HVAC Programs in Fontana, CA – Degrees & Certification

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The city of Fontana was founded in the early 1900s. Its name is Italian for fountain, and was chosen because of the city’s proximity to the Santa Ana River. In the early years, the economy was based on agriculture. Historic Route 66 passed through the city in the 1920s. The Kaiser Steel Plant was constructed during World War II. The Kaiser Permanente medical center soon followed and is now the largest managed care system in the world.

Freeways running east to west and north to south have turned Fontana into a logistics, transportation, and warehousing center. Fontana, located in San Bernardino County, is included in the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario metropolitan area. That also puts it in the Inland Empire, which is experiencing continued growth as a manufacturing, shipping, and warehousing hub, despite the effects of inflation. In addition to the industrial base and healthcare facilities, the finance, insurance, and retail trade industries significantly contribute to the economy. Numerous truck dealerships and industrial equipment sales also support the economy. The Auto Club Speedway draws fans, teams, and tourists to Fontana.

Fontana is hot, sometimes very hot. Temperatures begin climbing into the 80s F during May and don’t start cooling until November. July, August, and September swelter in the mid-to-high 90s. Temperatures climb above 110 degrees during record-setting years, with 117 being the highest recorded to date. Summer nights bring relief from the daytime heat, dropping to the high 50s and low 60s. Precipitation is minimal throughout the summer. Average highs during the winter months hover in the mid-70s. The lows rarely sink below freezing, averaging temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s. January, February, and March experience rainfall of three and a half inches each month. November and December receive slightly more than one inch each, for total annual precipitation of close to 15 inches. Fontana is subject to the hot and dry Santa Ana winds, especially during the fall months.

Heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) is essential for Fontana residents. They need it for comfort in their homes and workplaces. Most businesses, including logistics, manufacturing, and industrial facilities, add refrigeration (HVAC/R) to their systems. Retail and wholesale companies add HVAC and HVAC/R systems to protect their products and comfort their customers. Educational institutions and healthcare complexes often require specialized climate-control systems. The increasing use of technology means businesses frequently need additional climate-control systems and equipment to keep their electronics operating correctly.

Data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2021) shows 5,310 HVAC and HVAC/R technicians employed in the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA area. The technicians and their employers receive resources and support from national, state, and local industry associations that include:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Associated General Contractors of California Riverside-San Bernardino District
  • Association of Building Contractors – San Bernardino Mountains
  • Building Industry Association of Southern California (BIASC)
  • Plumbing, Heating, & Cooling Contractors Association of Orange County, Riverside, And San Bernardino (PHCC ORSB)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • UA Local Union 364 of Plumbers, Pipefitters, Refrigeration

These organizations cooperate with others in the industry, regulatory agencies, and businesses to establish and maintain educational, licensing, and performance standards for the safety of technicians, the public, and the environment.

Occupational Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R Technicians in Fontana, CA

The BLS (2022) job outlook analysis indicates that trained HVAC and HVAC/R technicians can expect a 5 percent increase in new job openings between 2021 and 2031. That’s a projected average of 40,100 new positions each year.

The HVAC industry continues to show sustained growth, primarily due to the construction of new commercial and residential structures. Existing older structures are often renovated and remodeled to fit unique business demands. To operate efficiently, obsolete and aging climate control systems and equipment in those existing buildings must be repaired, replaced, or retrofitted. On occasion, systems in new structures are replaced to meet technological advances and contemporary climate-control regulations. California emphasizes energy efficiency and pollution reduction, which also drives HVAC industry growth.

Whether new or older structures, homeowners and businesses often demand “smart” buildings. Homes and offices now incorporate sophisticated climate-control equipment and systems. Trained technicians are required to install or service complex systems. The technicians must be skilled troubleshooters, proficient with computers, and understand electronics and high-tech. Their training and expertise provide them with the best job opportunities.

Technicians who specialize in new construction may occasionally experience unemployment if construction declines. A decline doesn’t seem likely in the foreseeable future in Fontana. The Inland Empire has recovered from the Covid pandemic. The population continues to increase, and the area “is poised for steady economic growth in 2022.” Several commercial, civic, and residential projects in Fontana are under construction or planned for the near future. As the transportation and truck industries are a big part of Fontana’s economy, there’s also a continuing demand for automotive HVAC technicians.

