HVAC Training: Everything You Need To Know To Become An HVAC Technician
Updated: Sep 22, 2020
HVAC Training Has Never Been Better
HVAC training has never been more accessible than it is now. The HVAC industry doesn't require an expensive college education that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Instead, you can find training through a variety of affordable options, which will get you an entry-level job as an HVAC technician.
HVAC Training Prepares You To Be An HVAC Technician
An HVAC technician is where most people begin their HVAC career. HVAC technicians usually have a job description which includes:
Installing, repairing, and maintaining HVAC systems in residential or commercial properties.
Interacting with customers to troubleshoot problems
Writing reports on work performed.
The average salary for an HVAC technician is very high at a national average of $48,000 a year.
The average salary for an HVAC technician is very high at a national average of $48,000 a year.
What This Guide Will Cover
Options for HVAC training
What material does an HVAC course cover
Best HVAC certifications to start with
Tips for succeeding in your HVAC course
What to do after you complete your HVAC course
Options For HVAC training
So, where should you begin your HVAC training? You have several options for training, including:
Online HVAC training
Classroom HVAC training
We will detail each style of HVAC training and what you want in each course.
Online HVAC Training
Online HVAC training is one of the most effective ways to get into the HVAC industry. Online HVAC courses are very cheap, faster than traditional classes, and allow you to learn at your own pace.
Format For Online HVAC Courses
Online courses can be accessed anywhere with an internet connection. Most people choose to watch lectures at home after work or when they have some spare time. Online HVAC courses teach you HVAC concepts through:
The flexibility and engaging content of online HVAC training are some of its strengths. The HVAC training uses animation, simulation, and plenty of images to teach you the material without forcing you to read hundreds of textbook pages.
When looking for an online HVAC course, you will want to find a HVAC course with these things:
HVAC certification prep
Let's dive deeper into each section.
Online HVAC training allows you to learn at your own pace. If you already have a day job, this can be convenient since you can work on it when you have time. You can even practice for a few minutes while you're on a break or in between jobs.
An online HVAC course with simulations will allow you to practice what you are learning in real-world situations. These simulations show you scenarios that an HVAC technician would often experience and will enable you to practice how to handle the problem in a friendly environment.
Online HVAC courses are very cheap, faster than traditional classes, and allow you to learn at your own pace.
Accredited HVAC Course
Accredited online HVAC training gives your future employers confidence in your practice. It separates online courses from watching a few Youtube videos. Make sure that the online course you are looking at is accredited with NATE or other HVAC groups.
HVAC Certification Prep
Great online HVAC courses will actively prepare you for industry certifications. The most common and vital industry certifications are the EPA 608 certification, the NATE ready to work, and the NATE HVAC support technician certification. When deciding on what course you want, be sure that the curriculum mentions these essential certificates.
HVAC training can cover a lot of topics that aren't relevant to becoming an HVAC technician. When you are looking at courses, be sure that the course doesn't include unnecessary information.
Look for HVAC courses that are interactive and engaging. One of the most significant benefits of online HVAC training is that it can be more fun than a traditional classroom. Look for programs with animations and graphics to help solidify essential concepts.
Top Online HVAC Training Courses
Skillcat's Free Online HVAC Training
SkillCat's free online HVAC training is designed to get you into an HVAC technician job as fast as possible. The course uses animation, interactive lectures, and simulations to teach you essential concepts. The HVAC training is also designed to prepare you for certifications like OSHA 10, NATE ready to work, and NATE support technician.
One of the biggest reasons I like SkillCat is that they have partnered with several leading HVAC companies to help get you a job after you graduate. Companies regularly hire from this pool of applicants because they know that graduates are familiar with the concepts and are ready to start their HVAC careers.
Interplay Online HVAC Courses
Interplay has created short HVAC videos to get you ready for HVAC certifications and a job in HVAC. Interplay is excellent for getting started in the HVAC space since the short videos make concepts very simple. Their online HVAC training does not help you get hired upon completion, but it does have VR simulations, which can be a cool way to learn if you have the equipment.
The biggest downside of interplay is that its content is costly. To gain access to Interplay's HVAC training, it will cost you $200 per year. That is a high price for many people, especially since interplay doesn't help you get a job after you complete the course.
