What is an HVAC Technician? Duties, Skills, Life at Work

Curious about a career in the heating and cooling trade? Before you can decide if this path is right for you, you need to understand what the job really involves.

So what is an HVAC technician?

HVAC technicians are experts in controlling indoor environments. They install and service heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in all kinds of buildings, from homes and offices to hospitals and factories.

That's the basic job description. But what does an HVAC technician actually do every day?

What types of skills are required? And what is it really like to work in this trade?

This post has the answers. We provide a clear breakdown of the typical job duties and required skills for HVAC technicians.

We also tell you about life on the job, including the pros and cons of working in the HVAC trade.

Let's get started.


WHAT ARE SOME TYPICAL TASKS for AN HVAC TECHNICIAN?

An HVAC technician's job duties can be very diverse. Some techs focus just on installation or maintenance. Others do a bit of both.

Plus, technicians can specialize in different types of heating and cooling solutions.

But this list will give you an idea of the routine tasks HVAC technicians perform on a regular basis:

☑️ Installing and maintaining furnaces, air conditioners, water heaters, and fireplaces

☑️ Connecting HVAC systems to water and fuel supply lines

☑️ Laying out ductwork, piping, and wiring

☑️ Reading gauges and adjusting valves and pumps to control fluid pressure

☑️ Inspecting and testing components and systems

☑️ Identifying and fixing mechanical and electrical problems

☑️ Carrying out routine maintenance like cleaning components and changing filters

☑️ Recharging systems with refrigerant

☑️ Following safety protocols

☑️ Keeping records of repairs

☑️ Preparing estimates

 

Darren Fearnley is a Toronto-based HVAC instructor and business owner. He has more than 40 years of experience in the HVAC industry.

Darren told us that during his career, he's had the chance to work in many different areas of HVAC.

"I started doing new home residential sheet metal, and after about 10 years I switched to commercial sheet metal. Then I got into service work, servicing residential and commercial equipment for about 10 years. I was also a service and installation manager for about 10 years, and a sales manager for 5 years."

From doing service calls on the road to selling HVAC solutions - this is a big industry with quite a few career options.

 

WHAT SKILLS DOES EVERY HVAC TECHNICIAN NEED?

Working in the HVAC trade requires more skills than you might realize. It goes beyond simply knowing how to install units and fix common problems.

If you really want to succeed as an HVAC technician, you need the following:

 

☑️ A solid understanding of HVAC technologies (and a willingness to keep learning)

You should know how the various components fit together and how all the equipment works. That's what HVAC training can teach you.

But you should also be prepared to grow your knowledge and skills as technologies change.

You need to keep up with industry trends like the rise of geothermal heating, ductless units, and smart building systems.

So make sure you know your stuff, and be ready to challenge yourself and keep l earning.

 

☑️ Excellent troubleshooting skills

Problem solving is a major part of this job.

You have to be able to figure out why an HVAC component or system isn't working and what you must do to fix it. And you need to do this quickly and accurately.

That means knowing how to use testing equipment like voltmeters, humidity recorders, and gas leak detectors. It also means knowing how to interpret test results so you can decide how to approach the repair.

Darren says being able to zero in on the real issue is critical.

"Today's HVAC technicians not only have to be good with their hands, but with the technological advances in equipment, we also need good diagnostic, problem-solving, and computer skills."

 

☑️ Communication and customer service skills

Your customers aren't HVAC experts. Most of the time, all they know is that their system stopped working.

You need to listen carefully and ask questions that will help you get to the root of the problem. You also need to explain issues and repairs in a way that customers can understand so that they will trust you and your expertise.

Many HVAC technicians also sell related products and service contracts. So being able to connect with people is key. Customer service is a top priority for most HVAC companies.

 

What's a typical day for an HVAC technician?

HVAC is a trade that offers hands-on work and a ton of variety.

You can work on a huge variety of equipment, including furnaces, air conditioners, walk-in coolers, fireplaces, humidifiers, and air purification systems.

Your workday might involve visits to several homes to perform maintenance or repairs. Or you might spend a few days installing a new cooling system in a manufacturing plant.

HVAC work is generally done indoors. That means it's less seasonal than some other construction trades.

But you may sometimes have to deal with unpleasant weather while installing a rooftop unit or inspecting outdoor equipment. That's just part of the deal.

Every day brings a new experience and a fresh challenge. Many techs say it's their favourite part of the job.

 

what are the PROS AND CONS OF WORKING AS AN HVAC TECHNICIAN?

Every job has its upsides and downsides. Here are some of the pros and cons of working in the heating and cooling trade.

 

☑️ Pro: Strong demand for HVAC technicians

According to the Government of Canada's Job Bank, there is strong demand for HVAC technicians throughout Ontario. Every region in the province gets the Job Bank's highest career outlook rating of 3 stars.

Darren told us reliable demand is a key benefit of going into this trade.

"I think the biggest advantage of becoming a tech is steady employment. HVAC is one of the few recession-proof trades. People will always need heating and cooling. There will always be jobs in this field."

 

☑️ Con: HVAC work can be strenuous

This is a physically demanding job. You'll often be required to work in tight spaces and lift heavy equipment.

And you should be prepared for temperature extremes, even indoors. If an air conditioning system fails, for example, you may be sweating while you figure out how to repair it.

 

☑️ Pro: HVAC jobs tend to pay well

Job Bank says the median salary for HVAC mechanics in Ontario is about $66,500. "Median" means that half of the people in this trade made more than that, and half made less.

Top HVAC technicians in the province can make over $100,000 a year.

 

☑️ Con: The hours can be long

Problems with heating and cooling systems don't just happen between 9 and 5. You may have to deal with after-hours service calls on evenings or weekends.

Plus, certain times of the year are generally busier than others. You may find yourself working long hours to keep up with the demand for HVAC service and repairs.

 

☑️ Pro: Plenty of HVAC career options

There are many career paths in the heating and cooling trade.

You can focus on HVAC systems for residential, commercial, or industrial buildings. You can work in the construction, food storage, or transportation industries.

With experience, you can go into HVAC sales or management. You could even start your own business.

 

☑️ Con: HVAC technicians face safety hazards

There are risks involved in working at heights, moving heavy equipment, and handling refrigerants. You must always follow proper safety precautions.

Quality HVAC courses include safety certifications to ensure students know how to stay safe on the job, right from day one.

 

☑️ Pro: Providing a service people really appreciate

One of the biggest rewards of HVAC work is making homes and offices more comfortable for people. By controlling indoor climate and air quality, you really make a difference in people's lives.

This is a service everyone needs and everyone appreciates!

 

LEARN ABOUT HVAC training and certification

In Ontario, HVAC technicians must complete an apprenticeship and pass an exam to earn their Certificate of Qualification.

The first step is getting signed on as an apprentice. But most employers prefer to hire apprentices who have some basic HVAC training and safety certifications.

Herzing College offers a 52-week HVAC training program. It is designed to prepare students for their first apprenticeship.

Courses include hands-on training in installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting HVAC systems. Gas technician certification is included in the program.

Want more details? Talk to Admissions. An Advisor can provide information about courses, tuition, financial aid, and anything else you want to know.

Click below to explore the HVAC program or chat live with an Advisor now. We're here to help!

Explore the Combined HVAC & Gas Technician program

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