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians specializing in maintenance and service can expect continuous employment as businesses and homeowners rely on year-round climate control regardless of the economy.

HVAC and HVAC/R Salaries in Fontana, CA

Data compiled by the BLS (May 2021) shows that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,630. Additionally, their data shows that Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA, area technicians earned an annual median salary of $46,730. The cost of living in California is much higher than in other American states. It’s lower in Fontana than in other parts of the state, so the lower local wages aren’t as significant as they seem at first glance.

The national, state, and regional earnings of HVAC professionals, as per BLS (May 2021) data, are as follows:

United States California Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA
Number of HVAC professionals employed 356,960 32,640 5,310
Average annual salary $54,690 $61,670 $51,310
10th percentile $34,320 $37,200 $30,090
25th Percentile $38,450 $46,640 $37,120
50th percentile $48,630 $59,750 $46,730
75th Percentile $62,000 $75,170 $60,010
90th Percentile $78,210 $94,740 $75,220

HVAC Apprenticeships in Fontana, CA

Although historically, workers sought employment as helpers and learned their skills through on-the-job training, few opportunities exist now for doing so. Most untrained workers currently attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Trained technicians have better job prospects, can start at higher wages, and earn more throughout their careers.

Time spent in classrooms varies according to the expertise sought. Apprenticeships typically include specified hours of on-the-job training, usually 2,000 hours, and classroom work, usually 144 hours, annually for three to five years.

The State of California Department of Industrial Relations has compiled a database of HVAC apprenticeship programs. As of January 2023, the closest to Fontana is the 48-month sheet metal technician apprenticeship at the J.A.T.C. facility in Basset, CA.

UA Local 364 of Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Refrigeration offers an HVAC apprenticeship program. It’s conducted at the Colton, CA, training center. Contact them directly for details.

Workers who are unable to attend local programs may select HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs sponsored by industry associations such as the following:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)

Details of classes offered, schedules, and fees may be found on each organization’s website.

Accredited HVAC and HVAC/R Schools in Fontana, CA

Students are advised to select an accredited institution if they decide to attend a school rather than complete an apprenticeship. An accredited school has had the curriculum and instructors evaluated for quality by an independent agency. HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) accredit HVAC programs.

HVAC Excellence has accredited the following California schools:

  • Brownson Technical School, Anaheim, CA
  • Cypress College, Cypress, CA
  • Mount San Antonio College, Walnut, CA
  • North American Training Center, Redlands, CA

PAHRA has accredited Mount San Antonio College, Walnut, CA.

Although all the schools require a commute for Fontana students, North American Training Center and Mount San Antonio College are included in the profiles, as they are the closest industry-accredited institutions to Fontana. Other reputable agencies have accredited the remaining schools.

Center for Employment Training

CET offers HVAC and green technology training at ten California locations. The closest program to Fontana is in Colton. The coursework combines classroom lectures and hands-on practice in a fully-equipped lab. Students may attend during the day or evenings.

The curriculum includes HVAC safety, mathematics, pipefitting, brazing, soldering, green HVAC technology, tools, electricity, refrigeration and recovery, heating, duct work, basic computers, customer service, and job preparation. Students are prepared to take industry certification exams, such as EPA 608 and ESCO green technology. Graduates are qualified for entry-level employment and receive assistance from CET with job placement.

  • Location: Colton, CA
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Tuition: $15,500
  • Program length: Eight to nine months

InterCoast College

ICC, a private institution, offers an HVAC technician certificate program at five California campuses, the closest of which to Fontana is located in Riverside. Coursework is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab.

The curriculum includes an introduction to trades, construction math, OSHA safety and National Electrical Code (NEC), electrical theory and conductors, practical applications of electrical theory, refrigeration components and applications, EPA 608 transition and recovery, heating systems, air conditioning, heat pump systems, and air distribution and installation. Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level positions as residential or commercial installation and maintenance HVAC technicians.

  • Location: Riverside, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
  • Tuition: $16,680
  • Program length: 40 weeks

Mount San Antonio College

Mt. SAC has the distinction of accreditation from both industry agencies. Students may complete an HVAC certificate program and an HVAC degree program. They may attend during the day or the evening. Both programs present coursework in classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab. Graduates are prepared to seek entry-level positions as technicians.

