HVAC Training in Colorado

Connect With HVAC Schools

In the Centennial State with its cold winters and various microclimates, there’s a rich network of HVAC resources for both customers and professionals in the industry. In fact, ACHR News (Nov. 2015) reported that Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC)—a non-profit which administers the CO Crisis Intervention Program—had provided $500,000 in funding for low-income residents to prepare their heating systems for the winter. This program saved at least 1,888 Colorado homes from suffering through the cold season without adequate home climate control. Additionally, for CO workers in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) there is an abundance of trade-based associations to support people in the industry. For example, the Colorado Association of Mechanical & Plumbing Contractors traces its roots back to 1889 when it went by a different name; it now represents over 160 member companies which enjoy legal advocacy on important HVAC issues, business marketing tools, continuing education, and networking events. Notably, CAMPC partnered with the Colorado Safety Association to offer members discounted training. There’s also the Pikes Peak Mechanical Contractors Association which offers technician training, including preparation for Colorado City’s Heating Mechanic IV License, necessary for certain types of HVAC work. Additionally, PPMCA hosts monthly meetings, energy efficiency incentive programs, community service opportunities, and more. Finally, the Mechanical Contractors Association of Colorado provides not only educational and professional networking conferences, but it also has a comprehensive list of regional and national resources for people in the industry such as the Building Jobs for Colorado Coalition, the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, the Colorado Competitive Council (C3), the Mountain States Employers Council, NAIOP Colorado, the Associated General Contractors of Colorado, the US Green Building Council of Colorado, and the Western Mechanical Labor Management Conference.

In sum, there’s no shortage of supportive organizations for HVAC technicians in Colorado (CO). So what is it that these professionals do? According to the aforementioned MCA of Colorado, HVAC mechanics and technicians do the following: install, troubleshoot, or repair HVAC systems and their components (e.g., motors, filtration devices, intake & exhaust fans, ducts, ductless splits, wiring, pipes, vacuums, heat pumps, hermetic compressors, economizers, loop systems); interpret & implement blueprint plans; keep detailed records of services; make client recommendations to increase energy efficiency; calibrate systems to manufacturer recommendations; calculate heat loads & losses; and maintain appropriate licensure or permits. Some of these workers specialize in a type of equipment such as environmental & industrial setups, large-scale cooling plants, solar panels, commercial ventilation, or residential systems, to name a few; others are more generalist workers who provide a slew of services across residential and commercial environments. Overall, people in HVAC typically must be able to lift at least 40 lbs and should be prepared to perform services in all kinds of weather.

In Colorado, there’s expected to be an especially high demand for trained HVAC professionals in the years to come. Read on to check out the bright career outlook, salary prospects, accredited HVAC schools, and licensing requirements in this industry in CO.

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Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Colorado

Not only are there expected to be ample opportunities for HVAC professionals nationwide in the coming decade, but there’s evidence that the future in particularly bright for these workers in Colorado. As proof of point, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015) projected a 14 percent explosion in HVAC openings across the country between 2014 and 2024, much more robust than the 7 percent average increase anticipated for all occupations. In Colorado, the prediction is substantially higher. CareerOneStop (2016)—a data-crunching affiliate of the US Department of Labor—reported that the HVAC industry will be the third-fastest growing in Colorado among workers with some college. In more detail, CareerOneStop expected an astonishing 44 percent increase in openings between 2014 and 2024, more than triple the national growth figure predicted in this industry. In short, there are especially bright prospects predicted in HVAC in CO in the years to come.

According to the BLS (Dec. 2015), HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers can seek employment in a wide range of environments, particularly in high-growth cities such as Denver which has a booming construction industry. In a state such as CO which has cold winters, the demand for these skilled workers extends across residential and commercial buildings, including schools, factories, convention centers, retail shops, grocery stores, and much more. Notably, one in ten HVAC workers across the country were self-employed in 2014, and 63 percent work in the plumbing, heating, and air conditioning contractors industry. While some of these professionals perform services during normal business hours, HVAC workers may be called upon to work evenings, weekends, and holidays, especially during the busy winter season. It’s also worthy of note that people in this occupation incur a higher-than-average rate of injury compared to other jobs in the US; this is likely because of the physical nature of the work and the types of chemicals such as refrigerants to which workers are exposed. Despite the threat of muscle strains, burns, and electrical shock, with proper safety training and prudence, these issues may generally be avoided.

