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Residential VS Commercial HVAC Jobs: 5 Differences You Need To Know

Residential VS Commercial HVAC Jobs: 5 Differences You Need To Know


Have you ever thought of a career in HVAC and go, “Okay, I like HVAC. But what to choose?”

There comes a time in EVERY aspiring tech’s career where he/she finds themselves at crossroads. Residential HVAC or Commercial HVAC.


So we’ve decided to break it down for you.

It is no secret that people will be using HVAC systems like heating systems, ventilators, refrigerators, and air conditioners into the foreseeable future. Therefore, the employment prospects of HVAC technicians are expected to boom for a really long time.

Before moving forward, let us establish One Golden Fact.

No HVAC technician is locked into one path. Both the categories i.e. Residential and Commercial HVAC are interlinked and interchangeable. However, knowing the key differences between both careers can help you make a better decision and understand what’s right for you.

In this article we’ll compare residential and commercial HVAC Jobs based on 5 key factors:

  • Certifications

  • Working Conditions

  • Salary

  • Market Growth

  • Skills Required


If you wish to dive deeper into Residential and Commercial HVAC, you can do our free HVAC certificate courses here


First let’s start off with the basics


Who is a Residential HVAC Tech?

A Residential HVAC Technician deals with problems in customer homes. Their work is usually less time consuming with multiple projects coming in hand around peak seasons. Usually, they are called when an AC or heating system stops working properly or when there is some work related to assembling and installing a new unit that the resident cannot handle on their own. Residential jobs don’t generally require more than 1-2 people to complete.

Residential HVAC systems are generally placed on the ground and are easy to install. They are single, self-contained units that cannot be modified or expanded, which is different from commercial HVAC systems as they are modular, and modules can be added or removed in order to expand or reduce the amount of heating and cooling that the system supplies to a building.


Who is a Commercial HVAC Tech?

A Commercial HVAC Technician deals with projects for businesses and bigger properties. Therefore, they encounter bigger, more complex HVAC systems. Each project has a larger time frame and may take longer to complete as compared to residential systems. As a commercial Tech, you will be expected to work as part of a team with several other technicians. The work includes installations, routine maintenance, or consultation on a construction or renovation project. Commercial HVAC systems typically found on the roof of commercial buildings. This keeps them from taking up too much space, and also protects the system from vandalism.


To understand the differences between Residential and Commercial HVAC, we have analyzed both the careers based on 5 key factors:


Certifications

Residential

The great thing about HVAC is that there’s no federal requirement in the US to obtain a particular license or certification to become an HVAC technician or a contractor. That being said, many states require you to have certain licenses before you start your practice.

Having certifications helps you distinguish yourself from the crowd as well.

For example, if a person were to hire you to fix an AC in their home, they would like to know whether you’re qualified and have the required skill set to handle their AC. One of the first indicators of a technician’s competence are certifications granted by professional organizations in the HVAC industry.

One of the basic certifications required is the EPA 608 certification. NATE certification is among the most common, but also the most notable, of the available HVAC technician certifications. NATE stands for North American Technician Excellence. It is a testing and certification organization specifically geared to the needs of HVAC technicians. NATE’s certifications are recognized and accepted throughout the HVAC industry.

SkillCat provides EPA 608 courses with certification. It’s free and 100% online. You can check it out here!


Commercial

Similar to Residential, there’s no federal requirement in the US to obtain a particular license or certification to become an HVAC technician or a contractor for commercial HVAC as well. Although one has to abide by state regulations in order to become eligible for commercial HVAC.

The basic qualifications to become a commercial HVAC service technician are; a high school diploma or GED certificate followed by completion of a certificate program from a recognized institution, an associate degree program in HVAC, or apprenticeship in the HVAC industry. As mentioned above, in some states, you need a license to work as an HVAC technician.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certification is a basic and mandatory requirement for all HVAC techs working with the refrigerants found in many types of HVAC/R units. Industry certifications like North American Technical Excellence (NATE) are often preferred by employers and can improve your job prospects. Employers also prefer candidates with some prior experience in the industry.

