You’ve completed your education and received your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning certification, but how do you maintain your certification? Certification is one of the most important qualities that the customer is going to be looking for, so it is crucial that you have the right certifications if you want to get work as an HVAC technician.
Certified or licensed HVAC technicians earn their credentials through their studies and work experience. Not all states require licensing, but even in states with no formal licensing requirements, employers usually prefer job applicants with professional certifications.
In the states that do require licensing, applicants must pass a written exam like the one we provide for our students. For example, Texas accepts a passing score on the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) exam for HVAC technicians in addition to registration with the state government.
It is important to keep your certification up to date and ensure it does not expire. Depending on the type of certification you receive, the expiration date may vary. Some certifications never expire while others need to be renewed every five years.
Types of Certifications
There are multiple types of certifications you can receive including EPA Section 608 Certification, HVAC Excellence Certification, NATE Certification, and more. Each certification is just as important as the other because different states have different licensing requirements for HVAC technicians. However, one of these is recognized across all the states, unlike the rest.
EPA Section 608 Certification
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires everyone with access to a system or container storing refrigerant gas to receive certification. Every HVAC technician has to ensure that the refrigerants used in the systems are handled appropriately because of regulations set forth in the Clean Air Act. Some HVAC certifications are based on specific sections of the Clean Air Act, such as Section 608.
The good news is that Section 608 certification never expires. However, if you lose your certification card, you may have to retake the test depending on your situation.
HVAC Excellence Certification
This non-profit organization was founded in 1994 to improve the technical competency of the HVAC industry through validation of the technical education process. The certification process and the areas of study are similar to those utilized by NATE, though this organization covers the electrical aspects of heating and air conditioning with separate examinations.
The HVAC Excellence certification is really a blanket term for a series of specialized certifications. These range from basic to master-level certifications that require varying levels of preparation. The two more prestigious of these certifications are known as the “Professional Level” and the “Master Specialist Level” and require renewal after five years.
Being able to obtain the North American Technician Excellence certification at the start of your career can only help your reputation as a technician. The NATE certification shows that you have been properly trained and have learned how to specialize in a particular area.
With NATE, you can customize your certification to your specific needs or employer’s requirements. These certifications must be renewed every two years. Renewal requires either submitting 16 continuing education hours every two years or retaking the specialty exam only, before the end of the two-year certification period.
The HVAC industry is a growing industry that continues to attract more people. At some point in the future, there will most likely be a surplus of qualified HVAC technicians. This is where receiving your certification puts you ahead of the competition. After receiving your certification, it is important that you maintain your certification by renewing it when necessary.
Here at The Training Center of Air Conditioning & Heating in Texas, we can provide you with the resources to become a great HVAC technician. If you are ready to make a career change, be sure to learn more about our program and the classes we have to offer.
The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) industry is expected to grow 14% before 2024 – double the typical growth for most industries. Becoming an HVAC technician is a great way to ensure your skills will always be in demand. Besides the technical skills, in this field, technicians also use practical skills that lead them to success.
For those looking to step foot into the HVAC industry, it is important that you know how to communicate calmly and effectively with those you encounter. When working with many clients, it is important to understand that these clients may be stressed since things are not working the way they are supposed to.
You will need to be able to effectively explain what you are doing in order to help solve the problem at hand. A majority of your customers will not know the technical terms of the industry. Because of this, you will need to be able to explain what you are doing in a way that your customers will be able to understand.
Clients already have high standards for anyone they choose to hire for HVAC work. By explaining the procedures, they will be much more comfortable and confident in your abilities as a technician.
Problem Solving Skills
Troubleshooting is one of the most important skills someone can possess in the HVAC industry. A majority of the time, technicians will receive a call about a system before they have a chance to diagnose the problem. Being able to effectively identify an issue is just one skill necessary to be successful at problem-solving. However, a job may not always be as straightforward as it seems.
When the problem is different than what you originally thought, some quick, creative thinking will help you get the job done. This requires asking the client some questions and working with the system to see what may have failed. The faster you can figure out the problem and design a solution to fix it, the more effective you will be as a technician.
Many technicians deal with multiple calls a day and they have to be able to efficiently finish each task in order to move on to the next call without delay. Staying organized is a large part of being successful as a technician. You must be able to maintain accurate records of each visit, the work that was performed, and any equipment that was used.
