Top Cities for HVAC Installers in 2018

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Heating, venting, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC and HVAC/R) technicians and installers are in high demand. The HVAC/R Workforce Development Foundation reported as early as 2015, the demand for these skilled workers was greater than the supply. The need for individuals with installation, maintenance, and repair skills has continued to increase. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2018) expected that openings for HVAC professionals would grow 15 percent nationwide between 2016 and 2026, more than double the anticipated growth for all occupations.

Air Conditioning Refrigeration News (2018) attributed most of the industry growth to technology. Many HVAC/R systems have become part of the Internet of Things (IoT). The cost of equipment has decreased, and climate control has become more affordable. Technology has reduced the effect of the equipment on the environment, making interior comfort more desirable to energy-conscious consumers. Energy conservation incentives and rebates provide additional inducement to install systems in new buildings or replace aging equipment in existing structures.

CNN (2018) analysts reported that the housing market is “robust” and they don’t expect a downturn in the demand for skilled construction workers. Politics plays a role in making infrastructure a priority, but experts attribute the growth primarily to a strong economy. Also, CNBC (2018) found that “construction spending is soaring,” and their analysts expect it to continue growing in 2018. They see significant increases in both commercial and residential building projects.

HVAC and HVAC/R installation requires skilled technicians. The equipment has become increasingly sophisticated, and the system is an integral part of IoT in many structures. More and more of the components are automated, but installation still requires a human. Every system is unique.

Just as the demand for experienced installers is increasing, the workforce is decreasing. CNN (2017) reported that a shortage of workers in the construction trades was exacerbated by rebuilding efforts after the hurricanes. They say that more than 20 percent of workers found other jobs after the 2006 housing bubble burst. Many of those skilled workers have not been replaced, and contractors are having difficulty in finding replacements. CNBC (January 2018) reports that a “severe shortage of labor” is slowing the current housing boom.

Using rates of new construction and other factors, this guide explores the top cities for HVAC installers in the U.S.

Which States Have the Highest Construction Rates?

As reported in Construction Jobs (2018), construction is booming around the country, particularly in the following states:

  • Texas: As well as rebuilding from Hurricane Harvey, Texas is a large, populous state, which has many major projects under construction.
  • Florida: Hurricane Irma added to an existing shortage of skilled workers in Florida. Several cities have large projects in process and have lost employees to recovery efforts.
  • California: The state escaped hurricane damage, but suffered wildfires and mudslides from which it is struggling to recover. Although skilled workers are highly paid in California, a shortage of qualified employees has slowed the completion of major construction projects.
  • Arizona: An ongoing skilled labor shortage has created a struggle to keep up with construction projects in Arizona. The state is experiencing economic growth and is looking into ways to fill jobs through technology rather than with workers.
  • Nevada: New construction is the fastest-growing sector of Nevada’s economy, and the state is experiencing a shortage of skilled workers.

Which States Employ the Most HVAC Workers?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2017) found that the following states currently have the highest number of HVAC and HVAC/R workers employed:

  1. Florida: 29,450 HVAC workers employed
  2. California: 25,010
  3. Texas: 23,520
  4. New York: 18,500
  5. Pennsylvania: 14,120
  6. North Carolina: 13,890
  7. Virginia: 11,690
  8. Ohio: 11,480
  9. New Jersey: 9,680
  10. Michigan: 8,970

According to Projections Central, the following ten states are expected to have the highest projected percentage increase in positions for HVAC mechanics and installers between 2014 and 2024:

  1. Arizona: 51.4 percent increase in HVAC positions (2014-24)
  2. Colorado: 43.5 percent
  3. Utah: 33.8 percent
  4. Florida: 33.4 percent
  5. California: 31.8 percent
  6. Texas: 29.4 percent
  7. New York: 26.5 percent
  8. Kentucky: 24.8 percent
  9. Washington: 22.1 percent
  10. Georgia: 20.1 percent

The ranking is slightly different when projected changes are expressed as the absolute number of jobs added rather than as a percentage. The states with the highest expected number of new openings for HVAC mechanics and installers include:

  1. Florida: 9,250 new HVAC positions anticipated (2014-24)
  2. California: 7,100 jobs
  3. Texas: 6,740 jobs
  4. New York: 3,840 jobs
  5. Arizona: 3,260 jobs
  6. Colorado: 2,150 jobs
  7. North Carolina: 1,980
  8. New Jersey: 1,890
  9. Kentucky: 1,800 jobs
  10. Georgia: 1,780 jobs

The demand varies among states due to their economy, their weather, and their industrial and business bases, and the rate of new construction affects the demand for installers.

Which Cities Employ the Most HVAC Workers?

The BLS (May 2017) found that the following cities currently employ the highest number of HVAC mechanics and installers:

  1. New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division: 12,590 HVAC workers employed
  2. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX: 6,370
  3. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ: 6,140
  4. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division: 5,730
  5. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division: 5,520
  6. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL: 5,450
  7. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA: 5,190
  8. Nassau County-Suffolk County, NY Metropolitan Division: 4,410
  9. Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX Metropolitan Division: 4,300
  10. Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL Metropolitan Division: 3,920

The data shows that the cities with the highest rate of employment are not always in the states of high employment. The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area in Arizona, for example, is third on the list; however, Arizona overall is not a high-employment state for HVAC. The Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell area in Georgia shows the same anomaly. Workers in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina are located throughout their respective states as no cities in those states have a high rate of HVAC employment.

