more all need the lifelong assistance of an HVAC technician to replace, install, and maintain their heating and cooling systems, making this job indispensable.
Being a technician requires that one must have a firm understanding of how each unique system works in terms of heating and cooling, as well the knowledge to work with ventilation systems, electrical wiring, water lines, refrigerators, and more.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026,” becoming one of the fastest growing industries in today’s time. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heating-air-conditioning-and-refrigeration-mechanics-and-installers.htm Construction for both commercial and residential sites is at an all time high and is predicted to grow at a substantial rate, which is why this industry will continue being in demand for decades to come. Given this statistic, HVAC technicians are almost guaranteed job security, as there will always be a need for tradesmen to replace old systems, install new ones, and help advance the technology itself.
What are the Benefits?
Becoming an HVAC technician has many great benefits, including a steady pay increase as you advance in your career, opportunities to own your own HVAC business, job security for the future, and affordable schooling.
One of the best aspects of this job is the pay grade. As of 2016, the BLS reported the yearly median pay for HVAC technicians at $45,910. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heating-air-conditioning-and-refrigeration-mechanics-and-installers.htm That factors out to $22.07 an hour on average. The lowest wage sits at about $28,400 per year for entry level positions, and the highest wage was over $73,350. In this industry, experience has a direct correlation with pay, meaning the longer that you are in the industry, the more you are able to make.
Opportunities to Advance
Becoming an HVAC technician has never been more promising, as there are always opportunities to advance in the industry. As a starting technician working under a company secures you a decent living, but the longer you remain in the industry, the more your pay has a chance to increase. You can continue to get certifications that will increase your value as a tech, and move up in positions your entire career. Being an HVAC tech, you also have the opportunity to start your own business. With an incredible amount of dedication, becoming a business owner means that you get to make as much or as little money as you’d like. If you are interested in this opportunity, Field Pulse Academy has created a great article with step-by-step instructions to start thinking about your HVAC business.
HVAC Engineering is another great job possibility, but also takes a large amount of dedication. In order to become an engineer, you must have a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, as well as experience in the HVAC field. The yearly median pay was reported at $84,190 in 2016 by the BLS for mechanical engineers. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/mechanical-engineers.htm Becoming an HVAC engineer could include running your own business, working for engineering, design, or architectural firms, developing new HVAC technology, or working for another HVAC company.
Because the HVAC industry is a rapidly growing trade, there is an almost 100% guarantee that you can find a job anywhere in the US. As technologies continue to improve and develop, there will always be a need to replace the older systems as they age, and replace them with the current ones. Maintenance is also a large part of this job, meaning that homeowners and business owners will need service across their HVAC system’s lifespan.
While Colorado is a great state to become an HVAC technician, due to the ease of becoming one, different states require different certifications and licenses. If you are planning to move, you will want to keep this in mind.
There is a common misconception in the American workforce that you need to obtain a degree from a four-year university to obtain a job and receive a fair wage. This is often why trade schools are overlooked as a potential career path. However, going to trade school to become an HVAC technician is a less expensive option that will save you both time and money compared to an academic degree. Most programs are completed in two years or less, where you get to learn hands-on experience on how to do the job. This education will jumpstart your career, as you will be able to apply for an apprenticeship, get a certification, or start working in the field.
How to Become an HVAC Technician
There are multiple routes that you can take to become an HVAC technician in Colorado. Our state is one of the few locations that do not require a license to work in the field, which makes entry level positions much easier to obtain when you first start looking for work. You will need your high school diploma or a GED, and you do need preliminary experience in the field to get hired, which is why we recommend that you go to trade school, get an apprenticeship, and get certified. Doing these three things will almost guarantee you a promising career in the HVAC field.
Step 1- Trade School
Many local trade schools in Colorado offer comprehensive programs for learning how to become a technician. Trade school is one of the very first steps that will get you acquainted with the technology that you will be working with, teach you how to install, repair, and diagnose the technology, and give you real work experience while you are learning. Many trade schools offer programs that can be completed in two years or less. To give you an idea on what you will learn at a trade school for HVAC, we’ve cited a pamphlet from Emily Griffith Technical College that describes the take-aways once the program is completed. It states:
“The Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning & Refrigeration (HVAC/R) program provides students with the skills needed for entry-level positions to install, repair, and troubleshoot various heating and cooling equipment. The essentials of the mechanical and electrical systems of contemporary air-conditioning, heating, and refrigeration systems are addressed throughout the program…The HVAC/R certificate program prepares the individual for basic, entry-level employment in the residential and/or light commercial heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration service industry.”