Customer Service Skills
Any job where you will be interacting with clients regularly requires excellent customer service skills. Interacting with homeowners, property managers, and building superintendents takes a certain level of finesse that a great technician should have.
Clients often expect a professional attitude and general regard for the customer. As an HVAC technician, demonstrating excellent customer service to your clients will leave an excellent impression on them and encourage them to call you again the next time their air conditioning breaks down.
Developing Your Skills
There are many skills necessary for you to succeed in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning industry. There will always be HVAC systems which means there will always be people that need repairs and replacements. To be successful in this industry, you need to have an exceptional list of skills and strengths. This may sound difficult, but for the right kind of person, it’s a fun, rewarding, and challenging career.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can succeed in the HVAC industry, contact us today.
For anyone interested in a career that is rewarding, interesting, secure, and lets you use your skills to help others, the path of an HVAC service technician can offer all of that and more. But even so, the HVAC trade, like many skilled labor careers, sometimes meets its fair share of misconceptions.
Whether it’s because of preconceived notions, uninformed decision-making, or simply the fact that it may not be a job full of glitz and glam, these misconceptions can sometimes drive people who may find themselves to be a natural fit away.
If you are interested in a career in HVAC in the Houston area but are second-guessing yourself, let us help put your mind at ease. We are here to set the record straight and bust some myths on four common HVAC career misconceptions.
You need a background in the field to get started
Some people shy away from pursuing a career in HVAC because they feel they don’t have the background in skilled labor, working with their hands, or any prior knowledge HVAC. However, that is far from the actual case!
While having a background or basic understanding of HVAC certainly won’t hurt you, the training you’ll receive at The Training Center of Air Conditioning & Heating teaches students everything they need for an entry-level HVAC technician position. As long as you have the commitment and drive to work hard, you can succeed and become a certified HVAC tech even if you don’t have prior skills in the field.
It takes a long time to get certified
The kind of education you receive at a trade school is not as well understood as the format of your typical college. Therefore, lots of people assume trade schools follow the similar 4+ year requirement, which many don’t have the time or money to commit to.
In actuality, completing HVAC training and gaining your certification takes significantly shorter! Courses at The Training Center of Air Conditioning & Heating take just 14 weeks to complete, covering 16 subjects. With classes offered three times a year and the option for morning or evening classes Monday through Thursday, not only can you get certified in a short period of time, but you can do it on the schedule that works best for you.
HVAC is not a financially rewarding career
HVAC technicians, like many of those working in other skilled trades, sometimes face the perception that because of its hard work and labor requirements, it is a less than rewarding career financially. However, because of the unique skill the job requires and the ever-growing demand for skilled AC technicians in Texas, a career in HVAC is quite a rewarding career indeed.
CareerExplorer estimates the average HVAC technician in Texas can earn about $45k per year, with potential to earn anywhere up to $75k per year. The average is comparable to other similar skilled trades like plumbers and electricians. Clearly, anyone who thinks a career in a skilled trade like HVAC is not rewarding is quite mistaken.
There aren’t any opportunities for young HVAC techs
If you are interested in a career that offers variety, excitement, and a clear path to grow and succeed, look no further than a career in HVAC. There has never been a higher demand for skilled workers, especially in HVAC, than right now. And it is only going to go up from here!
Over the next decade, BLS is projecting that the aging majority of most skilled laborers are going to open up a large number of opportunities for young, up and coming laborers to enter an industry that is already facing a shortage of workers. That means there aren’t just opportunities to find technician jobs that will have high job security, but there are also opportunities to eventually grow beyond just being a technician by starting your own business or training the next wave of workers as an instructor.
Despite what perceptions may exist, a career in HVAC is one that is filled with the excitement of seeing new places, meeting new people, earning a competitive salary, utilizing an invaluable skill, and offering a service to folks that is genuinely valued and needed.
Interested in starting your HVAC career? HVAC professionals and service technicians, even entry-level ones, will rarely struggle to find work in the southern US and here in Texas. Learn more about the programs offered here at The Training Center of Air Conditioning & Heating and start your career path today!
