Guide to Affordable HVAC Training – 15 Top Certificate Programs

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The term HVAC is used to refer to the field of heating, ventilation, and cooling, or refrigeration. All over the world, HVAC professionals enjoy a high demand, as climate and weather changes make it necessary to use heating and cooling systems. The United States, due to its size and varying geographical features, experiences many different climate types in its different parts. Add that regional climate variation to the large number of businesses dependent on temperature control technology and the demand for heating and cooling systems increases even more.

Students looking to take up this profession can look forward to a bright job outlook. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019), job openings in the HVAC industry are set to grow 13 percent between 2018 and 2028, adding 46,300 positions nationally.

While one common route for a prospective HVAC professional is to take up an apprenticeship, students also have the option of enrolling in an HVAC certificate program. These programs introduce students to the fundamentals of heating, ventilation, and cooling; residential air conditioning; commercial air conditioning; and the installation, repair, and maintenance of these systems. The length of the program can vary, but they can generally be completed in one to two years. Most of the programs only require students to submit their high school transcripts for admission.

When choosing an HVAC certificate program, it is important to consider its accreditation status, as well as the skills and knowledge that the coursework focuses on.

Here’s a compilation of 15 top HVAC certificate programs that are affordable, have been accredited, and train students to obtain licensure and certifications.

Featured Top HVAC Certificate Programs

Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology

The Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology (BFIT) offers a heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) certificate program, providing its students with the skills and knowledge required for becoming successful HVAC/R technicians. This is available in both daytime and evening formats. Notably, the program uses interactive, skill-building simulations from MindTap by Cengage to reinforce students’ hands-on learning.

Courses in this 28-credit-hour certificate include the fundamentals of electricity as applied to HVAC/R, electrical and mechanical for refrigeration, refrigeration fundamentals, commercial refrigeration and ice machines, gas heating and residential air conditioning, and commercial air conditioning and heat pumps.

To apply for the program, students must complete an online application and provide high school or GED transcripts.

Students will learn how to identify refrigerants and their relationship with pressure and temperature, troubleshoot electrical and mechanical malfunctions, use HVAC/R tools and measuring devices effectively, charge refrigeration and air conditioning systems, detect leaks in a system and more. The program prepares students for the EPA certification, and graduates also receive the R-410 A certificate and 10-hour OSHA Safety certificate.

  • Location: Boston, Massachusetts
  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Nine months
  • Estimated Tuition: $8,495 per semester (Note: The Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology is proud to partner with the City of Boston to offer the Tuition-Free Community College Plan; eligible low-income Boston students can receive up to three years of free college tuition and fees)

Northern Michigan University

Northern Michigan University offers the HVAC/R technology certificate program, preparing students for employment in the HVAC/R industry. The program trains students to work with commercial and residential equipment.

This 44 credit-hour program teaches students to master the skills needed for installing, troubleshooting, and repairing HVAC/R. Courses in the program include applied electricity for trades, basic heating, basic refrigeration, heating systems, ACR system principles and methods, principles of air delivery systems, and advanced commercial refrigeration.

On successful completion of the program, graduates can apply to jobs in a wide range of settings, including maintaining, installing, and repairing HVAC/R units for both residential and commercial customers. They may also be involved in diagnosing and repairing the mechanical, electrical, and electronic individual parts of these systems. They may also have opportunities to work in large facilities such as shopping centers, factories, transportation warehouses, hospitals, grocery stores, or universities for maintaining heating and cooling systems and meeting specific needs.

  • Location: Marquette, Michigan
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $437 to $666 per credit-hour

Lanier Technical College

Lanier Technical College provides certificates in basic residential air conditioning system design and basic residential gas heat design. Both programs prepare students to become successful HVAC/R professionals. The skills and knowledge acquired in the program can help them get jobs and also advance their career in the field.

For admission to all these programs, students must be at least 16 years of age, they must have a high school diploma or GED prior to admission, transcripts from all colleges attended, and Accuplacer Testing, or submit ACT, SAT, ASSET, or COMPASS test scores.