The BLS (May 2017) found that the following cities have the highest rate of pay for HVAC professionals:

  1. San Rafael, CA Metropolitan Division: $74,710 average annual salary
  2. Peoria, IL: $72,570
  3. Elgin, IL Metropolitan Division: $72,160
  4. Santa Rosa, CA: $70,650
  5. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $70,480
  6. Bay City, MI: $66,630
  7. Sheboygan, WI: $66,040
  8. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT: $65,720
  9. Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL Metropolitan Division: $65,230
  10. Peabody-Salem-Beverly, MA NECTA Division: $65,180

There is little correlation in these areas between employment and pay. The Chicago area is the only location with both a high number of employed workers and a high rate of pay.

In February 2018, Forbes released its annual ranking of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. Although their data doesn’t specifically address construction activity, growth requires new homes and workplaces, thus adding to the demand for HVAC installers and mechanics. The top ten are:

  1. Boise City, ID Metropolitan Statistical Area: 2.34 percent projected population growth in 2018
  2. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA Metropolitan Division: 1.76 percent
  3. Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX Metropolitan Division: 1.92 percent
  4. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area: 2.93 percent
  5. Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Metropolitan Division: 1.93 percent
  6. Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV Metropolitan Statistical Area: 2.43 percent
  7. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN Metropolitan Statistical Area: 2.15 percent
  8. Austin-Round Rock, TX Metropolitan Statistical Area: 2.75 percent
  9. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL Metropolitan Statistical Area: 3.37 percent
  10. Tacoma-Lakewood, WA Metropolitan Division: 1.32 percent

Commercial Property Executive, (CPE) a commercial real estate resource, compiles statistics from various industry reports. Their latest data (February 2018) shows the following cities as having the highest rates of construction:

  1. Seattle, WA
  2. Los Angeles, CA
  3. Denver, CO
  4. Chicago: IL
  5. Portland, OR
  6. Washington, DC
  7. New York City, NY
  8. Honolulu, HI
  9. Boston, MA
  10. Phoenix, AZ

Mixed-use buildings lead the way of new construction, followed by structures for residential, educational, commercial, healthcare, and hospitality use. Their criteria for determining the number of new buildings is the number of cranes at work. The data, therefore, only reflects construction in progress at the end of 2017. They state that “many projects are planned for 2018.”

CPE (April 2018) additionally quotes data released by Dodge Data & Analytics, a construction research organization, for the 2017 top ten metro areas for retail building construction. Those areas are:

  • New York, NY
  • Miami, FL
  • Houston, TX
  • Dallas-Ft Worth, TX
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Bridgeport, CT
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Washington, DC
  • Philadelphia, PA

Only four cities are on both lists, due to the varying criteria used and dates on which the data was collected.

What Are the Best Cities for HVAC Workers in 2018?

So, which cities are the best choice for someone seeking work as an HVAC/R mechanic or installer? The answer depends on whether a worker is looking for the highest pay or best job opportunity.

The top five states for job opportunities are:

  • Texas
  • Florida
  • California
  • Arizona
  • New York

As noted earlier, the best cities for HVAC workers are not necessarily located in the top-employing or top-paying states. Taking the above data and weather patterns into consideration, the top ten metropolitan areas for HVAC professionals in 2018 are:

  1. Dallas-Fort Worth – The two cities and areas around them have a high rate of HVAC and HVAC/R technicians and installers employed and have a high rate of new construction in a fast-growing area. The area is also located in the best state for new job opportunities.
  2. Chicago – The city and nearby areas have a high rate of HVAC and HVAC/R technicians and installers employed, have a high rate of new construction, and have a high rate of pay. The remainder of Illinois is low on the list of job opportunities; however, the Peoria area offers a high rate of pay.
  3. New York Metropolitan Division – The city and surrounding areas have a high rate of HVAC and HVAC/R technicians and installers employed and had a high rate of new construction.
  4. Los Angeles – The city and surrounding areas have a high rate of HVAC and HVAC/R technicians and installers employed and had a high rate of new construction. It is also located in a state that ranks highly for new job opportunities. More northerly cities, such as San Rafael, San Jose, and Santa Rosa, have fewer opportunities, but higher pay rates.
  5. Washington, D.C. – The area has a high rate of HVAC and HVAC/R technicians and installers employed and has a high rate of new construction.
  6. Seattle – The city is the center of a fast-growing area and has the most new construction of all the cities. Washington state overall has a high demand for new workers.
  7. Phoenix Metropolitan Division – The area has a high rate of HVAC and HVAC/R technicians and installers employed and has a high rate of new construction. It is also located in a state that ranks highly for new job opportunities as it will need 51.4 percent more HVAC workers between 2014 and 2024.
  8. Atlanta Metropolitan Division – The area has a high rate of HVAC and HVAC/R technicians and installers employed and has a high rate of new construction.
  9. Orlando Metropolitan Division – The area is growing at a rapid rate. The 2017 rate of new construction was lower than other areas. However, Florida ranks near the top for new job opportunities.
  10. Austin – The city has a high growth rate, but hasn’t yet experienced corresponding growth in new construction. Texas has the best job opportunities for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians and installers.

Barry Franklin

Barry is the Editor in Chief of HVACClasses.org, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures, which he joined as partner in 2013 after almost 20 years in the financial software industry.

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