HVAC Training Schools in Alabama

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In the Heart of Dixie, there’s an impressive array of job opportunities and professional associations in the heating, air conditioning, ventilation, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) field. In fact, Alabama (AL) boasts seven accredited HVAC programs—more than most US states—and several organizations which assist these workers in their jobs and educational endeavors. As proof of point, the Associated Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of Alabama—the self-described ‘most progressive association of its kind in the nation’—offers training seminars, legal advocacy, discounts on insurance, a quarterly newsletter (The Alabama Contractor), and online continuing education (CE). The HVAC CE programs include a two-hour course on communication and a five-hour course on the gas code, both of which can be applied to maintaining professional credentialing in the industry.

The Subcontractors Association of Alabama, also known as ‘SubAla,’ provides resources such as an electronic safety library, annual conventions, workers compensation funds, golf tournaments, and other exclusive member benefits. In sum, there’s no shortage of support for HVAC workers in AL.

These professionals are licensed by the AL Board of Heating, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Contractors and take on responsibilities such as understanding theories behind HVAC equipment (e.g., basic refrigeration cycle, basic heating cycle, combustion, electron theory, single- & three-phase circuits, Ohm’s Law, air treatment etc.); installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting HVAC/R systems and their parts (e.g., refrigeration circuits, metering devices, motors, hermetic compressors, economizers, fans, evaporators, humidifiers, water pumps, intake & exhaust fans, ductless splits, heat pumps, etc.); performing heat load & loss calculations; dealing with a variety of system types (gas, oil, electric); soldering and brazing parts; making recommendations for energy efficiency; and keeping detailed client records. It’s worthy of note that all HVAC professionals nationwide who handle refrigerants must achieve the EPA Section 608 certification. Alabama is uniquely concerned with improving the efficiency of these systems. In fact, the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy reported that AL utilities companies budgeted $40 million for load management and energy-saving programs. One standout offering is the Green Power Providers, which offers a $1,000 incentive for those who install solar photovoltaic, biomass, hydropower, or wind systems on their property, and then the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will purchase the output (up to 50 kW) for ten years. This is only one such program available to residents of AL.

This guide covers the opportunities for aspiring HVAC mechanics and installers across AL, including the occupational growth, salary prospects, accredited HVAC schools, and licensing procedures in the Yellowhammer State.

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Demand for HVAC Technicians in Alabama

HVAC is a high-growth and relatively lucrative industry, especially for an occupation requiring only one to two years of postsecondary training. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015) projected a 14 percent explosion in HVAC job openings nationwide between 2014 and 2024, double the average growth (7 percent) expected across all occupations during that time period. This rate is roughly the same for AL HVAC opportunities, as Projections Central (Dec. 2016) reported an anticipated 13.3 percent increase in job openings in this field within the state. With the predicted addition of 670 fresh HVAC positions in AL and 39,600 openings nationwide, there’s ample evidence that this is a promising profession in AL and elsewhere.

There are several reasons for the healthy employment outlook in HVAC. First, HVAC systems typically have a 10 to 15 year lifetime, after which they need to be replaced. Second, with the rise of manufacturer warranties and regular service contracts, these workers are generally guaranteed work throughout the year, even during the low seasons. Third, the growing interest in energy efficiency and evolving legislation contributes to a trend in retrofitting or upgrading old systems to be in compliance with new standards. Lastly, almost all new structures across the US have climate control systems, and as a result, areas of high construction generally have a high demand in this field, particularly for installation specialists.

The BLS (Dec. 2015) notes that 63 percent of HVAC workers around the country were employed in plumbing, heating, and A/C contractors organizations. Also, while some HVAC mechanics and installers work regular business hours, others may be called upon to work evenings, weekends, or holidays during the high summer season in the Yellowhammer State, when demand for A/C services peaks.

It’s important to point out that people the HVAC field incur a relatively high rate of injury and illness compared to other occupations. This is due to the physical nature of the work, which often requires the lifting of heavy objects, dealing with electrical wiring, soldering parts, or handling refrigerants, to name four risky work-related activities. The threat of muscle tears, electrical shocks, or chemical burns can generally be kept to a minimum with the use of safety equipment and rigorous training standards.

Finally, as evidence of a thriving HVAC industry in Alabama, one need not look further than common job posting websites. For example, Indeed (Dec. 2016) had 453 HVAC job openings in AL, including opportunities at the University of Alabama—Birmingham, Kemco Facilities Services, Myers Comfort Specialists, MAA, Johnson Controls, Team Bob’s Heating, Sealy Management Company Inc., Lennox International, Medxcel Facilities Management, H & M Mechanical Inc., Western Sales & Service Inc., Burger King, Meyers Comfort Specialists, Perfect Service Heating & Air, MinitMan, Premier Service Company, and Calhoun Community College, among others. Monster (Dec. 2016) had an additional 25 positions at facilities such as Southeast Alabama Medical Center, BCH Mechanical Inc., Lyons HR, Randstad, Burch Corporation, Algeco Scotsman, and Diversicare Healthcare Services & Therapy Services.

