ONLINE HVAC TRAINING COURSES

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2014) reports that openings for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC or HVACR) professionals will swell 21 percent between 2012 and 2022, much faster than the average growth projected for all occupations during that time period (11 percent).

So what is the most convenient way for people to join this profession on the rise? One possibility is to enroll in an online HVAC training program.

With the widespread adoption of distance-based education through online certificates, degrees, and continuing education units (CEUs), aspiring HVAC professionals are no longer limited to on-campus training programs. These online HVAC training options leverage tools such as streamed web lectures; digital simulation tools; and computer-based assignments. Through these innovative programs, students can receive rigorous training in HVAC testing instruments and service equipment; residential and commercial HVAC set-ups; electrical and heat-pump systems; and more.

Please note that some online HVAC schools and colleges require an on-campus intensive or an externship component to ensure that HVAC candidates receive adequate hands-on training in the field. Also, a majority of the HVAC certification boards (e.g., North American Technician Excellence [NATE], HVAC Excellence, Refrigeration Service Engineers Society [RSES], ESCO Institute) require those seeking certification to come to an approved testing site to demonstrate their competencies.

Finally, the state licensing requirements for HVAC professionals vary, but generally require some formal training (e.g., diploma, certification, degree) and years of experience, in addition to continuing education units (CEUs) to maintain active licensure.

Featured Online Programs

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Read on to discover the variety of online HVAC programs, including certificates, degrees, and CEUs.

ONLINE HVAC CERTIFICATE PROGRAMS

For those interested in learning the fundamentals of HVAC systems or deepening their competencies in various subfields, enrolling in an online HVAC certificate program is one possibility. These programs are ideal for entry-level HVAC professionals. As part of the program, students typically receive vouchers to take specific HVAC certification exams.

Here are eight featured online certificate programs for HVAC professionals, aspiring and current:

  • The University of North Dakota (UND)—in a partnership with Education to Go (ed2go)—provides an online HVACR certified technician program. This comprehensive training program is designed to prepare installers and technicians to successfully pass a range of national HVAC certification exams, including the EPA 608 Refrigerant Handling Exam; the R-410A Refrigerant Handling Qualification; and the students’ choice of NATE certification exams (stage 1 or stage 2). Please note that as part of the program, students receive vouchers to sit for the most common industry certification exams.

  • Ashworth College—in a partnership with the ESCO Institute—provides an online diploma in heating and air conditioning that can be completed in as few as four months, covering 13 specialized sections such as refrigeration systems; HVACR electrical systems; and commercial environmental systems. As part of the training, Ashworth College prepares students to sit for the EPA Section 608 Certification. Finally, this program is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), the primary approval body for web-based learning.

  • Penn Foster Career School offers students a DEAC-accredited online career diploma that will help them take the first step towards becoming an HVACR technician. This online program is designed to help students prepare for HVAC certification and can be completed in as few as five months. Through eight units of training—including courses on electrical systems, math for the trades, and fundamentals of HVACR—students are trained to install, repair, and maintain home and commercial systems. As part of their program, graduates of Penn Foster Career School’s HVACR Technician Program are also given a voucher for the EPA Certification Test.

    Penn Foster Career School also offers students a DEAC-accredited online career certificate program that will help them develop their skills in the essentials of Automotive HVAC. This online program covers automotive engine heating and cooling systems along with EPA rules, regulations, and safety practices. As part of their program, graduates of Penn Foster Career School’s Automotive HVAC Essentials certificate program will also receive an ASE test-prep book to help them prepare for the ASE Heating and Air Conditioning test.

  • The Pinnacle Career Institute (PCI)—accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)—prepares students to sit for the EPA and North American Technician Excellence (NATE) core service certifications. As part of PCI’s online certificate program, students receive a starter set of tools: gauge manifold, multimeter, tin snip, tubing cutter, and tool bag. In addition to web-based coursework in airflow principles, refrigeration fundamentals, and basic electronics for HVAC, students are required to complete an 11-day bootcamp in Kansas City, MO, where PCI boasts a 10,000-square-foot interactive lab for students to test and expand upon their newfound abilities.

  • The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) offers an online residential HVAC certificate, comprising three modules and 28 lesson units in subjects such as how to design a ducted distribution system; how to size equipment appropriately; how to perform residential load calculations; and more. These certificates are valid for five years. ACCA also offers certification programs in light commercial HVAC design; EPIC instructor competencies; refrigerant handling (EPA 608); and two ACCA-developed Qtech certifications (quality installation and home performance).

  • California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) provides a 320-hour online HVAC technician certificate through a partnership with ed2go. This program prepares students for a variety of certification exams, including local gas filter and fuel oil licensing; types 1 and 2 refrigerant handling exams (EPA 608); the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute’s (AHRI) Industry Competency Exams (residential HVAC or light commercial HVAC); and NATE’s service-specific certifications.

  • The University of Central Florida (UCF) hosts an online HVACR certified technician program, an all-inclusive training which also gives students vouchers for several exams: refrigerant handling (EPA 608 and R-410A); and the students’ choice of NATE certifications.

