Huntington Beach, CA HVAC Schools & Certification

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For thousands of years, Native Americans thrived in the coastal region where present-day Huntington Beach, CA, is located. Spain began sending missionaries to the area in the 1700s in an effort to expand their influence from Mexico northward. Much of the land became part of massive Spanish Land Grants to non-Native individuals. Parts of two of these, Rancho Los Bolsas and Rancho Los Alamitos, included what is now Huntington Beach. Agriculture and cattle ranching formed the basis of the early economy.

Since then, numerous changes, including place names, have led to a prosperous and diverse economy. The discovery of oil in the 1920s led to significant residential and industrial growth. Although oil no longer dominates the economy, Huntington Beach still has an offshore terminus that supports the Alaska Pipeline and a second terminus for the Chevron refinery.

Technology and tourism are now the basis of the economy. The miles of beaches and ocean swells have made Huntington Beach a mecca for surfers. It’s long been known as Surf City by fans. The Bolsa Chica State Ecological Reserve is a salt marsh that draws in thousands more visitors annually. As part of the Pacific Flyway, bird watchers and photographers also flock to the Reserve to enjoy the millions of birds that live or migrate through it. Companies that include Boeing and Quicksilver are among the hundreds of businesses that support the economy. Healthcare, professional services, and retail trade contribute significantly to economic stability.

The climate in Huntington Beach is generally pleasant, with mild weather. The ocean’s water ranges from the mid-50s to mid-60s F and influences the area’s weather. The cooler marine temperatures can create foggy summer days when it meets the warmer land temperatures. The average highs during the summer months are in the low 70s F. The remaining months experience highs that rarely exceed the 60s.

However, in record-setting years, the highs can spike into the 80s and, on rare occasions, have exceeded 100 degrees. The mornings and evenings are often windy. About 12 inches of rain falls annually, with January through March receiving nearly three inches each month. Wintertime lows hover in the upper 40s, dropping to freezing only in record-setting years. Occasionally, frost forms on exceptionally cold nights. It doesn’t snow. The UV index from April through September is eight to ten, which can be unsafe during the midday.

Although Huntington Beach residents seldom experience extreme weather conditions, they rely on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) to ensure comfort in their homes and workplaces. Healthcare facilities and retail trade businesses frequently add refrigeration (HVAC/R) to their systems for the comfort of patients, professionals, customers, and staff. The restaurants, hotels, and other venues serving the hospitality and entertainment industries also need HVAC/R. Extensive climate control is also required to preserve objects in museums and art centers. The expanding technological industry has created a demand for the specialized equipment to keep the electronics operating correctly.

According to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2021), 8,910 HVAC and HVAC/R technicians were employed in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA, area, which encompasses Huntington Beach. National, state, and local industry organizations provide workers and their employers support and resources. These include, among others:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Air Conditioning Trade Association (ACTA)
  • Airconditioning, Refrigeration, and Mechanical Contractors Association of Southern California/Mechanical Contractors Association of America (ARCA/MCA)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
  • Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors of California (CAPHCC)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • UA Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 582

These organizations and others in the industry cooperate with 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 Huntington Beach, CA

According to the BLS (2022) predictions, openings for trained HVAC and HVAC/R technicians is expected to increase 5 percent from 2021 to 2031. That means workers can expect an average of 40,100 new job openings each year. Projections Central uses older long-term data.

The HVAC industry’s growth primarily depends on building new commercial and residential structures. Additionally, renovating and remodeling existing buildings substantially contribute to industry growth. That’s due to repairing, replacing, or updating obsolete equipment and systems in aging buildings to meet efficiency, regulatory, and safety requirements. As businesses increasingly rely on technology, technicians must occasionally replace climate control systems in newer buildings to meet their requirements. California especially emphasizes energy efficiency and pollution reduction, which also drives HVAC industry growth.

Homeowners and businesses now demand “smart” buildings. New and old buildings must incorporate high-tech and sophisticated climate-control systems to meet their expectations. Installing, maintaining, and servicing those systems require trained technicians who are skilled troubleshooters, proficient with computers, and understand electronics and high-tech. Their expertise provides them with the best job opportunities.