As a testament to the booming HVAC industry in Colorado, Indeed (Nov. 2016) had 610 relevant job postings across the state at places such as ProCraft Mechanical Inc., Pacific Sheet Metal Inc., Plumbline Services, AZ Air Conditioning and Heating Inc., Douglas County School District, Patriot Plumbing, Precision Plumbing Heating & Cooling Inc., Lennox International, Kodiak HVAC Inc., Haynes Mechanical Service Inc., Staley Heating and Air Conditioning Inc., to name a few. Furthermore, Monster (Nov. 2016) had an additional 74 posts with companies such as Sodexo, CyberCoders, Applewood Plumbing Heating & Electric, One hour A/C & Heating, and Rocky Mountain Climate Heating & Cooling.

Colorado HVAC Technician Salary Data

For a profession which generally requires only one to two years of postsecondary training, HVAC mechanics and installers make a relatively generous salary, especially in Colorado. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015) reported that there were 274,680 HVAC workers nationwide with an annual average salary of $47,380; in CO, the 4,990 HVAC professionals enjoyed a mean salary of $54,560, or 15.2 percent higher than the national figure. Interestingly, Indeed (Nov. 2016) reported that HVAC workers in CO earned an average salary of $36,000, but the BLS figures are considered to be more reliable since they rely on a more comprehensive sample.

In more detailed terms, HVAC workers across the country had the following salary percentiles (BLS May 2015):

United States (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 figures, these wages equated to:

United States: $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 worth noting that Payscale (Nov. 2016)—a site which relies on workers’ self-reported salaries—found differing figures. Among its 451 HVAC workers who responded with annual average wage estimates, Payscale found the following national percentile figures:

  • 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 professionals chose to report their hourly salaries instead. Among those, Payscale (Nov. 2016) found the following:

  • 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.

Again, the BLS figures are considered more reliable due to their methods and more comprehensive sample size. Regardless the source, HVAC workers in Colorado enjoyed higher salaries than the national figures. As proof of point, the BLS (May 2015) found the following:

Colorado (4,990 HVAC workers): $54,560 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $34,470
  • 25th percentile: $43,940
  • 50th percentile (median): $54,250
  • 75th percentile: $63,590
  • 90th percentile: $76,630

And in hourly terms:

Colorado: $26.23/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $16.57/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $21.13/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $26.08/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $30.57/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $36.84/hr.

Before examining the regional salaries within CO, it’s important to note that despite the relatively high wages, the cost of living within the state is also higher than most of the country. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2016) reported that CO was the sixteenth most expensive state in which to live, although it did boast some savings in utilities compared to the rest of the nation; this is good news for HVAC users. Please keep this in mind while evaluating the following figures.

The BLS (May 2015) found the following numbers of HVAC workers employed, average salaries, and wage percentiles across the ten BLS-designated regions of the state:

Boulder, CO (260 HVAC workers): $51,970 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $33,430
  • 25th percentile: $41,190
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,740
  • 75th percentile: $61,260
  • 90th percentile: $75,840

Colorado Springs, CO (430 employed): $52,870 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $41,110
  • 25th percentile: $45,620
  • 50th percentile (median): $53,040
  • 75th percentile: $59,910
  • 90th percentile: $64,960

Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO (3,180 employed): $55,080 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $33,680
  • 25th percentile: $44,360
  • 50th percentile (median): $55,090
  • 75th percentile: $63,940
  • 90th percentile: $77,420