Youtube has online HVAC videos, which can prepare you to become an HVAC technician. The videos' quality can vary, but there are a few good YouTubers like Word of Advice TV. Be cautious with youtube. Since youtube HVAC courses are not accredited, many people will doubt how much you learned. I would recommend finding a different free online course, but youtube can be an excellent starter.
Pen Foster is one of the more popular online HVAC courses. Similar to SkillCat, they are a self-paced program and entirely online. They provide in-depth teaching on HVAC fundamentals, and the program usually takes five months to complete. Pen Foster is also accredited, which means employers are going to trust the education you received.
Pen Foster is the most expensive option on this list. It will cost $900 to gain access to Pen Foster's online HVAC training. Their HVAC program also gives you access to career services to help you get a job after graduation.
TCP training has an HVAC program that goes through 46 critical skills to becoming an HVAC technician. Each skill course will cost between $60-$80, so the price can add up fast, but users seem to enjoy the content. I think TCP is a better option for continuing education after you have landed your first HVAC job.
Classroom HVAC Training
In-person, HVAC training resembles what you experienced in high school. In-person courses are usually at fixed times, in a classroom, and more expensive than online courses. They can also give you hands-on experience with HVAC systems, and connect you with an experienced teacher.
Format For Classroom HVAC Training
In-person classes resemble grade school. You will have to show up to a classroom at a specific time, and a teacher will give you a lecture for a few hours. This approach can be great since it forces you to focus, and you are accountable to showing up on time.
The teacher will most likely convey the information through:
When you are looking at in-person HVAC training programs, be sure they include:
An experienced teacher
Let's take a closer look at each section:
Hands-on practice is an essential aspect of HVAC training. In person, HVAC training can allow you to work directly on HVAC systems. Be sure that the program has a focus on direct experience.
An Experienced Teacher
Most teachers will be former HVAC technicians who have retired and decided to teach. Experienced HVAC teachers can be great since you will be learning from a teacher with hands-on experience and who understands the job.
In-person courses are usually at fixed times, in a classroom, and more expensive than online courses.
When deciding on HVAC training, be sure to look at the course curriculum. Since in-person HVAC training can be expensive, you want to be 100% sure that the course covers what you need. Be aware that some courses include too much material, which can lead to an unnecessarily long time in school.
Similar to online HVAC training, you want to make sure that the program is accredited. Accredited programs allow employers to know that you learned the critical topics and went to a high-level program.
Finding In-Person HVAC Courses
In-person, HVAC courses will be local to your area. Most cities will have a technical college, which will have an HVAC technician course. I would recommend googling for one in your area and seeing what they offer. Community colleges also have HVAC training.
Self Taught HVAC Training
Self-taught HVAC Training can be tedious and inefficient, but it is possible to learn HVAC this way. The best way is to find HVAC training curriculums online and then buy the course textbooks. Then you spend your time working through the textbook and example problems. One of the challenges with self-taught HVAC training is that reading a book is boring. Since you won't be a part of an accredited program, the employer can have a difficult time verifying your skills.
Format For Self Taught
Self-taught does not have a format. Since it is entirely up to you to find a curriculum to copy, order the textbooks, and read the book. Self-teaching HVAC is a challenging approach to HVAC training. Still, it can work if you are very motivated and organized.
When teaching HVAC to yourself, you will want to look for a few things:
Cost of textbooks
Let's take a closer look at each section:
Since you will be training yourself in HVAC by going through a textbook, there can be a lot of information that you don't need. Skim the table of contents and see what you will use as an HVAC technician.
No one likes to read a textbook. It can be monotonous and boring to read 500 huge pages on HVAC. If you are going to teach yourself, be sure that you are willing to follow through on reading.
One of the challenges with self-taught HVAC training is that reading a book is boring.
Cost Of Textbooks
Textbooks can be costly. When you buy the books from a curriculum, look for the previous edition of the HVAC textbook. Buying older textbooks can save you a lot of money.
When you are self-taught, certifications act as your proof of knowledge. Most people will not believe you read books, and they will doubt your skills. Having certificates proves you are ready for the job. I always recommend the EPA 608 and NATE Ready To Work certifications.
The final way to become an HVAC technician is through an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are usually paid and allow you to learn HVAC by working with an experienced technician. Some apprenticeships split time between working in the field and the classroom. Other HVAC apprenticeships are 100% on the job training.
