Irvine, CA HVAC Schools – Technical Training Programs

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The land that is now part of Irvine was occupied at least 2,000 years ago by Native Americans. Originally part of what is now Mexico, it was claimed by Spain in the late 1700s. During the 1800s, Mexico reclaimed the area, and Mexican/Spanish land grants went to Mexican citizens. Later that century, James Irvine purchased grant land, which subsequently passed to his family. His sons created the City of Irvine as a master planned community.

Irvine remains “an economic powerhouse and one of the most livable cities in the United States.” The Master Plan remains in effect, and “As a result, Irvine ranks #1 in the United States for fiscal health, ensuring the city is fiscally secure through both good and bad economic cycles.” It’s home to thousands of businesses, including several Fortune 500 companies and the headquarters for international companies such as Asics, Kia Motors, and Samsung, as well as the campuses of 15 institutions of higher learning. Aerospace, information technology, life sciences, manufacturing, and the entertainment industry have helped create a diversified economy.

Summers in Irvine, California (CA) are shorter and drier than the winters. Although the City is inland, it’s still close enough to the Pacific Ocean for it to have a moderating influence on the weather. Rainfall during the summer months is minimal, and July, August, and September are the hottest months of the year, though temperatures rarely rise above the low 80s F. Evenings average about 20 degrees F cooler than daytime temps. The Santa Ana winds, however, which originate in the Great Basin, create hot and dry conditions in West Coast communities such as Irvine and cause temperatures to spike well above 100 degrees in the autumn.

The coldest months are December, January, and February, with average high temperatures in the upper 60s and average low temperatures in the upper 40s. Winter months receive two or more inches of rain, with February averaging the largest amount of rainfall with close to four inches. It’s unusual for temperatures to drop to freezing, and snow is an extremely rare occurrence.

Although the climate is milder than other communities in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area, Irvine residents rely on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort in their workplaces and homes during the summer heat, autumn winds, and winter chill. Much of the industry depends on high-tech electronics. Commercial buildings often require the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R) not only for the comfort of the occupants, but also because sophisticated electronic equipment requires climate-control systems to provide the additional cooling needed to function correctly. Research centers, including those at the universities and the industrial buildings used to manufacture electronic components, frequently require specialized climate-controlled rooms or areas.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) reports that 8,100 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA area, which includes Irvine, as of May 2018. Industry organizations such as the following provided training and support to the technicians and the companies that employed them:

  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
  • Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc Southern California Chapter
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of California
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association
  • Southern California Contractors Association

These organizations coordinate educational, performance, and licensing standards with others in the industry and with government organizations to ensure the safety of the workers and the public.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Irvine, CA

The BLS (2019) also reports that HVAC and HVAC/R technicians can expect a 13 percent increase in new positions nationwide between 2018 and 2028. That’s more than twice the 5 percent increase in new jobs expected for all US occupations during those same years. The job outlook for California HVAC technicians is even brighter. Projections Central predicts a 19.6 percent statewide increase—5,600 new positions created between 2016 and 2026.

The HVAC industry grows primarily as a result of new construction. Prosperous and growing cities such as Irvine continually require additional residences and commercial structures. The demands of climate and technology mean that new buildings require HVAC. Additionally, the specialized industries and electronic equipment used by most companies create a need for complex climate-controlled facilities. When existing structures are put to new use, the older systems and equipment must be replaced, retro-fitted, or upgraded to meet contemporary pollution reduction and energy efficiency standards.

Today’s sophisticated climate-control equipment requires trained technicians to install, maintain, and service—especially when used in modern “smart” buildings. Technicians are expected to be expert troubleshooters as well as knowledgeable about electronics and computers. In some areas, technicians who specialize in new installations occasionally experience unemployment. The continued growth and fiscal stability of Irvine make that unlikely in the foreseeable future, and technicians can expect full employment. Those who specialize in maintenance, repairs, or services can expect year-round employment as businesses and homeowners need to keep their equipment operating efficiently regardless of the economy.

HVAC Salaries in Irvine, CA

The BLS reports that HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide received a median salary of $47,610 as of May 2018. They also report that technicians in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA area, which includes Irvine, received an annual median salary of $58,650 that same year. It’s important to add that the cost of living in California is higher than in other US states.

For a comparison of national, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals, see the table below:

United States California Los Angeles- Long Beach- Anaheim, CA
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 324,310 27,720 8,100
Average Annual Salary $50,160 $58,130 $61,060
10th Percentile $29,460 $32,900 $32,760
25th Percentile $36,520 $39,610 $43,000
50th Percentile (Median) $47,610 $55,140 $58,650
75th Percentile $60,900 $70,020 $76,770
90th Percentile $76,230 $94,380 $97,120

HVAC Apprenticeships in Irvine, CA

In the past, workers who wanted to become HVAC technicians took entry-level jobs as helpers and acquired their technical skills through on-the-job training. Few opportunities for doing so remain. Contemporary climate control systems are complex and require trained technicians who have participated in an apprenticeship or attended formal classes. Their job skills not only open up more employment opportunities, but also enable them to typically start at higher wages and earn more throughout their career.

