Everyone wants a house to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
As more people strive for the perfect indoor temperature, the demand for
climate control experts is growing.
Jobs are opening up in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration
(also known as HVAC, or HVAC&R) field. There are opportunities in areas
ranging from installation and maintenance to design.
"Advances in computer technology and the Internet have revolutionized the
way we monitor and control the engineering systems in buildings," says Elizabeth
Goll. She works with the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air
Goll says developments in wireless and sensor technology over the next
decade are expected to reshape digital control systems for heating and cooling
indoors. That means the industry needs people with technical skills.
Heating and cooling professionals can work almost anywhere. "Simply put,
wherever there are buildings, there is a need for HVAC&R professionals,"
And there are new buildings going up all the time.
"The industry is expected to continue growing as new construction continues
to help communities nationwide expand," says John Zink. He works with the
Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors National Association Educational Foundation.
"There will always be a need for the service side of the industry to maintain,
repair or replace the plumbing and HVAC systems in the buildings we live or
But along with keeping people comfortable, heating and cooling workers
must also think about the environment. Energy use and refrigerants can contribute
to ozone depletion and global warming.
"The HVAC&R industry faces many challenges due to environmental and
Earth-friendly regulations," says Goll. "Indoor air quality and mold-related
problems in buildings are directly attributable to HVAC&R systems."
Today, buildings can be designed to be more energy-efficient. They take
advantage of the natural light, cooling and ventilation.
"HVAC technicians ensure that cooling systems are not leaking harmful refrigerants
into the environment and tune systems to provide high efficiencies that save
electricity," says Zink.
"Some contractors are also finding new opportunities to work on environmentally
friendly building projects. These 'green buildings' are constructed in ways
that have the least negative environmental impact possible."
So how do you get into the field?
"The industry needs workers who are skilful at using their hands, but who
can also use creativity and problem-solving skills to handle unique situations,"
He says it's possible to get into an apprenticeship program once you've
finished high school. "It will take approximately four years of apprenticeship
schooling and on-the-job training for a person to attain a journeyman's position;
a position which enables one to take the full responsibility of a skilled
You can prepare while you're still in high school. Zink suggests taking
courses in computer applications, CAD or computer-aided design, business,
marketing and math (specifically algebra and geometry).
College courses that build skills in business management, finance or marketing
are also good if you plan to be self-employed.
Dave Tolhurst owns a plumbing, heating and cooling contracting company.
He says math is a must. "I've put quite a few apprentices through and math
is very important."
You also need some basic physics and an aptitude for mechanics.
Tolhurst says there is currently a shortage of good heating and cooling
professionals. "I can only see it getting worse due to retirement and the
fact that there are not enough apprentices."
He says he usually has at least one or two apprentices on staff. Most
start in laborer or helper positions and move up.
"Smaller companies produce more apprentices and provide more employment,"
Union rules can make it tough for large companies to take on apprentices.
Tolhurst says that smaller companies, while they are unable to offer great
benefits or the highest wages, have more freedom to hire and train new staff.
Apprentices usually start at 50 percent of a ticketed journeyperson's wage.
As they gain skills and experience, apprentices generally receive periodic
raises until they become certified.
American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers
An international organization founded to advance HVAC technology
Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
A trade organization
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