Step 2- Apprenticeship
Once you have completed your trade schooling program, you can apply for an apprenticeship. When you become an apprentice, you get paid to learn by working under an experienced HVAC technician or business owner. Here, you can study different technologies and practices in depth with a trained professional who helps you along the way. You will learn the safety standards and practices in the industry, learn how to read blueprints, practice using tools, and get familiar with all the systems that you will eventually work with on your own.
Apprenticeships traditionally last for 3 to 5 years, which includes an average of 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and a minimum of 144 hours of technical education. https://www.fieldpulse.com/academy/start-hvac-business/ Apprentices traditionally get paid about half the wage of what an experienced tradesperson earns, which could be anywhere to $20,000-$30,000 a year, according to the data calculated from the BLS.
Step 3- Optional Certification
Colorado is one of the few states that doesn’t require a certification or license to work in the HVAC field. However, it is highly recommended that you get certified anyway, as this will increase your value as a potential employee, heighten your chances of earning a higher wage, and allow you to work in other states, if moving is a future option for you.
Getting a state license is not required in Colorado, but local licenses may be required by different cities, which is why it is the best idea to get the preliminary certifications regardless of whether or not your area requires them or not. We’ve listed two of the most recommended certifications as you begin your career as an HVAC tech.
EPA 608 Certification
The United States Environmental Protection Agency offers the Section 608 Technician Certification, which tests your knowledge on both the safety and legal requirements of handling HVAC chemicals.https://ayers.edu/why-do-i-need-an-epa-certification/ There are multiple options that you can choose from when getting certified, all of which depend on which area that you choose to specialize in, which are listed below.
Type 1 Certification will allow you to service small appliances.
Type 2 Certification will allow you to service and dispose of high-pressure appliances and MVACs.
Type 3 Certification will allow you to service and dispose of low-pressure appliances.
Type 4 Certification will allow you to service all kinds of equipment.
Some trade schools in Colorado, like Intellitec College offer EPA 6-8 training, so that you can be prepared when you go to take your test. This can be something you can look out for when choosing a trade school to attend.
Heating Mechanic IV License
Getting licensed as an HVAC technician can provide you with a lot of great long-term benefits, even though Colorado does not require you to have one. The Heating Mechanic IV License is issued by the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department in Colorado. This license proves that you are able to handle gas indicators and carbon monoxide detectors for both residential and commercial buildings. The application requires proof of your Approved ICC Standardized Contractor Exam, your Combustible Gas Indicator Certificate and your Carbon Monoxide Detection Instrument Certificate.
There are many other certifications that you can attain in the Colorado State, all of which can greatly benefit you in your career in the HVAC field. The City and County of Denver lists a number of Mechanical and Contractor certifications, which range from a certificate as a Boiler Operator, in Heating and Ventilating, as a Hot Water Supervisor, in Refrigeration, and more. These certifications are for more advanced stages in your career field, after you have at least 4 years of experience in a given field of HVAC. Look here to browse the different certification options provided by the city of Denver.
Where to Get Started
If you’re interested in job security and always being in demand, become an HVAC technician. There are plenty of job opportunities both in Colorado and across the United States, which means that you will always have a job, no matter where you go. To help get you started, we have provided a list of local colleges that offer programs in our area.
HVAC Trade Schools in Colorado
Learn About the Program: http://www.intelliteccollege.com/programs/hvac-refrigeration-technician/
Front Range Community College
Learn About the Program: https://www.frontrange.edu/programs-and-courses/a-z-program-list/heating-ventilation-and-air-conditioning-hvac
Learn About the Program: https://www.lincolntech.edu/campus/denver-co/programs/hvac
Emily Griffith Technical College
Tuition Cost: $9,132
Learn About the Program: http://www.emilygriffith.edu/hvac-refrigeration
HVAC engineer: http://learningpath.org/articles/Becoming_an_HVAC_Engineer_Job_Description_Salary_Information.html