These certificate programs are made up of 16 credit-hours each. The coursework in the basic residential air conditioning system design certificate includes topics such as refrigeration fundamentals, refrigeration principles, refrigeration systems components, and AC system installation. Coursework in the basic residential gas heat design certificate program includes topics such as HVACR electrical fundamentals, HVAC/R electrical motors, HVAC/R electrical controls, and gas heat.

  • Location: Oakwood, Georgia
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: One semester each
  • Estimated Tuition: $100 per credit-hour

Austin Community College

Austin Community College offers the heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration technology level certificate program training students in the fundamentals of repair and service. The program is ideal for individuals who wish to start a career in the HVAC/R field with minimal formal training. The program faculty includes renowned professors with extensive real-world experience.

This certificate program consists of 25 credit-hours, including courses such as basic electricity for HVAC, air conditioning control principles, refrigeration principles, residential air conditioning, gas and electric heating, and advanced electricity for HVAC. Students participate in an internship on completion of their coursework. Students can apply the credits earned in this certificate toward the associate of applied science degree in HVAC/R.

Upon completion of this certificate program, students will have developed skills and knowledge to repair and troubleshoot cooling and heating split systems, which are typically found in residences and apartment complexes. At the end of the program, graduates can pursue opportunities in heating and air conditioning installation, A/C and HVAC technology, and refrigeration repair.

  • Location: Austin, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: In-district ($85 per credit-hour); out-of-district ($361 per credit-hour); out-of-state and international students ($434 per credit-hour)

Laredo College

Laredo College offers two HVAC/R certificate programs: 1) basic commercial air conditioning and refrigeration, and 2) commercial air conditioning and refrigeration. The programs provide students with basic skills in the repair and service of commercial units.

The basic commercial HVAC/R certificate’s curriculum includes topics such as the principles of refrigeration, HVAC/R special topics, basic electricity, window air conditioners, refrigerators, residential air conditioning, freezers, HVAC troubleshooting, gas and electric heating, and HVAC installation and setup. A minimum of 32 credit-hours is necessary to earn the certificate. Graduates are qualified for entry-level positions as residential HVAC technicians.

The commercial HVAC/R certificate’s courses include the classes for the first certificate. Their additional curriculum includes classes in heat pumps, advanced electricity, residential HVAC systems design, commercial HVAC/R, and a cooperative education capstone. They complete a total of 51 credit-hours to earn their certificate. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as residential or commercial HVAC/R technicians.

Students have the option of completing either of the certificate programs, and if they wish to develop competencies in commercial and residential HVAC/R systems, then they can opt for both certificates.

  • Location: Laredo, TX
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Program length: 32 credit-hour certificate (12 months); 51 credit-hour certificate (24 months)
  • Estimated Tuition: In-district ($210 per credit-hour); out-of-district ($260 per credit-hour)

Washtenaw Community College

Washtenaw Community College offers the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (residential) certificate program. This program can help students acquire entry-level positions in hospitals, HVAC contracting companies, schools, HVAC servicing companies, and other public institutions/ They also can seek apprenticeships in supply houses and large manufacturing plants. Notably, the program prepares graduates for the EPA certification.

Comprising 25 credit-hours, courses in the program include heating, ventilation and air conditioning, residential and light commercial heating systems, HVAC sheet metal fabrication, residential HVAC competency exams and codes, residential and light commercial air conditioning systems, and soldering and brazing.

Through the program, students learn how to service heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment. They are prepared to take up roles such as electromechanical engineering technologists, electronics engineering technologists, and heating and air conditioning mechanics and installers.

  • Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Expected Time to Completion: Less than 24 months
  • Estimated Tuition: In-district ($95 per credit-hour); out-of-district ($164 per credit-hour); out-of-state ($227 per credit-hour); international ($268 per credit-hour)

Front Range Community College

Front Range Community College offers the following four HVAC/R certificates:

Residential Air Conditioning and Heating Certificate – Exploring all phases of residential air conditioning and heating systems, students in this 35 credit-hour program learn to design, diagnose, repair and service residential hot-water heating systems and HVAC systems. Courses in this program include an introduction to air conditioning and refrigeration, basic refrigeration, basic electricity, electrical components, advanced air conditioning, and hot water heating systems.