Format For An HVAC Apprenticeship
Apprenticeships are great since you will study under an expert HVAC technician. HVAC apprenticeships are one of the most successful training methods since you get plenty of hands-on experience and coaching. You also get direct experience being an HVAC technician.
Apprenticeships can be one of the best ways to train in HVAC since almost all of the experience will be hands-on training. When looking for an apprenticeship, be aware of the following items:
Here is a more detailed breakdown of the items.
Since you will be working with an experienced technician, there will be a gigantic difference in your skills. The skill difference can cause the technician to be frustrated and occasionally lash out at you. Be prepared for that as you learn the necessary skills and become helpful to the technician.
Apprenticeships are usually paid and allow you to learn HVAC by working with an experienced technician.
Apprenticeships are competitive since you are paid while you learn how to become an HVAC technician. I recommend completing a two-week online course and a few certifications to increase the chances of an HVAC apprenticeship.
Best Resources For An HVAC Apprenticeship
HVAC apprenticeships can be hands-on or split time between hands-on HVAC work and the classroom. There are several ways to find an HVAC apprenticeship:
Find a community or technical college which has an apprentice placement program
Find a registered apprenticeship program. The easiest way to do this is through the department of labor.
The department of labor also has an industry-recognized apprenticeship programs
Get in touch with local HVAC unions to see if they have any apprenticeship openings
What Topics Does HVAC Training Cover
Example HVAC Curriculum
This sample curriculum is taken from SkillCat's online HVAC training. Note: This HVAC course teaches you the essentials for certifications and starting your job as an HVAC technician. Their course also includes simulations and animations, which are not common in online HVAC training courses. Here is the curriculum:
1) HVAC Aptitude Test
Take our AI simulation test to assess your mechanical & electrical aptitudes
Take training that fits you! Get placed into course material that fits your skill level
2) Construction Safety Certification Prep (OSHA)
Receive an OSHA-10 hour Construction certificate
Key concepts covered through pictures & video
Emphasis on scenario-based safety thinking
3) Refrigeration Safety Certification Prep (EPA)
Receive an EPA 608 Universal certificate to be certified in all types of appliances
Take the exam online with a virtual proctor
4) Mechanical and Electrical Safety (NATE HVAC support technician)
Machinery Safety (i.e., blowers, pullers)
Electrical Safety (grounding)
5) Fundamental Math Concepts (NATE Ready To Work)
Algebra & Geometry
Graphs, Charts, and Tables
6) Core Chemistry & Physics (NATE HVAC support technician)
Chemistry & Thermodynamics
7) Taking Measurements (NATE HVAC support technician)
8) Essential Tools And Equipment (NATE HVAC support technician)
Fabrication & Tubing Tools
Digital Electric Meters
Thermostats, Duct Systems, and more!
9) Installation (NATE HVAC support technician)
Thermostat, Humidifier, Air Cleaner installation
Gas furnace installation
10) Preventative Maintenance (NATE HVAC support technician)
Planned maintenance concepts
Typically, SkillCat's online HVAC training takes 2-4 weeks to complete. They will also help you get an HVAC technician job after you graduate.
The Best HVAC Certifications To Start With
Once you have gone through HVAC training, you will want to focus on getting a few certificates to prove your skills as a technician. The three most important certifications are:
Below, we will cover what each certificate means and what the exams cover.
EPA 608 Universal Certification
To begin your job as an HVAC technician, you must get an EPA 608 certificate. This certificate shows that you know how to handle refrigerants while working on HVAC systems. The EPA has created four types of certifications:
Servicing small appliances (Type 1)
Servicing and disposing of high or very high-pressure appliances (Type 2)
Servicing or disposing of low or very low-pressure appliances (Type 3)
For maintaining all types of equipment (Universal)
I recommend getting the universal certificate since you will be allowed to work on all appliances. The universal certificate is standard for HVAC technicians, and many HVAC training courses will prepare you for the exam.
NATE Ready To Work
The NATE Ready To Work Exam is one of the most common certifications for HVAC technicians. I have talked to hiring managers who specifically ask questions from the test. NATE's website explains that the ready to work test is broken into six sections:
Basic heat transfer
The components section is 22% of the NATE RTW test and will cover component identification. Basically, can you name the separate components of an HVAC system?