HVAC technicians specializing in new construction can face reduced opportunities if development declines. A downturn seems unlikely in the foreseeable future in Huntington Beach. The city “boasts a diversified and dynamic economy.” It’s the “perfect vacation experience” and draws in more than 11 million visitors every year. The City “is committed to promoting and sustaining a strong, healthy business climate” and actively supports business success and investment in the community.

As businesses and homeowners need year-round climate control, technicians specializing in maintaining, servicing, and repairing equipment can expect continuous employment regardless of the economy.

HVAC and HVAC/R Salaries in Huntington Beach, CA

As per the BLS (May 2021), HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,630. According to their data, technicians in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim area, which includes Huntington Beach, earned an annual median salary of $60,500. The cost of living in California is significantly higher than in other American states, which justifies the higher wages.

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

United States California Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA
Number of HVAC professionals employed 356,960 32,640 8,910
Average annual salary $54,690 $61,670 $64,380
10th percentile $34,320 $37,200 $37,480
25th percentile $38,450 $46,640 $47,960
50th percentile $48,630 $59,750 $60,500
75th percentile $62,000 $75,170 $77,210
90th percentile $78,210 $94,740 $100,340

HVAC Apprenticeships in Huntington Beach, CA

The complex climate-control equipment and systems used today require technicians trained in installing, maintaining, and servicing them. It’s rarely possible for workers to obtain the expertise needed by seeking employment as helpers and learning through on-the-job training.

Most aspiring technicians must attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program to have the best employment opportunities. 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. Time spent in classrooms varies according to the expertise sought.

A database of HVAC apprenticeship programs is maintained by the State of California Department of Industrial Relations. As of April 2023, two apprenticeships are close to Huntington Beach. A five-year HVAC technician apprenticeship is available through the Los Angeles & Orange Counties Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration J.A.T.C. There is also a 48-month sheet metal technician apprenticeship at the Southern California Sheet Metal J.A.T.C.

Industry organizations such as the following offer HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs:

  • 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)

Each organization provides scheduling and fee details on its website.

Accredited HVAC and HVAC/R Schools in Huntington Beach, CA

Students planning to attend a school should ensure that they select an accredited institution. Accredited schools have undergone a process whereby their curriculum and instructions are evaluated by an independent agency for quality. 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 (Expired 8/22)
  • Cypress College, Cypress, CA
  • Mount San Antonio College, Walnut, CA
  • North American Training Center, Redlands, CA (Expired 8/22)

PAHRA has accredited Mount San Antonio College, Walnut, CA

Although attending Mount San Antonio College would require a slightly longer commute than the other schools for Huntington Beach students, it is included in the profiled schools below due to its accreditation.

Cypress College

Cypress offers an HVAC degree program and the following HVAC certificate programs:

  • Air conditioning customer service – 20 units
  • Air conditioning building commissioning – 24 units
  • Air conditioning codes and estimating – 23 units
  • Commercial air conditioning – 25 units
  • Commercial refrigeration – 21.5-22 units
  • Heat pumps – 24 units
  • HVAC/R project management – 21 units
  • Air conditioning environmental controls – 25.5-26 units
  • HVAC – 38.5-39 units

The coursework for each certificate includes the basics of HVAC, supplemented by technical courses relevant to the certificate title.

The technical curriculum for the degree-seeking students includes thermodynamics and heat transfer, air conditioning, piping, tools, safety, blueprints and dimension analysis, electricity, gas heating and carbon monoxide, solar energy, refrigerant, commercial refrigeration, A/C controls, heat pumps, load calculations, commercial A/C, codes and commissioning, and A/C capstone.

Students also complete required general education coursework that includes written communication, introduction to probability and statistics, customer relations, analytical thinking, life or physical science, American ethnic studies, arts, humanities, social science, and physical activity and health. They complete a total of 67 to 69 units to earn their degree.