Most apprenticeship programs require a commitment of three to five years. Apprentices typically receive 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and complete an average of 144 hours of classwork each year. Workers can find resources and a database of HVAC apprenticeship programs at the State of California Department of Industrial Relations website.

That site currently lists a 60-month HVAC Service Technician apprenticeship program sponsored by the Los Angeles and Orange Counties Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC) at the Los Angeles Training Center. There is also a 48-month HVAC workers apprenticeship available in Anaheim that is sponsored by the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc Southern California Chapter.

Additional programs include a 60-month residential and commercial HVAC/R service and repair apprenticeship sponsored by the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association of California in Sacramento, as well as two sheet metal apprentice programs and an Air Balance Testing Technician apprenticeship program sponsored by the Kern & Northern Los Angeles Counties Air Conditioning & Sheet Metal Workers JATC in Bakersfield, CA. The California Apprenticeship Coordinators Association includes information on five-year HVAC/R apprenticeships available in Los Angeles.

Long Beach City College offers a free Construction Apprenticeship Readiness Program that includes HVAC. The program follows the Los Angeles County/Orange Counties Buildings & Construction Trades Council AFL-CIO’s nationally-recognized Multi-Craft Curriculum (MC3). Students become familiar with blueprints, industry awareness, hand and power tools, tool safety, and other information relevant to entering the construction trades. They also offer an opportunity to earn certificates in CPR, First Aid, and OSHA 10. The program is designed to prepare participants to enter union apprenticeship programs or seek entry-level employment.

Irvine workers who are unable to attend local apprenticeship programs can seek training from national industry associations such as the following:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc (ABC)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

Their websites have information about curricula, schedules, and fees.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Irvine, CA

Aspiring technicians who plan to attend a school are advised to make sure it is accredited. Accreditation means that the curriculum and instructors have been evaluated by an independent agency.

Two industry organizations accredit HVAC programs. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has awarded accreditation to Mount San Antonio Community College in Walnut, CA. HVAC Excellence has accredited the following programs:

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

Brownson Technical College

Brownson, a private school, offers the following programs:

  • HVAC/R technology 40-week program
  • HVAC/R technology 88-week program (part-time attendance)
  • HVAC/R technology blended online 40-week program

The master commercial/domestic refrigeration program has been taught in the past but is not currently accepting new students.

Classes are available during the day and in the evening. The college also offers some coursework in a blended format, allowing students the option of online study. Coursework for all programs is presented through classroom lectures and hands-on practice in a fully equipped shop.

The curriculum includes the following: thermodynamics, refrigeration, copper works, electrical, HVAC system components, installation and servicing, customer service, light commercial HVAC, gas heating, direct digital and other controls, heat pumps, ice machines, and building performance. Students are also prepared for industry certifications including EPA Section 608 and 410A.

  • Location: Anaheim, CA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $17,220
  • Format: On-campus and online
  • Program Length: As noted above

InterCoast Colleges

InterCoast is a private institution offering an HVAC technician certificate program. Coursework combines classroom lectures with hands-on training in the lab. Students may attend the lectures on campus, or they may opt to complete everything except the lab work online.

The curriculum includes construction math, job safety, electricity, construction drawings, motors, basics of HVAC/R, piping, heating systems, heat pumps, and air distribution and systems. Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level employment as HVAC technicians and other industry-related positions.

  • Location: West Covina, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
  • Tuition: $16,715
  • Format: On-campus and online
  • Program Length: 40 weeks

Los Angeles Trade Technical College

The college offers HVAC/R mechanics certificate and degree programs. Students may choose between day or evening tracks for their coursework; however, they may not combine the tracks due to slight variances in the curricula.

The following technical curriculum is required for all students: the fundamentals of refrigeration; HVAC/R principles; calculations and measurements; pipe and tube joining processes; electrical circuits and controls; refrigeration system components; refrigeration service; indoor air quality; compression systems of refrigeration; and the fundamentals of electricity.

Once the required technical coursework is completed, students choose additional technical coursework from the following electives: OSHA safety standards; the fundamentals of physics; HVAC project management; piping principles and practice; gas heating systems; ice storage air conditioning; mechanical codes; EPA Section 608 preparation; refrigeration system efficiency factors, and cooperative education.

The certificate program requires students to complete a total of 42 units. Students in the degree program must complete a total of 60 units, which includes 12 units of general education classes. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as residential, commercial, and industrial HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Tuition: $46 per unit
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Certificate one year; degree two years

Mount San Antonio Community College

Students at Mt. SAC may obtain a certificate or a degree in HVAC/R technology. If they consult with an academic advisor at the start of their program, students may transfer their credits to a bachelor’s degree program.