  • Excelsior College provides an online, comprehensive HVAC technician certificate program which typically takes 12 months to complete. The 16 sections are delivered through web tours, animations, images, and interactive quizzes, preparing students for refrigerant handling (EPA 608 and R-410A), as well as HVAC Excellence or NATE certifications.

ONLINE HVAC DEGREE PROGRAMS

Although a majority of degree-granting (associate’s or bachelor’s) HVAC programs are campus-based, there are some exceptions. Please note that these are degree-completion programs which assume students have some formal training in HVAC—an approved certificate or diploma—and do not admit students without experience. Prospective students are encouraged to ensure that their experience and credentials qualify them for enrollment prior to applying.

Here are two standout options for online HVAC degrees:

  • Lincoln College Online has an online associate of applied science (AAS) degree in HVAC service management, comprising 48 quarter credit hours (12 courses) which generally take 13 months to complete. Lincoln College not only provides students with a thorough overview of installation, repair, design, and troubleshooting of HVAC systems, but also aims to impart the business, management, and service fundamentals of the craft. Please note that this degree program is open to graduates of qualifying HVAC diploma or certificate programs.

  • Ferris State University’s online bachelor of science (BS) in HVACR engineering technology takes students deeper than traditional certificate or diploma programs, focusing on turning out experts in HVAC design, controls, retrofitting, testing, and other skills. As part of this program, students complete a five-day lab on campus where students can perform HVACR analyses for local West Michigan businesses and residents, as well as a paid summer internship as an HVAC technician. Please note that this program is open to those with associate degrees in HVAC.

ONLINE HVAC CONTINUING EDUCATION PROGRAMS

There is a number of online training options for HVAC continuing education units (CEUs) which may be required to maintain active licenses and certifications. Although many state government websites (e.g., Texas Department of Licensing and Registration [TDLR], Kentucky Department of Housing, Buildings & Construction) provide links to approved HVAC continuing education facilities, there are also online CEU opportunities offered through universities and training institutes.

Please note that prior to enrollment, it’s crucial to verify that online CEUs are valid to maintain specific certifications and licenses. Check with licensing bodies, certification providers, or CEU program coordinators to ensure eligibility.

  • George Mason University  (GMU) offers an online training program on the principles of green buildings which can be used as 28 CEUs to maintain select certifications and licenses (e.g., NATE, Building Performance Institute, Inc. [BPI]). Provided by GMU’s Office of Continuing Profession Education and ed2go, this self-paced program comprises nine modules, including air flow basics; ventilation; combustion safety; framing & air sealing; and indoor air quality basics. Additionally, each student has access to a subject matter expert (SME) who can provide targeted assistance in difficult areas.

  • Midlands Technical College provides a 120 hour online HVAC program which can be used as 12 CEUs for select certifications. In addition to rigorous training on topics which have been identified as essential knowledge by HVACR industry groups, this program also offers extras such as lessons for two specialized NATE certifications: heat pump and basic air conditioning, electrical controls & troubleshooting.

  • The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has a number of online classes, valid for for three CEUs each: combined heat & power, laboratory design, fundamental requirements of standard, and commissioning process in new & existing buildings.

  • Trane—a company which patented its first air conditioner in 1931—hosts a number of more specialized online CE courses which have been approved by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Trane offers classes in coil selection and optimization (1 CEU); air handling systems (1); air-to-air energy recovery (1.5); and applying variable refrigerant flow (1.5). These more advanced courses may qualify for state-licensed professional CEUs.

  • State CE—a multi-industry CE provider who has helped more than 100,000 professionals meet their needs since 2001—provides a wealth of state-specific online CE programs with training in HVAC fundamentals; rules, law, safety & health; and systems & standards.

  • Penn Foster’s online HVAC program (profiled above in “online HVAC certificate programs”) can also be used for continuing education units (CEUs) through select state government and certification organizations.

ACCREDITATION FOR ONLINE HVAC PROGRAMS

There are several types of accreditation which are applied to the range of HVAC schools and training programs. Although program accreditation may not mandatory to secure work in the HVAC industry, it helps students exercise quality-control with their program selection and some employers may prefer candidates who have completed accredited training.

First, there are HVAC-specific accrediting bodies such as HVAC Excellence, which since 1999, has accredited programs in 32 states. Criteria for program approval include an examination of the program mission, instructor training, and other elements of a school. A list of accreditation team leaders as well as accredited schools are available on the website. The International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) also offers accreditation for continuing education courses. To seek accreditation, the school must have been in business for at least one year and have courses and programs that meet the IACET’s prescribed accreditation standards. An article in Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News  (2014) notes that companies that want their employees to receive continual education training should look to programs that are accredited through the IACET.

There are also institutional accreditation bodies, which apply to schools as a whole. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)—recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)—approves providers of online education. Other recognized institutional accrediting authorities in higher education include:

Barry Franklin

Barry is the Editor in Chief of HVACClasses.org, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures, which he joined as partner in 2013 after almost 20 years in the financial software industry.