HVAC Training Programs in Florida

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In the hot and humid climate of Florida, it’s no surprise that a resident of the Sunshine State invented one of the first air conditioning machines. In fact, Popular Mechanics (2015) reported that in the 1830s, Floridian Dr. John Gorrie built an ice-making system using compression to create buckets of ice. He then blew air on them, thus carrying the cool air to other parts of a room. Although Dr. Gorrie patented the idea in 1851, he was unable to find investors and didn’t make any money from his invention.

 

These days, there’s still a booming demand for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC-R) professionals in FL, exemplified by the countless regional trade associations in this field. For instance, the Air Conditioning Contractors Association (ACCA) of Central Florida was established in 1966 and is an especially active chapter of the Florida Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (FRACCA). The group provides trainings, discount programs for services, apprenticeship opportunities, and legal advocacy for members. Another organization, the Tampa-based Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association Inc. (RACCA) was founded in 1949 and touts itself as the oldest and most active HVAC trade association in the state. It offers an HVAC Excellence Certification program, EPA Section 608 certification testing, and four-year apprenticeship programs in two HVAC subfields: residential & commercial HVAC installation and commercial refrigeration. Finally, the South Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SFACA) boasts uniquely impressive member discounts on services for employee leasing, cell phone plans, insurance, job-seeking services, continuing education courses, and credit card processing.  

So what do HVAC technicians and installers in FL do? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Dec. 2015), these professionals take on varied responsibilities such as installing and repairing HVAC systems; testing all components (e.g., air ducts, motors, electrical wiring, heating units, drains, fans, intake valves, humidifiers, etc.) to ensure proper functioning; maintaining active certifications and licensure through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation; keeping up with local, state and federal legislation surrounding HVAC technologies; and teaching clients about best practices for equipment. Some HVAC workers choose to specialize in a type of equipment (e.g., solar panels) or environment (residential or commercial).

Read on to discover the promising career outlook for HVAC professionals in Florida, as well as to learn about the salary prospects, accredited HVAC training programs, and how to pursue licensure.

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Occupational Demand for HVAC Professionals in FL

There is a bright occupational outlook for HVAC mechanics and installers in Florida and beyond. By illustration, Emerson Climate Technologies (2013) found that Florida is among the top five best states for HVAC professionals. Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015), projected a 14 percent increase in openings for HVAC workers nationwide between 2014 and 2024, much greater than the 7 percent average growth projected across all occupations during that time.

There are several factors contributing to the strong demand for HVAC workers in FL and around the country. The BLS (Dec. 2015) found that a majority of these professionals are employed by contracting companies, and therefore there’s a steady stream of maintenance, repair, and troubleshooting for clients, particularly during the hot Florida summers. Furthermore, the population of the state is growing at rate of 986 people per day (Herald Tribune 2016) and there’s a subsequent demand for new commercial and residential structures. Also, existing HVAC systems must be replaced every 10 to 15 years, another factor adding to the steady stream of employment opportunities in the Sunshine State.
Finally, in August 2016, popular job-hunting site Indeed had nearly 2,000 Florida-based listings for HVAC technicians at places such as Universal Orlando Resort, Grimes Heating and Air Conditioning, One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating, Portfolio Hotels, Best Servicers of America, Harllee Packing Co., Air on Demand, Source Refrigeration and HVAC, Total Air Care & Polar Plumbing, Lennox International, and Apollo Beach Air. In short, there’s expected to be ample opportunities in the HVAC field for Floridians in the years to come.

Florida HVAC Tech Salary

For a career which typically requires two years or less of postsecondary schooling, the salaries for HVAC technicians are relatively generous. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015) reported that there were 274,680 HVAC workers around the country with an average annual salary of $47,380. This mean salary is on par with many occupations which require bachelor’s degrees. In more detailed terms, here were the annual salary percentiles for HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide (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 salaries equated to:

US: $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.

Although the average Florida wages for HVAC technicians were slightly lower, it’s important to note that FL also has a cheaper cost of living than many states in the country. As proof of point, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2016) found that the Sunshine State is the 27th most affordable in the country, boasting particular savings in housing costs. Please keep this in mind while evaluating the following state salary figures.

The BLS (May 2015) found an average annual salary of $40,160 among the 26,390 HVAC workers in the Florida. Notably, FL is the top employer of HVAC professionals in the country with roughly 4,500 more than Texas, the second top-employing state. Here is a breakdown of the salary percentiles for HVAC mechanics and installers in FL:

Florida (26,390 HVAC workers): $40,160 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $24,860
  • 25th percentile: $30,220
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,650
  • 75th percentile: $48,300
  • 90th percentile: $60,260

In hourly terms, these Florida salary percentiles were:

Florida: $19.31/hr. avg.

  • 10th percentile: $11.95/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $14.53/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $18.10/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $23.22/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $28.97/hr.

The number of people employed and salaries also tended to vary by region of Florida as well. It’s no surprise that the hotter, more humid southern areas tended to employ more HVAC mechanics and installers than the northern region. Also, the South Florida nonmetropolitan area paid the highest average salary to its HVAC workers at $46,730.