A home with natural gas hookups likely uses gas to power the furnace as well as the stove. In your HVAC career, you’ll encounter a fair number of gas heat furnaces that need repairs or maintenance. Since these heating systems work quite differently from electrical furnaces, it’s important to know how both should typically work and the crucial differences in their makeup and functions.
A gas heat furnace has its pros and cons compared to an electric heating system, as well as significant differences in energy efficiency and how the system works. A gas furnace also has the potential to be dangerous to the occupants of the home if not installed or repaired correctly. Before you start work on a gas furnace, keep yourself well-informed of what to expect and how to handle the machine.
How Gas Furnaces Work
Gas furnaces usually run on natural gas piped into the home from a utility company. If the home doesn’t have natural gas hookups, the fuel will likely be propane from specialized tanks. A propane provider will periodically visit the home to refill the tank and keep the heater running.
Propane typically enters a furnace gas valve at a maximum of 11 inches of water gauge pressure as measured by the proper manometer. Once the propane furnace is running, the actual manifold pressure is usually about 10 inches. Natural gas pressure tends to be about the same amount, averaging about 10.5 inches at the entry point. However, when the furnace is running, the manifold pressure of natural gas will drop to about 3.5 inches of water. Check the nameplate on the furnace to determine which pressure level you should be seeing.
If you take a look at a gas furnace, you’ll see the box is maybe 4-5 ft. long and contains a fan and the furnace itself. One end connects to the duct coming from the filter grill. The other end of the furnace connects to the AC evaporator coil. The fan pulls air from the air filter and, if the furnace is running, it warms the air below and sends it along the ductwork throughout the house. Since the heated air passes through the evaporator coil, it’s just as important to keep the AC coil clean in the winter as it is during the summer. A dirty evaporator coil can cause a furnace to overheat and pose a fire hazard.
A gas furnace and its accompanying flue pipe also requires open space around it (typically 30 inches) to keep them both away from potentially flammable objects. This is especially important for the flue pipe since, even with its double-walled material, it can still get very hot. As the exhaust pipe of the gas heater, the flue handles a lot of hot air. The pipe’s sealant must be sturdy to keep hazardous gases such as carbon monoxide from escaping, and the pipe must never be closer than 1 inch to wood or flammable materials or it poses a significant fire hazard.
A properly installed gas heater connects to the thermostat and waits for the signal to turn on. The thermostat receives 24 volts from the red T stat wire and sends the power to the furnace through a white wire, which activates the furnace. The furnace sparks the gas inside to create heat and begin warming the whole house.
Pro Tip: Propane and natural gas furnaces are designed for very specific and very different fuel sources. NEVER try to run a propane furnace with natural gas or vice versa! The differences in pressure will lead to severe problems.
Running a Gas Furnace
When installed correctly, a gas furnace runs like this:
- The combustion fan motor, a special fan that pushes or pulls air through the fire box, activates for about 30 seconds. Any raw gas in the sparking area is flushed out through the roof. A small pressure switch connected to this fan tells the thermostat the fan is running. Once the thermostat gets the signal from the switch that the purge fan is on and has run for 30 seconds without a problem, the next step begins.
- The thermostat checks that all the safety switches are in the proper open or closed positions. Located in several places on the furnaces, these switches detect overheating or other potential dangers. If these switches are in the proper position, the thermostat keeps moving forward.
- The thermostat sends power to the hot surface igniter until it glows red hot. If you have a spark igniter furnace, this is when it starts sparking. The thermostat can even tell if the hot surface igniter is hot or not by measuring how much resistance it gives the electricity.
- Now that the furnace has a spark or red hot igniter, it opens the gas valve and lets in a little gas. As the gas travels past either the sparker or the hot surface igniter, it lights.
- Using a flame sensor, the thermostat verifies that the gas ignited safely.
- The thermostat then activates the main gas and lights the main burners. Now the furnace is fully in heating mode with up to 100,000 BTUs of heat being created.
- Finally, the thermostat turns on the main house fan and start blowing the heated air all around the house. Eventually, the temperature will reach the maximum specified by the homeowner and the thermostat will deactivate the heater. If the thermostat sense any problems or potential dangers, it will immediately deactivate both the heater and gas and potentially place both into lockout mode to prevent an accident.
