HVAC Training Schools in Oregon

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The Beaver State’s climate ranges from the wet coastal mountains to the relatively dry eastern areas, and temperatures fluctuate widely throughout the year. It’s no surprise that opportunities for professionals in heating, air conditioning, ventilation, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) are on the rise in this part of the US.

Not only is HVAC a high-growth and relatively lucrative industry, there are also plenty of trade associations to support these workers with training, networking, and legal advocacy. By illustration, the Oregon Air Conditioning Contractors Association (ORACCA), otherwise known as the Pacific NW Heating Cooling Association, represents HVAC/R equipment manufacturers, distributors, vocational schools, and contractors in the industry. ORACCA provides valuable NATE trainings, seminars on management topics,  a monthly newsletter, and discounts on industry essentials, to name a few of the many resources. Additionally, the Oregon Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association lobbies on behalf of HVAC workers with regulatory agencies (e.g., OSHA, Building Codes Division). In fact, its three main foci are ‘growth, apprenticeships and regulatory overreach,’ all central to the success of people in this business.

HVAC technicians in Oregon (OR) and beyond take on tasks such as calibrating equipment; replacing filters; understanding the theoretical foundations of the discipline (e.g., Ohm’s Law, refrigeration circuits, air treatment procedures, etc.); repairing system components (e.g., hot water boilers, motors, humidifiers, economizers, fans, valves, ducts, compressors, water pumps, etc.); laying pipes and electrical wiring; monitoring the performance of equipment to manufacturer specifications; making client recommendations for system upgrades; calculating heat loads and losses; being fluent in dealing with various types of systems (e.g., gas, oil, electric, commercial, residential, industrial); soldering and brazing parts; keeping all credentials up-to-date; and maintaining detailed service records. There’s one mandatory certification for all people who handle refrigerants, which are environmentally sensitive compounds: the EPA Section 608 certification, discussed in the credentialing section below.

This guide examines some of the HVAC training programs in Oregon, as well as the expected occupational growth, salary prospects, and credentialing in the state.

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Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Oregon

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015), the career outlook is particularly bright for HVAC workers. In fact, the BLS projected a 14 percent explosion in HVAC openings nationwide between 2014 and 2024, significantly higher than the 7 percent average growth anticipated across all American occupations during that time period. And there’s evidence that the prospects are slightly better for HVAC openings in Oregon. Projections Central (Dec. 2016) reported that during that same decade, there will be a 16.3 percent increase in OR HVAC positions. With the expected addition of 490 fresh opportunities in the state, HVAC workers should have a wealth of jobs to choose from across the state.

So why is the HVAC industry booming in Oregon and beyond? There are many reasons for the high growth in this field. First, HVAC systems generally need to replaced every 10 to 15 years and require regular maintenance—typically stipulated through service contracts—which keeps work steady throughout the year. Second, a majority of all modern structures have climate control systems. Third, many older buildings require upgrades or the retrofitting of old HVAC systems. Fourth, there are many other industries which rely on HVAC systems, including medicine and food storage, and they too depend on the availability of these skilled professionals. And lastly, the legislation surrounding climate control systems is continually evolving, and within certain jurisdictions, homeowners and commercial property managers need to ensure that they’re in compliance with all local ordinances, not to mention enjoying the most cost-effective and energy-efficient systems available.

Some HVAC workers in Oregon work typical business hours, while others may be called upon to service equipment on evenings, weekends, or holidays, especially during seasonal temperature extremes. The BLS (Dec. 2015) found that roughly one in ten HVAC mechanics and installers were self-employed, and 63 percent were working in the plumbing, heating, and air conditioning contractors industry.

It’s worthy of note that HVAC professionals suffer a higher-than-average rate of injury and illness compared to other US occupations. This is due to the physical nature of the work and equipment used as HVAC workers may lift heavy objects, deal with electrical wiring, or handle refrigerants, dangerous chemicals which can cause burns or frostbite. Also, since most systems have components outside or located in cramped, uncomfortable spaces, HVAC professionals may find themselves with muscle strains or aches. While there’s always a risk for these and other maladies, HVAC mechanics and installers can generally keep these problems to a minimum with proper training and safety equipment.