Commercial HVAC technicians work with larger and often more complex heating and cooling equipment, therefore, commercial HVAC often requires more education.

SkillCat provides EPA 608 courses with certification. It’s free and 100% online. You can check it out here!


Working Conditions

Residential

Residential HVAC systems are located within or beside houses. Therefore, a residential HVAC professional’s job demands indoor working conditions in and around residences, attics and crawl spaces, house related maintenance and repair. A residential HVAC technician finds work in a relatively protected environment.

Residential HVAC is somewhat seasonal in nature. That means, the peak business seasons are often in summer and winter. Residential HVAC technicians might experience unreliable work hours. Since residential buildings and its facilities are always in use, no one can predict when repair or maintenance work is needed. So residential HVAC professionals are expected to be available on-call outside of normal working hours.

Residential HVAC technicians are required to have great customer service and communication skills because residential work gives you more opportunities to interact directly with customers. As most of their customers are repetitive, they need to establish good bonds with them to get called back and increase their network.

Some practical experience is helpful before going on the field and starting out. SkillCat has a great simulation game to help you gear up to deal with customers while virtually placing you in real life scenarios .

Commercial

Commercial HVAC systems are often located in commercial buildings on the top. As such, commercial HVAC professionals will often find themselves working outdoors, and exposed to the harsher working conditions. Technicians servicing commercial HVAC systems spend most of their days on top of tall buildings exposed to elements, throughout seasons. It can lead to uncomfortable working conditions because it doesn't matter if it is 100 degrees or the rain won’t stop pouring, you have to deal with it.

Commercial HVAC is more predictable in terms of working hours than residential HVAC, because working hours typically resemble a traditional business. There will be designated shifts assigned and the work culture is more organized.

Commercial HVAC demands you to work on more complex systems and spend more time on a project. It also requires you to work with local businesses and corporations. Customer interaction is limited as you may not interact directly with customers as often as residential HVAC.

SkillCat does an awesome job in helping skilled workers find commercial HVAC jobs. Companies like Trane, Carrier, CoolSys etc hire technicians on the website for great salaries. Click here to learn more about it!


Salary

Residential

Yes, it is true that residential HVAC workers get paid less than commercial techs. This is often because commercial workers are generally more qualified with fancy degrees with a fixed corporate pay. We also have to consider the fact that residential work is somewhat seasonal in nature. During peak seasons, workers are paid quite decently and are usually never out of work. During off seasons, techs may experience some slack and lesser calls. This has some effect on the pay difference between residential HVAC and commercial HVAC.

On the positive side, residential techs often make money and boost their one’s hourly pay with commissions on the sale of additional parts or replacements. This is exactly why residential techs need to have good communication skills. They impersonate both a technician and a salesperson.

Residential projects are usually quick to complete as compared to commercial projects. This makes it easy for a Residential HVAC tech to do more jobs in one workday, thus boosting per-hour pay. Either way, technicians who are knowledgeable and great at solving problems can expect high pay.

SkillCat provides HVAC and Skill Trade Courses with certification. It’s free and 100% online. You can check it out here!


Commercial

Commercial HVAC professionals earn more than residential HVAC technicians. They have the advantage of staying on a company’s continuous payroll. According to ZipRecruiter, the national average residential HVAC tech salary comes out at $54,228. The commercial technician’s salary is a little higher than the average, at $55,888 according to Neuvoo. Their pay is not reliant on seasons or networking. You’re never out of work in the commercial sector as long as you’re working at a company.

But to become a tech in the commercial sector takes effort and in some cases, money. Commercial projects often demand a good amount of experience and certifications. Many schools demand high fees for HVAC courses which is something not everyone will be into.

A report by BLS states that the job prospects for aspiring HVAC technicians who have attended a professional educational training program were more promising than those of their peers who did not complete any such program.