  • Location: Cypress, CA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Tuition: $46 per unit
  • Program length: Certificates vary, degree two years

Mount San Antonio College

Mt. SAC students may complete an HVAC certificate program and an HVAC degree program. For their convenience, they may attend during the day or the evening. Both programs present coursework in classroom lectures followed by hands-on training in a state-of-the-art, fully-equipped 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, commercial electrical for HVAC/R, air properties and measurement, and commercial systems.

Degree-seeking students complete the certificate program coursework. They also complete at least 24 units of general education electives from the following areas: communication in English, the physical universe and life, arts and humanities, social, political, and economic institutions, and lifelong understanding and self-development. They must complete a minimum of 60 units to receive their degree.

  • 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

Orange Coast College

OCC offers an HVAC/R certificate of achievement program and an HVAC/R degree program. Both programs prepare graduates to sit for industry exams and to seek entry-level employment.

Students in the certificate program complete coursework that includes HVAC/R principles, electricity, HVAC/R service, HVAC/R controls, pneumatic controls, building automation, a technical elective, and a computer elective, for 30 units. Students seeking a degree complete the same technical coursework as the certificate program.

They also complete general education coursework electives that include English composition, communication and analytical thinking, physical and biological sciences, arts and humanities, and social and behavioral sciences. They are awarded their degree after 60 units.

  • Location: Costa Mesa, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Tuition: $46 per unit
  • Program length: Certificate one year, degree two years

National Polytechnic College

National Polytechnic, a private institution, offers an HVAC/R diploma program. Students may complete their studies in morning classes or evening classes. Classes are presented in a blended format of in-class lectures and hands-on practice in a fully-equipped lab combined with remote lectures.

The curriculum includes an intro to electricity and automatic controls, basic refrigeration theory and application, refrigeration, theory of fossil fuel heating, design and installation, special refrigeration, commercial refrigeration, troubleshooting, and EPA and OSHA preparation. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as troubleshooting and repair technicians.

  • Location: Lakewood, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Tuition: $16,810
  • Program length: 36 weeks

Summit College

Summit College, a private institution, has three locations, the closest of which to Huntington Beach is in Santa Ana. The college offers an HVAC technician diploma program presented via a combination of classroom lectures and hands-on practice in the lab. Classes are available during the days and evenings. Students must dress in appropriate workplace attire, and their overall appearance should be professional.

The curriculum includes heat, energy, and pressure principles, 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: Santa Ana, 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 certificate program at several campuses. Garden Grove is the closest campus to Huntington Beach. Students learn in classroom lectures and through hands-on lab simulations. The curriculum 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 and R-410A certification exams. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Garden Grove, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and Training
  • Tuition: $21,500
  • Program length: Ten months

Huntington Beach 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 Huntington Beach, CA

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians are required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be certified to handle refrigerants, as refrigerants can pose a danger to individuals and the environment. Technicians must pass exams on refrigerant safety. Those who pass receive Section 608 certification, which is required for most employment opportunities. Certification exams are based on the type and size of equipment on which a technician works, as follows:

  • 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

Further information is available on the EPA website.

Industry certifications increase a technician’s employability. Certifications, including 608, are available from various organizations:

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

Details regarding availability, fees, and schedules are available on each organization’s website. Technicians may find additional information on the HVAC certifications page.

The California Contractors State Licensing Board is the regulatory agency governing HVAC and HVAC/R contractors. The Board offers free licensing workshops that specify who must obtain licensing and the details of how to apply. Generally, technicians employed by a contractor are not required to obtain a state license. Technicians who advertise their services are classified as contractors.

A licensed contractor is required for 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
  • Workers compensation insurance or documents for exemption from workers compensation
  • General liability insurance
  • A $15,000 bond

All applicants must submit a complete set of fingerprints. They must also pass an open-book exam on asbestos abatement standards. Licenses are renewed every two years. The initial license and renewals require payment of a fee.

The City of Huntington Beach requires all businesses operating within the city limits to obtain a business license. The fee is usually based on the number of employees; however, the City determines the fee structure for contractors and subcontractors when they apply. Licenses are valid for one year.

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.