Using Tampa as a dividing line, here is a breakdown of the number of HVAC professionals employed, the average salaries, and percentiles across the 28 BLS-designated regions of Florida (BLS May 2015):

Northern Florida:

Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, FL (430 workers): $38,950 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $32,010
  • 25th percentile: $32,010
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,100
  • 75th percentile: $46,870
  • 90th percentile: $58,080

Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL (660 workers): $34,070 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $22,300
  • 25th percentile: $25,830
  • 50th percentile (median): $31,390
  • 75th percentile: $42,110
  • 90th percentile: $48,430

Gainesville, FL (290 workers): $39,140 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,780
  • 25th percentile: $33,450
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,990
  • 75th percentile: $46,350
  • 90th percentile: $50,950

Homosassa Springs, FL (unknown number of workers): $34,580 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $24,020
  • 25th percentile: $28,050
  • 50th percentile (median): $33,530
  • 75th percentile: $39,850
  • 90th percentile: $47,170

Jacksonville, FL (1,530 workers): $42,290 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $24,530
  • 25th percentile: $33,810
  • 50th percentile (median): $40,290
  • 75th percentile: $52,430
  • 90th percentile: $60,880

Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL (630 workers): $40,020 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $22,200
  • 25th percentile: $27,020
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,020
  • 75th percentile: $44,670
  • 90th percentile: $58,410

Ocala, FL (unknown number of workers): $39,770 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,860
  • 25th percentile: $31,440
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,290
  • 75th percentile: $46,220
  • 90th percentile: $59,940

Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL (3,390 workers): $41,800 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $23,460
  • 25th percentile: $30,420
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,890
  • 75th percentile: $50,610
  • 90th percentile: $62,720

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL (680 workers): $37,840 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,580
  • 25th percentile: $30,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,310
  • 75th percentile: $45,140
  • 90th percentile: $53,380

Panama City, FL (350 workers): $36,180 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $21,130
  • 25th percentile: $27,480
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,810
  • 75th percentile: $42,060
  • 90th percentile: $54,000

Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, FL (570 workers): $39,930 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,790
  • 25th percentile: $31,030
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,990
  • 75th percentile: $48,960
  • 90th percentile: $59,660

Tallahassee, FL (380 workers): $39,360 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $24,060
  • 25th percentile: $29,060
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,540
  • 75th percentile: $48,400
  • 90th percentile: $59,290

The Villages, FL (80 workers): $33,430 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $17,900
  • 25th percentile: $19,680
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,790
  • 75th percentile: $42,800
  • 90th percentile: $48,220

Northwest Florida Nonmetropolitan Area (unknown number of workers): $44,440 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,060
  • 25th percentile: $34,620
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,750
  • 75th percentile: $54,380
  • 90th percentile: $61,800

Northeast Florida Nonmetropolitan Area (150 workers): $33,980 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $19,060
  • 25th percentile: $21,930
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,000
  • 75th percentile: $41,220
  • 90th percentile: $55,150

South Florida:

Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL (1,380 HVAC workers): $35,810 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $24,320
  • 25th percentile: $28,570
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,110
  • 75th percentile: $43,030
  • 90th percentile: $48,750

Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, FL Metropolitan Division (2,900 workers): $45,130 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,040
  • 25th percentile: $32,820
  • 50th percentile (median): $40,540
  • 75th percentile: $56,960
  • 90th percentile: $71,080

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL (7,200 workers): $42,650 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $23,880
  • 25th percentile: $30,590
  • 50th percentile (median): $40,000
  • 75th percentile: $53,660
  • 90th percentile: $65,090

Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, FL Metropolitan Division (2,900 workers): $39,270 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $22,310
  • 25th percentile: $26,670
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,090
  • 75th percentile: $48,320
  • 90th percentile: $63,460

Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL (410 workers): $42,490 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,850
  • 25th percentile: $34,180
  • 50th percentile (median): $40,730
  • 75th percentile: $48,560
  • 90th percentile: $60,240

North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL (890 workers): $38,520 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,060
  • 25th percentile: $31,470
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,100
  • 75th percentile: $45,310
  • 90th percentile: $50,120

Port St. Lucie, FL (380 workers): $37,890 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $23,230
  • 25th percentile: $30,680
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,870
  • 75th percentile: $45,670
  • 90th percentile: $55,500

Punta Gorda, FL (240 workers): $39,000 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,800
  • 25th percentile: $32,900
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,030
  • 75th percentile: $45,540
  • 90th percentile: $52,270

Sebastian-Vero Beach, FL (350 workers): $34,720 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,070
  • 25th percentile: $29,110
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,110
  • 75th percentile: $38,780
  • 90th percentile: $46,630

Sebring, FL (40 workers): $35,750 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $22,970
  • 25th percentile: $28,330
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,930
  • 75th percentile: $40,310
  • 90th percentile: $48,280

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL (5,530 workers): $38,540 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,350
  • 25th percentile: $29,730
  • 50th percentile (median): $35,940
  • 75th percentile: $45,890
  • 90th percentile: $57,050