As proof of the booming employment climate in Oregon for HVAC workers, one need not look further than job post websites such as Indeed and Monster. As proof of point, Indeed (Dec. 2016) had an impressive 246 HVAC openings in OR, including opportunities at Jet Industries, Captive Aire Systems Inc., Air Tech HVAC/R Inc., Pace Heating & Air, Jahnke Heating & Air Conditioning, Innovative Air Inc., Air Tech HVAC/R Inc., Evergreen Gas Inc., Comfort Solutions Heating & Cooling Inc., Central Air Inc., Rogue Valley Heating & Air, General Parts LLC, North Clackamas School District, Ponderosa Heating & Cooling, Home Heating & Cooling, Ben’s Heating & A/C, and The Heating Specialist. Monster (Dec. 2016) boasted an additional 24 positions with employers such as Jones Lange Lasalle Inc., JLL, Centerra Group LLC, Tradesmen International Inc., Sears Holdings Corporation, Andersen Mechanical Inc., Aladdin Heating & Air Conditioning, Madden Industrial Craftsmen Inc., Innovative Air Inc., Marshall’s Inc., and Multnomah County.  

Oregon HVAC Technician Salaries

As mentioned in the introduction, HVAC professionals in Oregon and across the country enjoy relatively high salaries, particularly in a job generally requiring only one to two years of postsecondary training. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015) reported that there were 274,680 HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide who earned an average annual salary of $47,380, and the following percentiles:

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

Translated into hourly figures, the above percentiles 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.

Interestingly, these figures varied by source of data. While the BLS is considered the most reliable for its large sample size and sampling methods, it may be useful to present data from an aggregator of self-reported salaries (Payscale [Dec. 2016]) as a basis of comparison. Among the 451 US HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found the following percentiles:

  • 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 gave Payscale (Dec. 2016) their hourly figures, yielding the following percentiles:

  • 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.

Impressively, the 2,440 HVAC workers in Oregon enjoyed higher salaries than the national figures. In fact, the BLS (May 2015) found the following among the OR HVAC professionals:

Oregon (2,440 HVAC workers): $50,300 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $28,500
  • 25th percentile: $36,360
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,120
  • 75th percentile: $57,140
  • 90th percentile: $72,230

In hourly terms, the Oregon salary percentiles became:

Oregon: $24.19/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $13.70/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.48/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.17/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $27.47/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $34.73/hr.

These salaries outshine the national figures, but it’s important to add that the cost of living in Oregon is also more expensive than many US states. In fact, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2016) found the OR was the thirteenth most expensive state in the country, although it enjoyed some savings in utilities relative to the rest of the country. Aspiring HVAC workers are advised to keep this in mind while evaluating the following regional salaries for Oregonians.

The BLS (May 2015) has designated 12 regions within the state. Not only was the Portland area the top-employing region in this field, but it was the top-paying as well. Here were the numbers of HVAC workers employed, the average salaries, and the salary percentiles among the 12 BLS-distinguished areas in Oregon:

Albany, OR (130 HVAC workers): $50,180 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $29,270
  • 25th percentile: $36,700
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,080
  • 75th percentile: $56,560
  • 90th percentile: $89,390

Bend-Redmond, OR (120 employed): $ 42,620 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,060
  • 25th percentile: $35,210
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,720
  • 75th percentile: $50,120
  • 90th percentile: $58,380

Central Oregon Nonmetropolitan Area (50 employed): $38,290 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,980
  • 25th percentile: $29,910
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,560
  • 75th percentile: $45,630
  • 90th percentile: $51,420

Corvallis, OR (50 employed): $46,240 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $29,700
  • 25th percentile: $38,960
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,580
  • 75th percentile: $54,820
  • 90th percentile: $61,450

