Tips for making a career in the HVAC industry

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Mar 2, 2020

Mar 2, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

Want to go into a career that will always be in demand? Consider HVAC. Because nearly every building has a climate control system, Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) will always be a career with opportunity.

And now, more than ever.

Baby boomers are retiring, and Gen X is much smaller than the previous generation, leaving fewer workers to fill the openings. Additionally, education has placed intense focus on university career tracks, largely ignoring the skilled trades. The result? A severe shortage of HVAC professionals.

The HVAC industry is mainly divided into 2 categories, commercial and residential. Both of these categories are then typically divided into the fields of service and installation. The term residential, describes the area of HVAC professionals that work in peoples' homes, apartments, condos, etc. While commercial describes the area of the business that serves office buildings, warehouses, factories, and well, basically everything else.

These days breaking into the commercial business usually involves some level of higher education, years of experience or an apprenticeship program. The residential part of the industry on the other hand, is relatively easier to enter. Whether it be through an apprenticeship program or starting on the bottom rung of the ladder and earning your way through the ranks, residential is the least involved of the two. That said, all areas of HVAC require a fair number of smarts to be successful and obtaining an EPA license to handle refrigerant is nearly a must.

That being said, it offers an exciting option in the HVAC industry, and here are some tips that you should keep in mind:

 

  1. HEATING AND AIR CONDITIONING CAREERS ARE ALL ABOUT PROBLEM SOLVING

Let's face it. The average worker will be in the workforce for 45, maybe even 50 years. That's a long time. No one likes to feel like a robot on their job; they want to have challenges and be able to overcome problems.

That's what HVAC professionals do every day: solve problems. Heating and air service technicians need to be able to look at a system, figure out why it isn't working, and make the repair. It takes mechanical skill, technical aptitude, and practical knowledge. Every furnace or air conditioning repair requires the ability to look at the entire system and fix the problem. Even for something as simple as furnace cleaning, there could be multiple things that you need to consider.  

 

  1. THERE'S VARIETY

The service calls mean you're not confined to an office. The different types of work available for HVAC professionals mean there's plenty of variety in your work. New air conditioning installation, new furnace installation, air conditioning repair, and furnace repair are all part of the heating and air conditioning profession. HVAC technicians also work with air purification systems, humidifiers, and radiant heating.

 

  1. YOU'LL ALWAYS HAVE A JOB

HVAC is a service-oriented profession, but you're not just helping other people by choosing a career in heating and air, you're also doing yourself a service. The HVAC industry is stable because as long as there are buildings, they will need skilled professionals to keep them in working order.

 

The economy will always fluctuate. Construction jobs will be in demand at some times and at other times they will be scarce. Manufacturing jobs are constantly being outsourced overseas. Heating and air conditioning jobs, however, will always be in demand. Why? Because nearly every building has a heating and air conditioning system.

 

ADVICE FOR PEOPLE LOOKING INTO AN HVAC CAREER: START AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

There are basically two paths to becoming a heating and air conditioning technician. The first path is by being an apprentice. Often, heating and air conditioning contractors will hire people who have a mechanical aptitude and are teachable. They begin their HVAC career as an installer and supplement their on-the-job training with formal education. Taking classes two nights a week, an apprentice can complete an HVAC certificate in about four years.

 

SOME PEOPLE SKILLS ARE REQUIRED AS WELL TO BE SUCCESSFUL

 

  1. YOUR WORK IS YOUR SIGNATURE

It’s important to remember that the quality of your work speaks volumes – not just to your customer, but also your employer. Make sure you’ve completed the job to the highest level of your abilities. Exceed your customer’s expectations. Work that’s just ‘good enough’ won’t cut it in today’s competitive environment.

Your job goes beyond solving the HVAC/R problem. Your job also includes acting professionally, communicating well with your customer, and if something goes wrong, quickly alerting your customer about the issue. Every job offers an opportunity to build a reputation, and over time, that’s what creates demand for your services.

 

  1. CHANGE OPINIONS BY CHANGING EXPERIENCES

It’s no secret that tradespeople suffer from stereotypes. But, it’s possible to change those stereotypes by remaining mindful that they exist.

When the HVAC/R technician knows that the service call is about the client and not about the service tech, he or she has the opportunity to leave a positive, lasting experience for the client.

 

  1. YOUR PHONE IS A TOOL

Smartphones, and the associated apps that come with them, are useful tools for technicians on the job. However, if a technician spends too much time on the phone or uses it for reasons not associated with the job, it is unprofessional. A phone can quickly become a hindrance to productivity and attitude if not used for its intended purpose.

 

  1. USE TRAVEL TIME TO PREPARE FOR THE JOB

The time spent traveling to jobs is the perfect opportunity to prepare mentally for the next call. Use your time in traffic to think about the call and prepare for how you will solve your customer’s issue quickly and efficiently. The more prepared you are, the better the impression you will leave on your customer. Avoid using your travel time to deal with personal issues, or distracting yourself with non-business related problems

 

  1. REMAIN HUMBLE

The outlook for HVAC techs is strong. It’s a big trade with great opportunities for growth and many avenues for one to go down. For technicians starting their careers, it’s important to remain humble and to keep an open mind. Approach each job as a new adventure and seek to learn as much as you can from each situation you encounter.

Success in HVAC/R is a journey, not a destination. There are many ways to do the job, and in the years to come, as technology changes, there will be even more options for the HVAC/R technician to consider. Along the way, keep a level head and focus on learning and improving, because for technicians, that will never go out of style.