West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, FL Metropolitan Division (1,400 workers): $44,470 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,000
  • 25th percentile: $36,440
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,130
  • 75th percentile: $55,280
  • 90th percentile: $60,630

South Florida Nonmetropolitan Area (unknown number of workers): $46,730 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $31,850
  • 25th percentile: $35,180
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,840
  • 75th percentile: $59,300
  • 90th percentile: $72,500

Accredited HVAC Schools In Florida

In order to become an HVAC mechanic, technician, or installer in Florida, it’s important to receive the proper training and preparation for the field. There are various professional routes to this end and historically, many people learned this trade through an apprenticeship. These programs typically last three to five years, comprising at least 144 hours of formal instruction and a minimum of 2,000 hands-on hours under the guidance of a qualified HVAC professional. One such program is available from the Air Conditioning Contractors Association (ACCA) of Central Florida, involving 36 months (6,000 hours) of on-the-job training in addition to coursework taken over a period of three years. Apprentices take classes such as air conditioning fundamentals, basic electricity, basic blueprint reading, types of equipment & application, basic system components, refrigerant recovery, electrical installations, and water source heat pumps, among others.

For aspiring HVAC workers in FL interested in a more traditional classroom environment, there are many programs lasting six months to two years at vocational schools, community colleges, and similar institutions. Students are advised to seek out accredited college programs, a process which evaluates school facilities, program curricula, and student outcomes (among other criteria) to determine the fitness of the college in preparing its graduates for a career in HVAC technologies. The two main accreditation agencies for HVAC programs are HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). As of August 2016, there were four programs accredited by HVAC Excellence, and one PAHRA-accredited program as well.

One program approved by HVAC Excellence is available at the Traviss Technical College of Lakeland. This air conditioning, refrigeration and heating technology program includes rigorous training in the theory & applications of HVAC, blueprint reading, and troubleshooting components. Available as adult education or a for-credit program for high schoolers, Traviss prepares its students to take the federally mandated EPA Section 608 certification exam. The Lively Technical Center of Tallahassee also offers an HVAC Excellence-accredited training program in air conditioning, refrigeration and heating technology. With hands-on instruction in how to use the tools of the trade and how to service various HVAC components (e.g., piping, tubing, fittings, electrical wiring), Lively’s program prepares its students for a career in HVAC. The Technical Education Center in Osceola holds both PAHRA and HVAC Excellence accreditations, specializing in the planning, installation, and servicing of HVAC systems. Coursework at this school includes troubleshooting of electrical & mechanical systems; routine maintenance & service; use of specialized tools & equipment; job estimating & code compliance; employability skills; and a class on entrepreneurship. Notably, this school prepares its graduates to take the EPA 608 and the NATE core & heat pump certification exams. This program involves 1,350 hours of training.

For residents of South Florida, the CBT College has five locations across Miami-Dade. In its eight-month A/C refrigeration technician program, CBT covers topics such as basic design of HVAC systems, repair of residential & commercial equipment, air conditioning repair, heating equipment repair, installation, and refrigeration maintenance. Conveniently, this program is available in both English and Spanish.

Finally, some Floridians may have difficulty attending a traditional on-campus HVAC apprenticeship or vocational program. Luckily there’s also a wide range of distance-based trainings and diplomas available. Students are advised to ensure their eligibility as state legislation regarding distance-based education varies by region. To learn more about web-based HVAC training options, check out the online HVAC programs page.

HVAC Licensure in Florida

There are various types of certifications available to Florida-based HVAC workers. One mandatory certification for all people who work with environmentally-harmful refrigerants is the aforementioned EPA Section 608 certification of which there are four kinds: type I (small appliances), type II (high-pressure refrigerants), type III (low-pressure refrigerants), and type IV (universal). Other competency-based certifications are available through the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), North American Technician Excellence (NATE), and HVAC Excellence. Please check out the main HVAC certifications page for an overview of these options.

Lastly, prior to securing HVAC employment in Florida, it’s important to have the proper credentialing. People who work with A/C units in FL are required to have state-issued licenses. There are currently two types of licenses available in the Sunshine State, which are issued by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation: registration (for practice within a specific FL locale) and certification (statewide).

To qualify, candidates must have the following:

  • Proof of experience (or a copy of one’s local certification)
  • Background check
  • Net worth between $2,500 and $20,000 (depending on the license type)
  • Minimum liability insurance  
  • Application fee

Additionally, candidates must pass two exams: business & finance and a trade-specific exam. Class A air-conditioning contractors hold unlimited licenses, whereas class B contractors can work on cooling systems up to 25 tons and heating systems up to 500,000 BTUs. To learn more about the trade-specific exams for each of these types of licenses, please visit the following information pages: class A air-conditioning exam and class B air-conditioning exam. Please note that FL also accepts some HVAC credentialing examinations from California, Georgia, and North Carolina. These Florida licenses must be renewed biennially following the completion of 14 hours of qualified continuing education units (CEUs).