Troubleshooting a Gas Furnace
One important step in troubleshooting a gas furnace is to pay attention to the circuit card, a computer card inside the thermostat. A diagnostic light on the card will flash at a certain rate to indicate the necessary repairs. Always take note of the flash rate in case you have to reset the light–this is valuable information that helps you determine the problem.
To diagnose the issue, try to ignite the furnace and watch each step as it happens. As soon as you notice the furnace faltering on a particular step, you’ve discovered the potential source of the problem. Work from there to find the answer.
Pay attention to the flue pipe as well. An older, less efficient furnace will likely have a flue pipe that tends to stay very hot and very dry, since about 20% of the generated heat was wasted through exhaust fumes. However, newer high-efficiency furnaces will waste far less heat (to the point that plastic piping is often safe to use for their flues) and thus may allow moisture to collect in the flue pipe. The furnace then collects and disposes of the moisture. These kinds of furnaces are called condensing furnaces. Check your manual and manufacturer’s recommendations to determine the proper type of flue pipe for each heater.
The length of the flue pipe is also important. Calculate the length of pipe extending outside the home based on the roof’s pitch and the manufacturer’s recommendation. If you overcompensate and make the extension far too long, you run the risk of the pipe breaking off in high winds and allowing deadly exhaust gases back into the home. Support the flue pipe very firmly and never make the exhaust portion too long. When the life of your client is in your hands, it’s better to be overly cautious than to just meet minimum standards.
A client’s air filter might also be a cause for concern. To see if the filter is causing the problem, watch the flame in the furnace. A normal furnace flame is bright blue. Any yellow flames indicate incomplete combustion caused by poor air flow through a dirty filter. This is a serious condition that you must address immediately. Until the flame is blue again, the problem is not resolved.
Finally, do you have all the tools necessary to work on gas furnaces? Check your HVAC supplies and make sure you own all of the following equipment:
- Gas pressure tester
- Combustion analyzer
- 3 amp fuses
Above all, remember that while trial and error is typically a legitimate way to learn, it is drastically unsafe to experiment with gas heaters. Even the slightest mistake could lead to potentially deadly consequences for the homeowners. Never take a guess or try to figure out something unfamiliar on your own. Consult an expert or the manufacturer when necessary. An abundance of caution is far better than rushing a job and making a dangerous mistake.
Providing Excellent Work to your Clients
Working on a gas heat furnace presents its own set of challenges that an electrical system won’t have. Fortunately, with the right amount of study and hands-on practice with both kinds of heating systems, you’ll be well-prepared to help your clients keep their homes warm this winter.
Connect with us to learn how to jump-start your new HVAC career!
Why is it so important to understand what a normal HVAC system looks, sounds, and feels like? Simply put, you must know normal before you can diagnose abnormal. Adopting this philosophy will have a profound impact on how you see and work on almost everything.
No matter what you are doing, if you know what is normal, you will be much more confident in the outcome. Technicians that don’t realize this tend to make many mistakes, incorrect diagnoses, and improper installations. What impact will this have on your HVAC career?
Normal Isn’t Always Good
It should go without saying that normalcy in an HVAC system isn’t always a good thing. For example:
- It’s normal that most a/c systems are installed incorrectly.
- It’s normal for technicians to ignore superheat and subcool when charging or testing a system
Even if being normal isn’t always a good thing, it’s still important to recognize what a normal system looks like. If you know that most systems are installed incorrectly, it will make you look harder and not assume anything. If you know that most technicians ignore proper charging procedures by ignoring superheat and subcooling, you will take a closer look at that even though you may be there for something entirely unrelated to the refrigerant charge.
Sometimes knowing normal is knowing how something reacts when it fails. For example, if a liquid line drier starts to clog up, it’s normal for a temperature drop to be detectable from the inlet to the outlet side. It’s also normal for a clean drier to not have a temperature drop. Both of these are the norm for that particular situation, but both equally important to know.
On the other hand, two seemingly opposite functions could also be normal. For instance, an evaporator coil will produce a large amount of water if the air is high in humidity, and none at all if the weather is dry. If you don’t know the difference, you might misdiagnosis a problem based on incorrect knowledge of what the system is supplied to do. Just the fact the coil does or does not produce water means nothing if you don’t understand the differences.