SkillCat provides HVAC courses with certification. It’s free and 100% online. You can check it out here!

Commercial HVAC offers higher pay but also a higher barrier to entry. In commercial HVAC, if you wish to succeed in your career, a training program and one’s experience is the ultimate salary booster.

SkillCat does an awesome job in helping skilled workers find commercial HVAC jobs. Companies like Trane, Carrier, CoolSys etc. hire technicians on the website for great salaries. Click here to learn more about it!


Market Growth

Residential

A report by GVR found that the U.S. HVAC systems market size was valued at USD 15.16 billion in 2020. It is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.0% from 2021 to 2028. The global residential HVAC sector constitutes 40 percent of the total HVAC market.

Ever since the pandemic hit, there has been a slight dip in the overall market. As of 2021, the market is seeing a new rise in demand for new ventilation systems that is leading to an increase in residential HVAC services and sales. The pandemic has shifted work cultures all around the world forcing people to work from home, therefore there’s a rise in consumption and investment to upgrade their current HVAC systems.

More and more people are opting for residential HVAC to avoid exposing themselves to harsh working environments.

Commercial

According to a research report by MRFR, the market size of commercial HVAC is projected to be worth USD 142.97 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 6.86% during the forecast period (2021 - 2027), The market was valued at USD 97.31 billion in 2020. In 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak created a negative effect on the commercial HVAC market as the sales have rapidly declined. Now that the world economy is recovering, we can expect all industries to go back to working at full capacity, especially the construction industry. Because of this, many companies have started hiring commercial technicians at good salaries and great benefits like healthcare, salary increments and stable work hours.


Skills Required

Residential

Residential HVAC systems are often easier to deal with because they are smaller and less complex than commercial systems. Therefore, one can find a job easily with minimum qualification. Actually, many residential technicians undergo on the job training which is beneficial as they can earn while learning.

Working as a residential HVAC tech, requires a good understanding of communication and interpersonal skills as it is a much more customer oriented role. Unlike in commercial HVAC, residential HVAC professionals often directly contact the clients, communicate and negotiate services. They need to maintain good connections with clients in order to get called again. Networking with other professionals is very necessary for a residential HVAC technician as it helps in getting new clients.

Many start with residential HVAC work as it helps understanding the trade better and gain required skills to do well in the commercial sector and it can also give one experience in how to deal with customers, invoicing, scheduling, and team dynamics. All this while getting paid.

SkillCat provides HVAC courses with certification. It’s free and 100% online. You can check it out here!

Commercial

Commercial HVAC systems are often larger and more complex than residential systems. Although the two have almost similar skill sets, they have different approaches and HVAC needs. This can especially be true for commercial tech where two commercial buildings of the same size are built for separate purposes. They both will have different systems set and will need different approaches to fix problems.

Because of its complex and diverse nature, people usually start from residential HVAC then gradually move to commercial HVAC. Commercial HVAC requires specialized education and certifications around particular systems. Most companies before hiring require HVAC techs to have prior work experience.

One great thing about commercial HVAC is that, unlike residential HVAC, you work in large teams for a prolonged time frame. So even if you mess up or don’t understand something, there’s always someone you can seek guidance from.

Commercial HVAC offers higher pay but also a higher barrier to entry. In commercial HVAC, if you wish to succeed in your career, a training program and one’s experience is the ultimate salary booster.

SkillCat does an awesome job in helping skilled workers find commercial HVAC jobs. Companies like Trane, Carrier, CoolSys etc. hire technicians on the website for great salaries. Click here to learn more about it!


Have you decided?

We've covered all 5 differences between Commercial HVAC jobs and Residential HVAC jobs. So which is the right fit for you? That's for you to decide! Although, we hope we've made your decision making process a little easier and that you found some great insights and if you did, please Like, Comment and Share this article!

Please check out SkillCat for HVAC related courses, trainings, jobs and many more!

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