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What does an HVAC Mechanic do?

By D. Jeffress
Updated: Feb 24, 2024

Mechanics who work in the complex heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) industry play a vital role in keeping the rest of us comfortable in our homes and businesses. An HVAC mechanic can be responsible for the installation and maintenance of a wide range of commercial and residential heating and cooling equipment. An HVAC mechanic must have a strong knowledge of electrical properties, physical science, and the mechanical processes that allow HVAC systems work.

HVAC mechanics work on heat pumps, furnaces, air conditioners, refrigeration units and a number of other ventilation and heating and cooling systems. They must be knowledgeable about both gas-powered and electric devices, as well as systems which run on alternative energy sources. Because there are so many different types of systems, HVAC mechanics often specialize. Some mechanics focus on either heating or refrigeration work, while others specialize in working with either large industrial machines or smaller residential systems.

HVAC mechanics install and troubleshoot motors, fuel lines, air vents, fans, and pumps. They must be comfortable connecting electrical wires, using precision hand and power tools, and reading various gauges. An HVAC mechanic combines his or her practical knowledge with the information found in blueprints and instruction manuals to work on HVAC systems. Therefore, an HVAC mechanic must have strong reading comprehension skills and the ability to understand very detailed diagrams.

HVAC mechanics conventionally work forty hours per week, though overtime work is common. Most find employment with electrical, plumbing, or heating/air-conditioning contractors. Others may work for specialized repair shops, wholesale stores, or retail outlets. With several years of experience and a knowledge of administrative duties, an HVAC mechanic might start his or her own contracting business.

A prospective HVAC mechanic is typically required to complete an accredited technical school program and receive practical training as an apprentice. There are several hundred vocational schools, community colleges, and online courses that offer HVAC training programs. Such programs may take anywhere from six months to two years to complete. Apprenticeships, where individuals learn from and assist accomplished HVAC mechanics, usually take one or two years.

After education and training requirements are met, an HVAC mechanic is usually required to take a licensing exam to work in a specific state or country. Special certification is not typically required, though many employers consider HVAC certification a plus. Certification tests are administered by several different accredited agencies, including HVAC Excellence and the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Safety Coalition.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By ZsaZsa56 — On Oct 04, 2012
In some areas of the US there is serious demand for HVAC technicians. This is usually true in areas that have seen rapid population growth over the last few decades. Think of Arizona or Nevada. They have a lot of new people, a lot of HVAC systems that have suddenly been built, and not enough qualified mechanics to service all of them.
By profess — On Oct 03, 2012

@truman12 - That definitely sounds interesting. How long did your training program take to complete and about how much did it cost?

By truman12 — On Oct 03, 2012
The position of HVAC mechanic will be a good paying, steady job even moving into the future. Every building in the county has climate control systems and all of them need to be serviced on a regular basis. There is no way to outsource this job or have a worker replaced by a robot.

I went through a training program two years ago and I found a job almost immediately. It pays well, offers benefits, and offers long term work prospects.

By anon141700 — On Jan 11, 2011

I'd like to work for HVAC. I have experience in that field and I have an EPA universal certificate.

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