Alabama HVAC Salaries

As mentioned above, HVAC is a relatively well-paying industry, particularly for one requiring minimal post-secondary training. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015) reported that there were 274,680 HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide with an average annual salary of $47,380 and the following percentiles:

United States of America (274,680 HVAC workers): $47,380 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $27,790
  • 25th percentile: $34,920
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,110
  • 75th percentile: $58,070
  • 90th percentile: $71,690

In hourly terms, these figures became:

USA: $22.78/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $13.36/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.79/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $21.69/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $27.92/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $34.47/hr.

It’s worthy of note that these figures varied slightly by source of data. As proof of point, Payscale—an aggregator of self-reported salaries—found the following percentiles among its 451 HVAC respondents nationwide in December 2016:

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 25th percentile: $35,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,886
  • 75th percentile: $53,000
  • 90th percentile: $67,000

Another 2,486 HVAC workers around the country gave Payscale their hourly wages, resulting in the following percentile spread:

  • 10th percentile: $13.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.00/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $18.00/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $24.00/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $29.00/hr.

The BLS figures are generally considered more reliable due to the organization’s methods of data collection and relatively high sample size. Regardless the source, HVAC workers in Alabama had lower salaries than the national averages. That said, it’s important to keep in mind that AL is also one of the cheapest states in which to live, and therefore less money goes further. By illustration, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2016) found that AL was the twelfth most affordable state in the country, boasting savings in housing and healthcare relative to other regions. Please keep this in mind while evaluating the following salaries.

Indeed (Dec. 2016) reported that HVAC workers in AL had an annual average salary of $41,000, but the BLS (May 2015)—again, considered a more reliable data source—found a slightly lower mean salary in the Heart of Dixie. Here were the percentiles among the 4,660 HVAC workers in AL:

Alabama (4,660 HVAC workers): $39,060 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $26,790
  • 25th percentile: $30,810
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,880
  • 75th percentile: $46,370
  • 90th percentile: $56,480

Translated into hourly figures, these salaries equated to (BLS May 2015):

AL: $18.78/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $12.88/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $14.81/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $17.73/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $22.29/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $27.16/hr.

Not surprisingly, these salaries also varied by region within AL as well. In fact, while Birmingham employed the most HVAC workers in the state, Montgomery was the top-paying metropolitan region. Here were the numbers of HVAC workers employed, average salaries, and wage percentiles among the 16 BLS-designated areas of Alabama:

Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, AL (90 HVAC workers): $32,780 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $26,090
  • 25th percentile: $27,530
  • 50th percentile (median): $29,920
  • 75th percentile: $36,770
  • 90th percentile: $46,620

Auburn-Opelika, AL (140 employed): $36,280 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,600
  • 25th percentile: $31,340
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,690
  • 75th percentile: $41,130
  • 90th percentile: $47,120

Birmingham-Hoover, AL (1,220 employed): $41,730 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,450
  • 25th percentile: $32,480
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,160
  • 75th percentile: $51,290
  • 90th percentile: $60,020

Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, AL (250 employed): $34,620 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,630
  • 25th percentile: $27,830
  • 50th percentile (median): $31,710
  • 75th percentile: $38,620
  • 90th percentile: $51,140

Decatur, AL (160 employed): $41,380 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,580
  • 25th percentile: $28,800
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,550
  • 75th percentile: $54,560
  • 90th percentile: $61,510

Dothan, AL (130 employed): $37,420 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,960
  • 25th percentile: $30,180
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,580
  • 75th percentile: $43,170
  • 90th percentile: $52,110

Florence-Muscle Shoals, AL (180 employed): $36,910 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,470
  • 25th percentile: $31,760
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,630
  • 75th percentile: $42,790
  • 90th percentile: $47,530

Gadsden, AL (40 employed): $42,820 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,480
  • 25th percentile: $32,660
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,580
  • 75th percentile: $53,930
  • 90th percentile: $61,320

Huntsville, AL (370 employed): $37,380 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,880
  • 25th percentile: $32,340
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,610
  • 75th percentile: $44,540
  • 90th percentile: $49,340

Mobile, AL (760 employed): $39,590 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,060
  • 25th percentile: $30,180
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,570
  • 75th percentile: $47,060
  • 90th percentile: $57,960

Montgomery, AL (290 employed): $43,350 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,940
  • 25th percentile: $34,730
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,070
  • 75th percentile: $50,820
  • 90th percentile: $61,150

Northeast Alabama Nonmetropolitan Area (300 employed): $36,820 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,500
  • 25th percentile: $29,060
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,500
  • 75th percentile: $43,890
  • 90th percentile: $51,690

Northwest Alabama Nonmetropolitan Area (unknown number employed): $34,130 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,000
  • 25th percentile: $27,800
  • 50th percentile (median): $30,820
  • 75th percentile: $38,900
  • 90th percentile: $47,660

Southeast Alabama Nonmetropolitan Area (120 employed): $36,070 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $23,920
  • 25th percentile: $32,590
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,590
  • 75th percentile: $38,600
  • 90th percentile: $48,870

