Introduction to HVAC

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Nearly every enclosed space relies on some form of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, or HVAC. The invention of air conditioning in 1902 revolutionized business and industry.

Willis Haviland Carrier received the first patent for the modern air conditioner, which was then known as an “apparatus for treating air.” Mr. Carrier shared his formula for the air conditioner with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1911, and that formula is still used today for fundamental air conditioning calculations.

Air conditioning units were tremendously beneficial at the time to printing presses and meat packing plants, which had previously felt severe negative effects from high heat and humidity levels. In 1928, residential air conditioning units were introduced, bringing this luxury to the masses.

While much of the world views air conditioning as a luxury rather than a necessity, there are few places where central heating is anything but a necessity, at least for a few months of every year. The creation of basic central heating is credited to ancient Romans, who installed a system of air ducts in which hot air from a central fire was fed through to distribute heat throughout.

Education & Training

HVAC technicians can receive training in programs lasting anywhere from six months to two years, depending on the intensity, training level, and certifications available.

In classes at technical and trade schools, students study the theory of temperature control, equipment design and construction, and electronics. They also learn the basics of installation, maintenance, and repair. After completing these programs, new technicians generally need between an additional 6 months and 2 years of field experience before they are considered proficient.

Many technicians also continue their education through apprenticeships run by joint committees. These programs may run 3-5 years, and combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction in tool use, safety practices, blueprint reading, and the theory and design of heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration systems. In addition to understanding how systems work, technicians must learn about refrigerant products and the environmental legislation and regulations that govern their use.

Licensure is required by some states and localities. The requirements for licensure vary greatly, but all states or localities that require a license have a test that must be passed, and often require completion of an apprenticeship program or 2-5 years of experience.


There are roughly 292,000 HVAC mechanics working in the United States. HVAC jobs are readily available — any place there is climate control equipment requires, at some point, a person to install, repair, and maintain that equipment. Job prospects for the industry are good and are expected to be excellent throughout the coming years.

Most HVAC technicians are employed by building contractors, hardware and plumbing wholesalers, repair operations, direct sales, and local government agencies.

The median hourly wage for HVAC technicians and mechanics is $19.08 / hour.

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