The tools sections are 32% of the NATE test, and this section will cover tool identification. The tools section will be similar to the component section. Still, now it will focus on tool selection and tool identification.
The measurement/units section is 8% of the NATE RTW test. This section focuses on Area, Volume, and using Rulers. For example, you will know that ft^2 is for the area, and ft^3 is for volume.
The safety section of the NATE exam makes up 26% of the test. There are two focuses in the safety section. The first is on electrical safety, which is 12% of the test. The electrical safety section is made of Electrical Safety Procedures, Electrical Tool Safety, and Circuit Safety. The second safety section is on general safety, which is 14% of the test. This section focuses on Refrigerant Safety, Worksite Safety, Ladder Safety, Driving Safety, and Protective Clothing.
The last section of the NATE Ready To Work exam is focused on basic heat transfer concepts. This section is 12% of the test, and it will test you on your understanding of heat transfer. It will involve Sensible/Latent Heat and Types of Heat Transfer. Basically, how does the HVAC system cool or heat the space.
NATE Support Technician Exam
The NATE support technician exam is significant for HVAC technicians who have been in the field. It is an essential step to receiving a professional certification as an HVAC technician. NATE describes the exam as "This exam is for technicians who have been in the field for 6-12 months and covers topics linked to the professional level certification but at a more fundamental skill level."
The primary topics in the NATE support technician exam are:
Basic construction terms (4%)
Using basic science (5%)
Achieving desired conditions (7%)
Taking temperature and humidity measurements (7%)
Introduction to basic electricity (9%)
System components (13%)
Applied knowledge: design considerations (6%)
Most HVAC training courses will teach you the material for the exam. Once you have been doing the job for a few months, I recommend taking the test and getting the certificate. If you want a more detailed breakdown of each section of the NATE support technician exam, you can find it here.
Tips For Succeeding In HVAC Training
Set A Schedule
When you begin HVAC training, it is essential to create a plan for yourself. If you are taking an online class, set aside a 30-minute block you can dedicate to the course each day. If you are in an in-person class, some of the schedules are set for you, but it is still good to set aside time for homework and questions.
Work In The Same Place
You should do your HVAC training in the same place whenever possible. Training in the same situation helps your brain associate that place with training and improve your focus. In-person HVAC courses create this through classrooms, but online students must set aside a particular area.
Don't Be Afraid To Do Small Chunks
Most of us go to HVAC school after our full-time job or other commitments. It can be challenging to set aside hours for our training, so working on each piece a few minutes at a time can be a great way to make progress.
If you can set aside 30 minutes to work on your HVAC training, eliminate any distractions. Leave your phone in another room and tell your family that you will be focusing for 30 minutes. Make the best use of the time you have set aside, and you will start to see results.
When learning a new skill or trade like HVAC, it can be helpful to talk with people. You can speak with classmates, or if you are in an online course, you can find people exploring similar topics on Reddit and Quora. When you talk to people working on the same thing as you, it can be encouraging.
When you are in class or working on homework, always ask questions if something does not make sense. If you don't understand, everyone else probably does not either. It will also help to create a relationship between you and the teacher, which could turn into a job opportunity.
You are working hard, reward yourself! After you finish your 30 minutes each day, take some time to enjoy what you have done. Have some ice cream or watch your favorite TV show.
Due to COVID-19, many courses have gone entirely online. If you are the type of learner who prefers in-person and close collaboration with people, I recommend the following tips:
email your professors and classmates
Use forums to answer questions
Create Zoom meetings with your classmates and teacher
Go to your teacher's office hours over Zoom
What To Do After Completing Your HVAC Training
This guide should have given you everything that you need to know when deciding on an HVAC training program. Once you have completed an online or in-person course, I recommend getting whatever certificates you can from NATE, OSHA, and EPA. You will also need to check your state guidelines for becoming an HVAC technician in case there is anything extra you need to do. Finally, start applying to HVAC jobs or leverage talent pools like SkillCat's to land your job as an HVAC technician.
Interested in learning a skilled trade? Check out SkillCat. We provide free online training and job placement to graduates of our bootcamps. You can find our free online HVAC courses for the EPA 608, NATE Ready To Work, and more.