Light Commercial Air Conditioning and Heating Certificate – Focussed on light commercial HVAC systems, this certificate provides students training in designing, diagnosing, servicing and repairing light commercial and residential HVAC systems, including commercial building controls. Courses in this 37-credit-hour program in international residential codes, heating for commercial applications, troubleshooting and customer service, industrial controls, and air conditioning.

Commercial Refrigeration Certificate – This certificate trains students in the diagnosing, servicing. and repair of commercial ice makers, freezers and walk-in coolers, and self-contained refrigeration units. Made up of 28 credit-hours, coursework in this program includes troubleshooting and customer service, industrial controls, electrical components, basic electricity, and basic refrigeration.

HVAC/R Fundamentals Certificate – Made up of just 15 credit-hours, students in this program explore all aspects of refrigeration, air conditioning, electrical components, and electrical theory. They learn fundamental skills in HVAC/R such as brazing or soldering, basic electrical skills, copper tubing fabrication, and EPA certification. Courses in this program include introduction to air conditioning and refrigeration, basic refrigeration, basic electricity, and electrical components.

  • Location: Westminster, Colorado
  • Accreditation: Partnership for Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Residential A/C and heating (three semesters); light commercial A/C and heating (three semesters); commercial refrigeration (two semesters); HVAC/R fundamentals (one semester)
  • Estimated Tuition: $148 to $210 per credit-hour

Georgia Piedmont Technical College

Georgia Piedmont Technical College offers two certificates: air conditioning electrical technician and air conditioning technician assistant. The A/C technician assistant certificate prepares students to apply refrigeration practices and principles to various HVAC/R systems. It also prepares them for inspecting, servicing, installing and repairing refrigeration system components and troubleshooting refrigeration systems. The A/C electrical technician certificate provides students with competencies in installing, servicing, and maintaining electrical systems.

The A/C technician assistant option is made up of 12 credit-hours, including courses such as refrigeration fundamentals, refrigeration principles and practices, and refrigeration systems components.

The A/C electrical technician option also comprises 12 credit-hours, with courses such as HVAC/R electrical fundamentals, HVAC/R electrical motors, and HVAC/R electrical components and controls.

  • Location: Clarkston, Georgia
  • Accreditation: Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA)
  • Expected Time to Completion: One semester
  • Estimated Tuition: $100 per credit-hour

Mercer County Community College

Mercer County Community College, in collaboration with the Mercer County Technical Schools, offers the certificate of proficiency in heating, refrigeration and air conditioning. The program prepares students to take up jobs in commercial industries and establishments. They are able to take up positions such as furnace installer and repairer, refrigeration mechanic,, commercial A/C mechanic, gas heating system servicer, oil burner installation and service technician, and mobile A/C system mechanic.

In order to get accepted into the program, applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent with a year of applied mathematics or algebra.

Consisting of 31 credit-hours, this program includes courses such as fundamentals of electronics, the principles of ACR, ACR electrical controls, domestic heating and air conditioning systems, light commercial systems, and heavy commercial systems.

The program trains students to use mechanical and electrical metering devices, test equipment, service, troubleshoot, and repair commercial and domestic air conditioning and refrigeration components and systems, and determine air conditioning and heating size requirements.

  • Location: West Windsor, New Jersey
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($190.75 per credit); non-resident ($242.25 per credit)

Central Texas College

Central Texas College offers three HVAC certificate programs: a level I certificate for HVAC technician assistants, a level I certificate in residential HVAC/R, and a level II certificate in HVAC.

Students in all these programs have an internship option for acquiring hand-on training. These certificates are designed to prepare students to work in commercial and residential A/C and refrigeration by providing them hands-on and industry approved training, with the latest techniques and equipment.

The 19-credit-hour level 1 air conditioning and refrigeration technicians assistant certificate curriculum includes instruction in refrigeration principles, basic electricity for HVAC, gas and electric heating, residential air conditioning, and air conditioning control principles.

