The Step-By-Step of Entering the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Industry
Heating, refrigeration and air conditioning is a crucial industry, as it keeps homes and commercial buildings comfortable and ensures acceptable indoor air quality. These three major functions are often interrelated, so the technicians employed in this field are crossed trained. Take a closer look at the field, how it works and the steps you need to take to succeed.
The Heart of the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Industry
Technology has made it possible to combine the design, installation and control systems of heating, refrigeration and air conditioning into one or more systems (depending on the size of the structure). For example, in smaller buildings contractors will estimate the capacity and type of system needed and then design the system, selecting the appropriate refrigerant and various components. In larger buildings, meanwhile, building service designers, mechanical engineers or building services engineers analyze, design and specify the required systems. Once this is done, heating, refrigeration and air conditioning technicians, who may also be responsible for the design, will come in and install the systems and keep them maintained.
The Necessary Schooling
Before you can enter this field, which currently employs 14,250 people, according to the Department of Employment and Social Development Canada. This starts with post-secondary education in a program such as Centennial College’s two-year Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technician, which yields a diploma. Students are exposed to theory and practical application that will cover design, installation and service techniques. For example, students will learn to maintain, size and select equipment for air conditioning and refrigeration application, and ensure it meets the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) standards of air conditioning units and the efficiency standards for heating equipment. If a student wants to become a tradesperson after this program, he or she will need to complete an apprenticeship. Program graduates can also go into sales and service, technical support, and maintenance and installation in residential, commercial, institutional and industrial settings. The Department also reports that the number of registered apprenticeship certificates has increased for the refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics’ trade group in Ontario over the last several years.
Because there are various roles in this industry, duties may differ. However, looking specifically at a refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic, Careers In Construction, which works with the construction industry to determine labour market needs, describes a wide range of tasks. Among them are: “installing, troubleshooting and overhauling entire heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems; measuring refrigeration or air conditioning components for installation; working with hand and power tools to install refrigeration or air conditioning components; measuring and cutting piping, and connecting piping using welding equipment; testing heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems for leaks; performing routine maintenance; repairing and replacing components for entire heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems; preparing work estimates; and reading and interpreting blueprints”. In Ontario, according to the Government of Canada, Labour Marketing Information from 2016, technicians earn between $19.21 to $49.18 per hour with a median hourly wage of $28.85.
Because nearly all buildings in the province must have a heating and ventilation system under the Ontario Building Code, the Department of Employment and Social Development Canada reports that the demand for employees in this field will remain healthy in the 2018-2020 period. In addition to residential and commercial buildings, there may be job opportunities, reports the Department, in environments such as ice rinks, grocery stores, restaurants and processing plants. Looking ahead, meanwhile, “mechanics may find growing opportunities to install and service alternative types of heating and ventilation systems to meet energy standards. This will include heat-recovery ventilators, air-source heat pumps and geothermal systems.”
Written by: Izabela Szydlo