Coursework is split between classroom lectures and hands-on training in the lab. The certificate program curriculum includes technical math; welding; codes and standards; refrigeration fundamentals; electrical fundamentals; gas heating; heat load calculations and design; air properties and management; and mechanical refrigeration. Students complete 31.5 units to earn their certificate.

Degree-seeking students complete the technical curriculum, as well as general education classes in communication, critical thinking, science, art and humanities, social science, and other electives. There is a work-study option for on-the-job experience as well. Students complete a total of 60 units to earn the degree.

  • Location: Walnut, CA
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; HVAC Excellence; Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
  • Tuition: $46 per unit
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Certificate one year; degree two years

Orange Coast College

OCC offers an HVAC/R technology certificate program and HVAC/R degree program.

The curriculum for the certificate program includes HVAC/R principles, electricity, HVAC/R service, HVAC and pneumatic controls, and building automation. Students then choose an elective such as HVAC air balance, HVAC applications, or ice machine service and repair. Additionally, they must complete one of the following courses: computer use in technology or an introduction to computer information systems. Thirty units are required to earn the certificate and become qualified to seek entry-level employment as HVAC/R technicians.

Degree-seeking students complete the technical curriculum as well as general education classes for a total of 60 units to earn their degree. If they plan to transfer credits to earn a higher degree at another institution, the general education coursework will vary according to the requirements of the institution a student has chosen to attend. Students should consult with their academic advisor if seeking to continue their studies at another school.

  • Location: Costa Mesa, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior College
  • Tuition: $46 per unit
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Certificate one year; degree two years

Summit College

Summit offers HVAC/R training at three campuses, including one close to Irvine in Santa Ana. Courses are scheduled during the day and in the evening. They are presented through classroom lectures and hands-on practice in the lab. Classes include the principles of heat, energy, and pressure; electrical systems and components; brazing; commercial refrigeration and environmental systems; HVAC system design; residential and commercial HVAC/R; refrigerants; and green job training.

Students also complete an externship and are prepared to take the EPA Section 608 exam. Graduates are qualified to seek employment as entry-level commercial, industrial, and residential HVAC technicians.

  • Location: Santa Ana, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
  • Tuition: $12,845.00
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: Nine months

UEI College

UEI, a private trade school, has several campuses that offer HVAC training. The closest one to Irvine is located in West Covina. The program includes classroom lectures and hands-on practice in the following subjects: electricity, motors, and controls; refrigeration theory and application; HVAC; troubleshooting; heat pump systems; heating systems and boilers; duct design; reading blueprints; load calculation; commercial and specialized refrigeration systems; green awareness; regulations; and building automation.

Students also prepare for Section 608 and R-410 certifications. Passing the 608 test is required for graduation. Students also complete an externship. Graduates receive a diploma and are prepared to seek entry-level employment as HVAC and HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: West Covina, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Continuous Education and Training
  • Tuition: $19,900
  • Format: On-campus
  • Program Length: 36 weeks

Irvine workers who are unable to attend a local school may find that online HVAC training at an accredited online school may better meet their needs.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Irvine, CA

Technicians who handle refrigerants are required by Federal law to obtain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification. Certification is dependent on passing an exam on refrigerant safety. Four levels of certification are available based on the type and size of equipment a technician works on. Technicians who work on all equipment should take the exam for Universal certification. Practice exams are available.

Technicians may obtain Section 608 and other industry certifications, as well as additional training from industry organizations such as the following:

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

Details of availability and fees are listed on each website. There is also more information on the HVAC certifications page.

California HVAC and HVAC/R technicians who are employed are not required to obtain a state license. Self-employed technicians, however, are considered contractors, and HVAC/R contractors need a specialty license from the California Contractors State Licensing Board. C-20 licenses are for HVAC contractors, and C-38 licenses are for refrigeration contractors.

Most contractors must pass exams in business, trade, and law. Applicants who can submit proof of five years of journey-level experience with a licensed contractor may obtain an exam waiver. All applicants must submit proof of the following to obtain a license:

  • Four years of journey-level experience
  • At least $2,500 in working capital proof
  • Workers compensation insurance
  • General liability insurance
  • A bond

Payment of a fee is also required. Licenses are renewed every two years.

Finally, the City of Irvine requires all businesses operating within city limits to obtain a business license. The fee for companies with five or more employees is $70. Companies with less than five employees pay $50. The annual renewal fee for all companies is $50. Applicants must submit proof of workers compensation insurance if applicable.

As licensing guidelines are always subject to change, HVAC technicians are encouraged to ensure they comply with state, county, and city licensing agencies before working on any project.

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.