Students who have completed the level 1 certificate for HVAC technician assistants are eligible to take the coursework for the 20-credit-hour residential heating, air conditioning and refrigeration certificate. Their additional coursework includes heat pumps, air conditioning installation and startup, air conditioning troubleshooting, advanced electricity for HVAC, and residential air conditioning system design.

Lastly, the level II heating, air conditioning and refrigeration certificate is made up of 45 credit-hours. The curriculum of this program includes all courses from the two certificates mentioned above, with the addition of commercial air conditioning and commercial refrigeration. Students must also complete an internship.

  • Location: Killeen, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Expected Time to Completion: One semester
  • Estimated Tuition: In-district ($90 per credit-hour); out-of-district ($113 per credit-hour)

Pickens Technical College

Pickens Technical College offers the heating and air conditioning service technology certificate program, providing students with entry-level skills and knowledge. The program also prepares students for industry-based certifications such as EPA Certificate Universal and 10-hour OSHA Certificate.

The “heating block” provides students with instruction in basic electricity, airflow problems, job safety, forced air gas furnace service, hydronic service, troubleshooting gas-fired equipment, and duct sizing. The “air conditioning block” consists of refrigerant recovery training, basic refrigeration, principles of A/C operation, further airflow problems, heat pumps, and analysis and troubleshooting the total system.

Courses in this 35-credit-hour program include an introduction to service tech training, the fundamentals of gas heating, residential load/duct design, servicing forced air systems, basic electricity, basic refrigeration, piping skills for HVAC, and refrigerant recovery training.

  • Location: Aurora, Colorado
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: Semester one ($2,311); semester two ($2,444)

Gwinnett Technical College

Gwinnett Technical College offers the following HVAC certificate programs:

Air Conditioning Electrical Technician (12 credit-hours): Courses in this program include HVAC/R electrical fundamentals, HVAC/R electric motors, and HVAC/R electrical components and controls.

Air Conditioning System Maintenance Technician (12 credit-hours): Courses in this certificate include refrigeration fundamentals, refrigeration principles and practices, and HVAC/R electrical fundamentals.

Refrigeration System Service Technician (20 credit-hours): Courses in this program include refrigeration fundamentals, refrigeration principles and practices, refrigeration systems components, HVAC/R electrical fundamentals, and HVAC/R electric motors.

Students in these programs learn about installing, maintaining, and repairing HVAC systems. They will also learn about reviewing blueprints, testing systems for proper functioning, performing emergency repairs, maintaining tools, ordering supplies, and making routine adjustments for maximizing operational efficiency. Additionally, they can become experts at recording data such as fuel consumption, hours of operation, and temperature of equipment, while inspecting systems.

Students might find it helpful that Gwinnett Tech’s Air Conditioning Technology program offers five HOPE Career Grants. These grants provide students with free tuition assistance. Graduates of these programs are well prepared to serve as air conditioning service technicians.

  • Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia; Alpharetta, Georgia
  • Accreditation: Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHR)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Two semesters
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($518 per credit hour); out-of-state ($618 per credit hour); international ($818 per credit hour)

El Paso Community College

EPCC offers the following HVAC certificate programs:

Residential HVAC Technician – This 23-credit-hour program helps students to develop skills in the servicing of AC refrigeration, AC systems/units, and furnaces. Courses in this program include blueprint reading and sketching, basic electricity for HVAC, refrigeration principles, gas and electric heating, and air conditioning control principles. Graduates of this program can take up roles such as residential service technicians, apartment service technicians, and HVAC crew leaders.

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) – Made up of 30 credit-hours, this program helps students learn how to service refrigeration, air conditioning, furnaces, freezers, ice machines, and AC systems/units.

Graduates of the program can take the 410A certification (with a passing rate of 70 percent or better) exam, as well as that of the 10-hour OSHA Safety certification. Some of the courses in the curriculum are air conditioning control principles, residential air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, refrigeration principles, and gas and electric heating. Graduates of the program will be well-equipped to work as HVAC/R technicians, HVAC service technicians, and HVAC crew leaders.