Students enrolled in the certificate program complete 31.5 units of coursework that includes technical mathematics, welding, A/C codes and standards, refrigeration fundamentals, electricity, gas heating, heat load calculations and design, electricity for commercial installations, air properties and measurement, and commercial systems.

Degree-seeking students complete the certificate program coursework. They also complete a minimum of 24 units of general education coursework that includes English composition, public speaking, arts and humanities, lifelong understanding, social, political, and economic institutions, physical education, and the physical universe. They receive their degree after 65.5 to 68.5 units.

  • Location: Walnut, CA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; PAHRA; Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Tuition: $46 per unit
  • Program length: Certificate (one year); degree (two years)

North American Training Center

NATC offers an HVAC/R program that prepares students for the EPA certification exam. The exam may be taken on campus. The coursework is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab.

The Center no longer includes details of its program on its web page. The curriculum overview includes HVAC/R electricity and thermodynamics used in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. Students acquire technical working knowledge of trade fundamentals, safety practices, the skills to service and maintain equipment, and customer service. Graduates are qualified to take various industry certification exams and seek entry-level employment.

All further information is available only by direct contact.

  • Location: Redlands, CA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence
  • Tuition: Not disclosed on website
  • Program length: Not disclosed on website

Riverside City College

RCC offers several certificate and degree HVAC/R programs. All programs encompass lectures and hands-on practice in the lab.

The certificate programs include:

  • Building automation control – 21 units
  • Building energy systems – 32 – 35 units
  • HVAC commercial technology – 36 units
  • HVAC residential technology – 27 units
  • Residential installation – 12 units

The degree programs include:

  • Building energy systems – 60 units
  • HVAC commercial technology – 60 units
  • HVAC residential technology – 60 units

Students in the building automation control certificate program complete coursework that includes HVAC/R, electricity, facilities management, chillers, building automation, building control networks, and building automation networks and programming. Students seeking a certificate in building energy systems complete coursework that includes industrial calculations, zero net energy building science, California energy codes, blueprint reading, professional office procedures, and energy systems technology work experience. They also choose five technical electives from any of the other programs.

Coursework for students enrolled in the residential installation program includes residential installation, HVAC/R, and refrigerant handling and maintenance. The HVAC commercial technology certificate program curriculum includes HVAC/R, electricity, system design, facilities maintenance, chillers, energy conservation, refrigerant handling and maintenance, all-weather heating and cooling systems, boiler and hydronic heating, building automation, and California mechanical codes.

Coursework for students in the HVAC residential technology program includes HVAC/R, electricity, system design, energy conservation, refrigerant handling and maintenance, and all-weather heating and cooling systems.

Students enrolled in the degree programs complete the technical coursework required for the certificate programs. They also complete general education electives from natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, English, and self-development coursework.

Graduates of all programs will have the technical knowledge and skills to seek employment as technicians qualified to install, maintain, repair, and service commercial and residential HVAC/R systems.

  • Location: Riverside, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Tuition: $46 per unit
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Certificates (vary); degrees (two years)

San Bernardino Valley College

Valley College students have three HVAC programs from which to choose: an HVAC/R certificate that prepares students for entry-level employment, a refrigeration service engineer society (HVAC) certificate that prepares students for advanced positions, and an HVAC/R degree.

The HVAC/R certificate of achievement program curriculum includes HVAC/R fundamentals, domestic and commercial mechanical refrigeration, HVAC/R electricity, air distribution systems, welding, and math. The coursework takes 27-32 units to complete. Students are encouraged to complete an elective in automotive A/C for an additional four units.

Students in the advanced refrigeration certificate of achievement program complete the following technical coursework: compressors, condensers, and cooling towers, heating fundamentals, heating transfer and distribution, gas and hot water heating, tools, controls, and troubleshooting, RSES electricity, RSES heat pump training, and RSES technical training. Students are awarded their certificate at the completion of 40 units. The courses meet the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) industry standards, and as each course is completed, students may apply for credit toward their NATE certification renewal. Graduates are qualified for advanced-level employment.