Eastern Oregon Nonmetropolitan Area (140 employed): $49,610 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $34,130
  • 25th percentile: $42,530
  • 50th percentile (median): $49,520
  • 75th percentile: $58,430
  • 90th percentile: $63,440

Eugene, OR (120 employed): $53,740 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $35,250
  • 25th percentile: $43,330
  • 50th percentile (median): $52,980
  • 75th percentile: $61,320
  • 90th percentile: $76,340

Grants Pass, OR (60 employed): $37,680 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $22,090
  • 25th percentile: $26,410
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,360
  • 75th percentile: $44,810
  • 90th percentile: $51,510

Medford, OR (90 employed): $43,060 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $29,450
  • 25th percentile: $34,860
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,820
  • 75th percentile: $48,820
  • 90th percentile: $61,320

North Coast Oregon Nonmetropolitan Area (70 employed): $38,320 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,700
  • 25th percentile: $32,890
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,450
  • 75th percentile: $43,620
  • 90th percentile: $49,430

Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA (1,470 employed): $55,210 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,630
  • 25th percentile: $38,360
  • 50th percentile (median): $50,030
  • 75th percentile: $61,210
  • 90th percentile: $83,610

Salem, OR (420 employed): $41,320 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,470
  • 25th percentile: $33,930
  • 50th percentile (median): $40,880
  • 75th percentile: $49,310
  • 90th percentile: $57,730

South Coast Oregon Nonmetropolitan Area (40 employed): $53,640 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $45,120
  • 25th percentile: $50,940
  • 50th percentile (median): $54,980
  • 75th percentile: $58,500
  • 90th percentile: $61,060

Lastly, here were the above figures put into hourly terms:

Albany, OR: $24.13/hour average

  • 10th percentile: $14.07/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.64/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $21.67/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $27.19/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $42.98/hr.

Bend-Redmond, OR (120 employed): $20.49/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $13.01/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.93/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $21.02/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $24.10/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $28.07/hr.

Central Oregon Nonmetropolitan Area (50 employed): $18.41/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $12.97/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $14.38/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $18.06/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $21.94/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $24.72/hr.

Corvallis, OR (50 employed): $22.23/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $14.28/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $18.73/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.39/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $26.36/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $29.54/hr.

Eastern Oregon Nonmetropolitan Area (140 employed): $23.85/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $16.41/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $20.45/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $23.81/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.09/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $30.50/hr.

Eugene, OR (120 employed): $25.84/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $16.95/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $20.83/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $25.47/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $29.48/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $36.50/hr.

Grants Pass, OR (60 employed): $18.12/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $10.62/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $12.70/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $17.48/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $21.54/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $24.76/hr.

Medford, OR (90 employed): $20.70/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $14.16/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.76/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $20.11/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $23.47/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $29.48/hr.

North Coast Oregon Nonmetropolitan Area (70 employed): $18.42/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $13.80/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.81/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $18.01/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $20.97/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $23.76/hr.

Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA (1,470 employed): $26.55/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $13.77/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $18.44/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $24.05/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $29.43/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $40.20/hr.

Salem, OR (420 employed): $19.86/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $12.72/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.31/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.65/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $23.71/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $27.75/hr.

South Coast Oregon Nonmetropolitan Area (40 employed): $25.79/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $21.69/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $24.49/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $26.43/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.13/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $29.35/hr.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Oregon

Traditionally there are two main entities which accredit HVAC schools nationwide: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). As of December 2016, there were no programs in Oregon accredited by either entity, but fortunately, there’s a wealth of alternative training options available.