Eastern and Southern Colorado Nonmetropolitan Area (100 employed): $35,620 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $22,620
  • 25th percentile: $26,440
  • 50th percentile (median): $32,480
  • 75th percentile: $43,660
  • 90th percentile: $54,470

Fort Collins, CO (unknown number employed): $58,020 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $42,280
  • 25th percentile: $46,150
  • 50th percentile (median): $55,430
  • 75th percentile: $70,890
  • 90th percentile: $77,610

Grand Junction, CO (110 employed): $54,390 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $32,980
  • 25th percentile: $45,750
  • 50th percentile (median): $54,720
  • 75th percentile: $61,240
  • 90th percentile: $78,890

Greeley, CO (170 employed): $57,020 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $33,170
  • 25th percentile: $38,150
  • 50th percentile (median): $58,990
  • 75th percentile: $70,990
  • 90th percentile: $81,010

Northwest Colorado Nonmetropolitan Area (260 employed): $56,990 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $39,620
  • 25th percentile: $45,910
  • 50th percentile (median): $56,710
  • 75th percentile: $67,440
  • 90th percentile: $77,090

Pueblo, CO (80 employed): $49,600 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $35,250
  • 25th percentile: $41,830
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,520
  • 75th percentile: $58,130
  • 90th percentile: $69,590

Southwest Colorado Nonmetropolitan Area (90 employed): $54,220 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $39,090
  • 25th percentile: $43,920
  • 50th percentile (median): $50,490
  • 75th percentile: $59,430
  • 90th percentile: $85,510

Finally, for those who prefer the above salaries in hourly terms, here are the averages and percentiles among the ten BLS-designated regions of Colorado:

Boulder, CO (260 HVAC workers): $24.98/hour average

  • 10th percentile: $16.07/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $19.80/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $23.91/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $29.45/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $36.46/hr.

Colorado Springs, CO (430 employed): $25.42/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $19.77/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $21.93/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $25.50/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.80/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $31.23/hr.

Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO (3,180 employed): $26.48/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $16.19/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $21.33/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $26.48/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $30.74/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $37.22/hr.

Eastern and Southern Colorado Nonmetropolitan Area (100 employed): $17.12/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $10.88/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $12.71/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $15.62/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $20.99/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $26.19/hr.

Fort Collins, CO (unknown number employed): $27.89/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $20.33/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $22.19/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $26.65/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $34.08/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $37.31/hr.

Grand Junction, CO (110 employed): $26.15/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $15.85/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $21.99/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $26.31/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $29.44/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $37.93/hr.

Greeley, CO (170 employed): $27.41/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $15.95/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $18.34/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $28.36/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $34.13/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $38.95/hr.

Northwest Colorado Nonmetropolitan Area (260 employed): $27.40/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $19.05/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $22.07/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $27.27/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $32.42/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $37.06/hr.

Pueblo, CO (80 employed): $23.85/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $16.95/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $20.11/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.84/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $27.95/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $33.46/hr.

Southwest Colorado Nonmetropolitan Area (90 employed): $26.07/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $18.80/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $21.12/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $24.27/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.57/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $41.11/hr.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Colorado

For aspiring HVAC technicians in Colorado, there’s an array of quality training programs available. While some of these skilled professionals seek out an apprenticeship to learn the hands-on techniques of the trade, others enroll in diploma, certificate, or degree programs in HVAC technology.

There are currently two main entities which accredit programs and institutions offering HVAC training: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). To learn about how programs are approved, please reference the HVAC programs’ accreditation section.

As of November 2016, there were two HVAC Excellence-accredited schools in Colorado. IntelliTec Colleges has campuses in Colorado Springs and Grand Junction which offer programs to prepare students for entry-level employment as an HVAC technician. With a strong focus on refrigeration, students have the opportunities to complete an 18-month associate of occupational studies (AOS) degree with advanced training to pass various certification exams including the EPA Section 608, four HVAC Excellence tests (Carbon Monoxide Safety, Combustion Analysis & Fuel Efficiency, Green Awareness, and R410A Refrigerant Safety) and the regional mechanical contractors (IV) license of El Paso county. Classes include the installation and operation of electrical controls; refrigerant recovery & evacuation; HVAC troubleshooting; combustion analysis; domestic air conditioning operation, maintenance & repair; and blueprint reading. At the Colorado Springs campus, the refrigeration & HVAC tech program tuition costs $31,479 total (including uniforms, books, and tools).