Students seeking a degree complete the technical curriculum required for the certificate program. They are encouraged to take automotive A/C for an additional four units. They are required to complete general education coursework. The coursework will vary according to whether they intend to transfer their credits to another institution toward an advanced degree and which institution they decide to attend. They complete 60 units in total to earn their Valley College degree.

  • Location: San Bernardino, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Tuition: $46 per unit
  • Program length: Certificates (vary); degree (two years)

Summit College

Summit College, a private institution, has three locations, including one in San Bernardino, offers an HVAC technician diploma program. HVAC coursework may be presented in the auxiliary classroom in Colton. Students learn through a combination of classroom lectures and hands-on practice in the lab. They must dress in appropriate workplace attire, and their general appearance should be professional.

The HVAC technician diploma program curriculum includes principles of heat, energy, and pressure, electrical systems and components, brazing, green job training, commercial environmental systems, commercial refrigeration, HVAC system design, residential and commercial HVAC, and refrigerant and refrigeration systems. The coursework may be completed during the days or evenings. Students must take the EPA 608 exam as a condition of graduation. Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level employment.

  • Location: San Bernardino, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
  • Tuition: $17,495
  • Program length: 36 weeks

UEI College

UEI, a private school, offers an HVAC technician training program at 14 campuses. Riverside and West Covina are the closest to Fontana. Coursework is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on lab simulations. The training includes basic electricity, motors, and HVAC controls, refrigeration theory and application, HVAC troubleshooting, heat pump systems, heating systems, duct design, reading blueprints, load calculation, commercial refrigeration systems, specialized commercial equipment, green awareness, regulations, building automation, and electrical and mechanical troubleshooting.

Students are prepared to take the EPA Section 608 exam and the R-410A certification exam. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Riverside, CA; West Covina, CA
  • Accreditation: Riverside (Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges); West Covina (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training)
  • Tuition: $21,500
  • Program length: 36 weeks

Fontana students who cannot attend one of the above schools may find that online institutions can better meet their needs. More information on accredited programs is available at online HVAC training.

HVAC and HVAC/R Certification and Licensing in Fontana, CA

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) regulations mandate that HVAC and HVAC/R technicians who handle refrigerants obtain Section 608 certification. The four certification levels each require the technician to pass an exam specific to the type and size of equipment on which they work. The types of certification are:

  • Type I – for servicing small appliances
  • Type II – for servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and automotive air conditioning
  • Type III – for servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances
  • Universal – for servicing all types of equipment

The EPA has details of the criteria for each certification on its website, including the topics that are the exams.

Certifications such as Section 608 increase a technician’s employability. Industry organizations offer study materials and exams for various certifications. These include, but are not limited to:

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

Each organization’s website has details of availability, scheduling, and fees. There is also more information on the HVAC certifications page.

The California Contractors State Licensing Board regulates HVAC and HVAC/R contractors. Technicians employed by a contractor are not required to obtain a state license. Technicians who advertise their services are classified as contractors. The Board offers a free workshop on how to obtain licensing.

A licensed contractor must perform any construction project priced at $500 or more. HVAC contractors need the C-20 specialty license, and HVAC/R contractors need the C-38 specialty license. Most applicants must pass exams in law, business, and trade. All applicants must then submit proof of the following to obtain their license:

  • Minimum of four years of journey-level experience, or completion of an apprenticeship or technical training at an accredited school and one year of journey-level experience
  • At least $2,500 in working capital
  • Workers compensation insurance or documents for exemption from workers compensation
  • General liability insurance
  • A $15,000 bond

All applicants must be fingerprinted and undergo a criminal background check. Licenses are renewed every two years. The initial license and renewals require payment of a fee.

The City of Fontana requires all businesses operating within the city limits to obtain a business license. After the initial application fee, annual fees are based on gross receipts.

Licensing regulations are always subject to change, and HVAC professionals are encouraged to confirm that they comply with current guidelines before starting a project.

Sandra Smith

Sandra Smith was introduced to the HVAC industry when she worked as a bookkeeper and secretary for a small air-conditioning contractor. She eventually became a CPA and started her own practice specializing in small business taxes and accounting. After retiring from business, she began writing articles for newspapers, magazines, and websites. She also authored four books. Sandra makes her home in the mountains with a rescue dog that naps on her lap as she writes.