Some aspiring HVAC workers in Oregon choose to complete an apprenticeship rather than a formal training program. The Oregon State Apprenticeship & Training Division provides opportunities in HVAC featuring 144 to 192 classroom hours of instruction annually and 8,000 hours of on-the-job training. These positions typically pay at 45 to 60 percent of the ‘journey’ rate at the outset, and the wages gradually rise as the HVAC worker accrues more skills. There are various apprenticeship committees throughout the state, including the Mid-Valley HVAC JAC and the Rogue Valley HVAC/Refrigeration JAC, to name two. Lane Community College of Eugene offers another standout apprenticeship in conjunction with an associate of applied science (AAS) degree program in ‘construction trades.’ This program includes instruction in sheet metal & HVAC blueprint reading; trade skills fundamentals; electrical code & exam preparation; electrical theory; and more.

Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon provides HVAC/R courses and is the committee administrator for the the Mid-Valley HVAC/R Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee. First and second year courses are open to the public, though are geared towards active apprentices. Applicants for the program apply during openings and must be 18 years or older, have a GED or high school diploma, and document completion of algebra in high school or college or show math placement scores at that level. Applicants receive points for set criteria, including past work experience and education in the trade. Successful applicants are linked with employers and are then registered with the committee as apprentices. Apprentices complete four years of related training (classes two nights a week) while working full time in the trade. They are eligible for pay increases every six months. Upon completion of the 8,000 on the job training hours and related training courses, apprentices are referred to Oregon Building Codes Division to sit for their LEB (Limited Electrician) license exam. This license, coupled with a journey-level card, opens the door for multiple employment opportunities. Chemeketa offers both a certificate program and Associates of Applied Science (AAS) in Apprenticeship Construction Trades with an HVAC/R specialization. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply.

Other prospective HVAC workers choose to pursue a more traditional training program through an HVAC school. For example, Portland Community College provides an AAS in facilities maintenance technology (FMT) with a focus on HVAC/R equipment. This 90-credit program has classes such as commercial print reading; electrical motor control; refrigeration (I-III); advanced programmable controllers; water treatment & distribution; introduction to boilers; and more. The FMT program can also be taken as a one-year certificate. The school provides an HVAC/R installer career pathway certificate, as well, which as been approved by the Oregon State Bureau of Labor and Industries (pre-apprenticeship training). All programs cost $97 per credit hour for residents of Oregon.

Also, the Institute of Technology in Salem has a 40-week HVAC program comprising 800 hours of hands-on training and 57 quarter credit hours of instruction. It costs $17,975 total and boasts an impressive 84 percent job placement rate.

Lastly, for residents of more rural areas of Oregon or those who have a difficulty attending an on-campus program or apprenticeship, there are some e-training options available. To discover how to pursue distance-based education in this field, check out the online HVAC programs page.

Oregon HVAC Certification & Licensing

Prior to seeking employment in HVAC/R, all mechanics, installers, and technicians in Oregon must be sure they have all necessary credentialing. As mentioned in the introduction, there is one mandatory credential for all people who work with refrigerants—the EPA Section 608 certification—and there are four subtypes: type 1 (small appliance), type 2 (high-pressure appliances), type 3 (low-pressure appliances), and type 4 (universal).

There are various other organizations which provide generalist and specialized HVAC certifications. Along with a list of sample credentials, here are three popular certifying agencies:

To discover the range of certifications available from these entities as more, check out the HVAC certifications page.

Lastly, HVAC companies and contractors completing services in excess of $1,000 must have a license from the Oregon Construction Contractors Board. The OR CCB provides the Limited Maintenance Specialty Contractor HVAC/R (LHR), allowing a ‘company to maintain, service, repair or replace commercial and industrial electrical products that use fuel or other forms of energy to produce heat, power, refrigeration or air conditioning.’

To qualify for the LHR, candidates must provide:

  • Proof of 4,000 hours of experience in installation and approved specialized training
  • A passing score on a comprehensive examination
  • Proof of having a CCB surety bond (amount varies)
  • Proof of general liability insurance
  • Workers compensation insurance (if company hires employees)
  • Application fee ($325)

These licenses last for two years. Please note that since local ordinances and permitting may vary, all HVAC installers, mechanics, and technicians are strongly encouraged to check with municipal authorities prior to beginning work to ensure that they have all necessary credentialing.