Students in these programs are well-prepared to work in the heat transfer industry as crew leaders or service technicians. They learn how to service commercial AC, domestic/commercial refrigeration, AC systems/units, furnaces, commercial ice machines, and walk-in freezers.

  • Location: El Paso, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Program length: One year each
  • Estimated Tuition: Resident ($125 per credit-hour); non-resident ($235 per credit-hour)

University of Montana

The University of Montana offers the HVAC technician certificate program introducing its students to the fundamentals of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning. The program covers refrigeration and heating cycles, refrigerants, gas furnaces, system evacuation, as well as components and meters used in associated systems.

Students in this program are prepared to sit for the Universal 608 EPA exam. The program covers the electrical principles and laws pertaining to DC and AC circuits and teaches students to install and replace air conditioning equipment, GFCIs, heaters, switches, raceways, thermostats, and receptacles in conformance with the National Electric Code (NEC).

This 18-credit-hour program includes courses such as electricity, heating and air conditioning, and industrial safety and rigging.

  • Location: Missoula, Montana
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Expected Time to Completion: 15 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: In-state ($1,943); out-of-state ($6,867)

Santa Fe Community College

Santa Fe Community College offers the heating, ventilation and air conditioning certificate program providing technical training to students with an inclination towards HVAC. Designed for developing and improving job prospects, this program prepares students who wish to obtain licensure in HVAC and take up apprenticeships.

The program provides students with the most current information on the technical and safe aspects of the maintenance and operation of HVAC systems. Consisting of 31 credit-hours, the program includes courses such as basic blueprint reading, construction industry workplace health and safety, basic commercial refrigeration,
basic electricity and controls, application of refrigeration systems, air conditioning and electric motor application, and gas heating furnaces.

Students are able to apply the knowledge gained in the coursework while working on commercial and residential HVAC projects; identify and explain HVAC materials; methods, and systems, including sustainability strategies and green building; and provide leadership in creating and maintaining a safe working environment.

Graduates can take up roles such as maintenance technician, building control specialist, heating and cooling specialist, gas fitter and installer, boiler install and operation, greenhouse climate control operations, and appliance repairer.

  • Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: $4,202 total

Methodology

In order to select programs for this list, we looked at a few important criteria, such as affordability, accreditation, and how well the program prepares students for jobs in the future.

Affordability

As the name of the article suggests, affordability is one of the major criteria we looked at when compiling this list. Universities such as the Benjamin Franklin University also offer tuition-free plans for low-income students. With a few exceptions, most of these programs were offered at $200 (or less) per credit-hour to in-district students.

Accreditation Status

HVAC professionals are encouraged to verify that they have graduated from an accredited program. The accreditation process sets up high standards for training in HVAC, ensuring that the concerning school imparts necessary skills to students, while also keeping in mind government and climate control regulations.

There are two main organizations offering accreditation to HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

Finally, there are several organizations providing accreditation to schools as a whole including the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), as well as six other regional bodies which have been recognized by the US Department of Education:

  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Commission on Colleges for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Each of the programs covered in the list above has received regional accreditation, and a few of them have also been accredited by HVAC Excellence and PAHRA.

HVAC Licensing and Certification Readiness

These programs are designed to prepare graduates for various professional certification exams.

There are several national and regional certifications available for HVAC professionals. Through certification, prospective clients and employers come to know if the concerned person has achieved competence in specific fields of HVAC.

Out of the many certifications, there is one mandatory certification for all HVAC professionals handling refrigerants: the EPA Section 608 certification. Therefore, almost every HVAC program prepares its students for this certification. The EPA Section 608 certification is divided into the following four types:

  • Small appliances (Type I)
  • High-pressure appliances (Type II)
  • Low-pressure appliances (Type III)
  • All types of equipment (Universal or Type IV)

Several organizations providing professional HVAC certifications:

  • HVAC Excellence
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE)
  • The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

The programs in this list train students to sit for the EPA 608 certification, and also take up apprenticeships after completion of the course. This increases their prospects of getting lucrative jobs. To learn more about credentialing in this profession, please visit the HVAC certification page.

Farheen Gani

Farheen is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).

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