Pro Tip: Even if you notice fluctuations in certain HVAC functions, don’t assume that means there’s a problem. The system may be designed to handle or cause those changes. Stay informed of real problems to watch for.
“Normals” of HVAC Compressors
How much do you know about the normal functions of HVAC compressors? Let’s just consider the temperature of the shell of the three compressors. The scroll on the top of the compressor should be very hot since that’s where the head discharges into the dome. In fact, the entire dome should be very hot anytime the unit is turned on, while the sides are cooled by suction gases and will not be nearly as hot. Since the reciprocating compressor is also cooled by suction gases, you should only notice heat where the hot gas line leaves the shell.
If a technician touches a rotary and assumes it is overheating because he confuses it with a scroll, they’ll misdiagnose a system issue and perform unnecessary work. Similarly, touching a hot reciprocating compressor and assuming it is operating normally because you don’t know better will allow a potentially severe problem to get worse.
Know What a Normal HVAC System Looks Like
It’s been said that “You must know normal before you can know abnormal”. This saying is particularly true in an industry that deals with troubleshooting. The first step toward identifying a problem is knowing what normal operations should look like and what any deviations from the norm could mean.
Connect with us to learn more about normalcy in the HVAC industry and how to identify common issues.
Customers have high standards for anyone they choose to hire for HVAC work. After all, few people would debate that a well-maintained ventilation system is essential for comfortable living in a hot city like Houston. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to prove that you’re worth your clients’ trust.
Signs of a Good HVAC Contractor
Just as clients look for potential red flags when searching for someone to hire, they also look for “green flags”–in other words, good signs about a potential hire. By doing your best to know and display those green flags, you can earn yourself more loyal customers! Here are a few of these good signs:
- Fully in compliance with applicable laws
- State-of-the-art HVAC units and equipment
- Quality work and service
- Written warranty
- Emergency services
- Excellent testimonials
1) Fully in Compliance with Applicable Laws
Most states require extensive licensing for anyone working in the HVAC field or handling coolants in their work. In addition to providing proof of a license, make sure you’re familiar with the EPA’s standards for indoor air quality and can demonstrate your adherence to them in your work. Your clients will be glad to know they can trust you to comply with legal requirements and maintain a high standard in your work.
2) State-of-the-Art HVAC Units and Equipment
Clients want the best for their home HVAC systems, even if that means the units they end up purchasing are expensive. A quality air conditioning or heating unit will last a long time, require few repairs, and save the homeowner money on their energy bills. Are you able to offer these exceptional units to your clients? Do you know how to work on them with excellent results?
Pro Tip: Take the time to evaluate your tool collection as well. Does anything need replacing? The quality of your work is directly related to the quality of your tools.
3) Quality Work and Service
Anyone with excellent customer service skills but no knowledge of an HVAC system makes a poor air conditioning technician. Likewise, you can have extensive knowledge of how home ventilation systems work, but without customer service skills, you may not be rehired. Learn to strike the proper balance of excellent work and approachability to best appeal to a wide range of clients.
4) Written Warranty
Even if the HVAC hardware and parts come with a written warranty, what about the work you do on them? Clients will generally feel far more comfortable knowing that hardware and labor alike is backed by a guarantee in writing. Make sure you can provide this for your customers, whether on your own or through your HVAC employer.
5) Emergency Services
A home’s heating and cooling systems are essential to homeowners’ comfort. If the AC stops working in the middle of a hot Houston summer, the HVAC technician had better be available to come and fix it immediately! Offering 24/7 emergency heating and air conditioning services will go a long way toward keeping and retaining clients.
6) Excellent Testimonials
Finally, customers still love seeing good ratings and glowing customer reviews. Make sure to request good reviews from satisfied customers, and reach out to try solving any problems mentioned in negative reviews. The more positive stories you have to share, the better your chances at gaining new customers will be!
Earn Clients Through Quality Services
Ultimately, clients look for a candidate that can provide both quality HVAC work and excellent customer service. If you can show that you are able to provide both, not only will potential new clients seek you out, but your previous clients will also be likely to hire you a second time for future work. Hard work and good service will pay off!
Connect with us to learn more about marketing yourself as an HVAC contractor.