Southwest Alabama Nonmetropolitan Area (190 employed): $35,780 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,980
  • 25th percentile: $30,150
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,690
  • 75th percentile: $39,170
  • 90th percentile: $48,200

Tuscaloosa, AL (230 employed): $38,220 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,490
  • 25th percentile: $32,480
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,890
  • 75th percentile: $45,090
  • 90th percentile: $49,910

Accredited HVAC Schools in Alabama

Prior to seeking HVAC employment in Alabama, candidates must receive the proper training. Some aspiring HVAC technicians enroll in apprenticeship programs, which last from three to five years, and generally pay on a sliding scale as a person gains more experience. Alabama apprenticeship programs typically have coursework in areas such as automated HVAC controls; motors; system maintenance; cold water air conditioners & domestic appliances; electricity basics; and industrial & commercial refrigeration systems.

Other aspiring HVAC workers choose instead to enroll in an accredited training program. There seven of these approved institutions in AL. The main accreditation entities in the country are HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA), and prospective students are encouraged to check out those websites or the HVAC programs homepage to learn more about the accreditation process.

As of December 2016, there were four programs across AL accredited by HVAC Excellence. For example, J. F. Drake State Community & Technical College of Huntsville offers an associate of applied science (AAS) degree and a ‘short certificate’ in heating & air conditioning. In its competitive AAS program, students receive hands-on technical knowledge in the fundamentals for an entry-level HVAC position in the state. Not including books, the 72-credit degree program costs $10,008, and the 29-credit career skills certificate costs $4,031.

Wallace State Community College of Hanceville also offers AAS and certificate programs in HVAC/R. The 72-credit AAS program has coursework in refrigerant transition & recovery; principles of electricity; refrigerant piping practices; HVAC/R service procedures; electrical components; microcomputer applications; fundamentals of electric heat; heat pump systems; gas heating systems; and more. All programs at this institution cost $117 per credit hour.

Calhoun Community College of Tanner has an advanced manufacturing AAS degree in air conditioning & refrigeration, featuring classes in precision measurement; thermal & electrical principles; fundamentals of gas heating systems; and technical mathematics, to name a few. CCC’s air conditioning & refrigeration short certificate provides instruction in refrigeration piping practices; thermal electrical principles; and principles of electricity for HVAC/R, among others. The third program, an advanced air conditioning & refrigeration certificate includes units in heat pump systems; system sizing & air distribution; and residential air conditioning. For in-state students, these programs cost $117 per credit hour; for out-of-state students, it costs $234. Please note that these estimates do not include additional program fees.

There are also three PAHRA-accredited programs in AL such as the AAS degree in air conditioning & refrigeration at Bevill State Community College of Sumiton. This rigorous program has classes in HVAC/R service procedures; electrical components; heat load calculations; mechanical & gas safety codes; and commercial refrigeration. The 33-credit long term and 28-credit short term certificates in the same field have similar coursework. These programs also cost either $117 (in-state) or $234 (out-of-state) plus fees.

Additional accredited HVAC programs in AL are available at Gadsden State Community College (Anniston), Alabama Power Company (Verbena), and Lawson State Community College (Birmingham).

Finally, for residents of more rural regions of AL or those with non-flexible time commitments, attending an on-campus program may prove challenging. Fortunately, there are also quality e-programs in HVAC available. To learn about the distance-based schools in this field, check out the online HVAC programs page.

Alabama HVAC Licensing & Certification

In addition to attending an HVAC school in Alabama, aspiring workers in this high-growth career are expected to seek all necessary credentialing prior to beginning work.

First, there are several national certifications available. As mentioned in the introduction, all HVAC professionals nationwide who handle environmentally sensitive refrigerants must get the EPA Section 608 certification of which there are four subtypes: type 1 (small appliance), type 2 (high-pressure appliances), type 3 (low-pressure appliances), and type 4 (universal). Most HVAC/R programs include EPA 608 exam preparation as part of their program.

Other national credentialing authorities and sample certifications include:

To discover how to achieve these and other HVAC credentials, please visit the HVAC certifications page.

Second, Alabama HVAC workers must ensure that they have all necessary regional licenses as well. According to the State of Alabama Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors Act  (Section 34-31-24), only certified contractors can advertise HVAC services in the state. The main credentialing authority is the Alabama Board of Heating, Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Contractors, which notably also issues registrations to all apprentices in this field. AL offers two types of contractor licenses, which are both $165 annually:

  • Heating & Air Conditioning
  • Refrigeration

In addition to submitting a completed application, candidates are expected to:

  • Pass a comprehensive examination
  • Submit either proof of two years of apprenticeship or completion of a qualifying training program
  • Send in proof of at least 3,000 hours (18 months) of work experience under a licensed HVAC/R worker
  • Performance Bond of at least $15,000
  • Pay an exam fee ($150)

Please note that Alabama has HVAC licensure reciprocity with three states: Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee.

To maintain these one-year licenses, contractors must complete a renewal application and submit proof of four hours of continuing education (CE) annually. Above all, HVAC professionals in AL are encouraged to reach out to municipal authorities to ensure that they have all necessary credentialing prior to beginning work.