The other HVAC Excellence-accredited program is available at Pikes Peak Community College, also of Colorado Springs. This associate of applied science (AAS) degree includes instruction in the fundamentals of gas heating; career math; residential air conditioning; mechanical code; interpersonal communication; psychology of workplace relationships; basic refrigeration; and piping skills for HVAC. In addition to the AAS program, PPCC also has several certificate programs in areas such as direct digital controls, industry upgrades, and residential HVAC services. For in-state tuition, PPCC’s programs cost $130.50 per credit hour, and for out-of-state students, it’s $535.40.

In Colorado, there’s also one PAHRA-accredited program at Front Range Community College of Westminster, which offers most of its general education courses both on-campus and online. It has several programs, including a 60-credit AAS in HVAC with coursework in basic electricity; commercial refrigeration; electrical components for air conditioning & refrigeration; heating for commercial appliances; international residential codes (mechanical & fuel gas); and hot water heating systems. Additionally, FRCC offers certificate programs in residential AC & heating, light commercial AC & heating, commercial refrigeration, and HVAC/R fundamentals. Excluding fees, FRCC’s programs cost residents $211.90 per credit hour for on-campus coursework and $316.95 for online classes. For non-residents, these fees swell to $561.65 and $368.90 per credit, respectively.

Finally, Red Rocks Community College of Lakewood provides both degree (AAS) and certificate programs in HVAC. Its AAS degree programs include specializations in air conditioning; heating; refrigeration; air conditioning, heating & refrigeration; and hydronic heating. RRCC’s certificate programs include air conditioning; refrigeration (level I or II); HVAC fundamentals; forced-air heating; hydronic heating; HVAC energy efficiency; and HVAC controls technology, among others. Prices vary between programs.

For students who live in rural regions in CO or are otherwise unable to attend an on-campus program, there are various distance-based training schools available. To survey the options, please check out the online HVAC programs page.

Colorado HVAC Licensing

In addition to pursuing a training program or apprenticeship, HVAC professionals in Colorado must ensure that they have all necessary credentialing prior to beginning work. For all people who work with refrigerants, there is one mandatory national credential: the EPA Section 608 certification. There are four subtypes: type 1 (small appliance), type 2 (high-pressure appliances), type 3 (low-pressure appliances), and type 4 (universal). To check out the array of training to get this certification, check out the EPA Section 608 programs page.

There are other national certifications which typically connote that an HVAC worker has tested and passed for a particular skill or set of skills. The agencies which bestow these national certifications include North American Technician Excellence (e.g., Industry Competency Exams or ICE); HVAC Excellence (e.g., Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology Plus); and the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (e.g., entry-level Certified Assistant Refrigeration Operator). To learn in-depth about the variety of HVAC credentials, check out the main HVAC certification page.

While the Colorado’s Division of Professions & Occupations does not regulate HVAC licensure, local laws governing HVAC work within regions of the state vary. For example, the City of Boulder requires mechanical contractors to become licensed. To qualify, candidates must complete an application; provide proof of International Code Council (ICC) certification; show a copy of one’s insurance; and pay a licensing fee. These licenses are valid for one year.

In Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department regulates HVAC workers. There are two main types of licenses in this area relevant to people in the industry:

  • Heating mechanic I (works under the direction of a more advanced mechanical contractor)
  • Heating mechanic IV (HVAC service technician repair)

These licenses can be renewed annually following the completion of six hours of continuing education.

Above all, since local laws vary, aspiring HVAC professionals in Colorado are advised to reach out to their city administrators to determine all necessary credentialing prior to beginning work.