HVAC Schools in Sacramento, CA

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During the summer, Sacramento, California is ranked as one of the sunniest locations in the United States, with July boasting more than 14 hours of sunshine a day. Summers are hot, and winters are wet and often foggy. Sacramento is the sixth largest city in California and the fastest growing city in the state. With varied temperatures ranging from the the 30s to 90s F coupled with the expanding population, Sacramento residents have a growing demand for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals to remain comfortable.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2016), there were 2,030 HVAC installation, mechanical, and maintenance workers employed in the Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade area, and California’s capital is home to two trade associations that serve the HVAC industry:

  • The Air Conditioning Trade Association (ACTA): Members are non-union HVAC, mechanical, and service contractors
  • The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA): Members are union HVAC contractors in Sacramento and surrounding areas

Notably, the following nationwide organizations also provide training and support to HVAC and refrigeration (HVAC/R) technicians:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)

These and other associations and societies have chapters throughout California as well as online services.

So what do these professionals do within Sacramento? HVAC and HVAC/R workers install, maintain, and service equipment that controls air quality and temperature. They work in private residences, offices, institutions, and hospitals. Technicians must be able to follow blueprints and design specifications. They may be responsible for verifying that installations are in compliance with state and federal regulations. Technicians must understand the wiring and controls that each kind of equipment takes, and be able to test and calibrate those controls. Another part of their work involves connecting equipment to air ducts, electrical, piping lines, and other components. They inspect and service installed systems, which can include troubleshooting to locate and repair defective parts. The work of HVAC and HVAC/R technicians requires knowing how to use a variety of hand and specialized tools. They solder or braze parts when needed. Technicians travel to job sites and maintain detailed records of all work performed. Each technician is responsible for keeping all their certifications and licensing current.

This guide covers HVAC training schools in Sacramento, including the expected salaries, industry growth, and how to get certified.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Workers in Sacramento, CA

The demand for HVAC technicians nationwide continues to grow. According to the BLS (May 2016), the number of technicians openings in the U.S. 2016-2026 is expected to grow 15 percent. That’s much faster growth than the average over that same decade for all occupations. And California is experiencing even faster growth in this industry. In fact, Projections Central (2017) predicted a 31.8 percent statewide increase in positions during the decade ending in 2024.

Although a projection for Sacramento isn’t separated from state projections, as noted above, the city and its environs are the fastest growing areas in the state of California. According to the Forbes 2017 rankings for “Best Places for Doing Business and Careers,” the major industries in the Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA metropolitan area are: government (Sacramento is the capital of California and the county seat of Sacramento County), healthcare, and technology. Notably, all three of these industries depend on climate-controlled buildings.

HVAC and HVAC/R growth in Sacramento, CA is fueled by several factors, including:

  • Construction of new commercial buildings and residences
  • Increased demand for climate control
  • Increased complexity of new climate control systems
  • Requirements that older systems be replaced, retrofitted, or repaired
  • Contemporary focus on improving energy efficiency and reducing pollution

The BLS (May 2016) reported that most HVAC technicians are employed by construction companies, and nine percent are self-employed. Others work for schools and retail or wholesale companies. Technicians usually work full time, although many put in overtime hours during peak demand.

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians work indoors and outdoors in bad weather. Indoor work can be uncomfortably hot or cold when systems fail. They may also have to work in cramped areas that force them into awkward positions. It’s worth noting that technicians experience a higher rate of injury than workers in other trades. Injuries can include electrical shocks, burns, or muscle strains from moving heavy equipment. Workers are also exposed to toxic chemicals.

There’s perhaps no better way to demonstrate the thriving HVAC industry in an area than through a common job search online. The 373 job listings on Indeed (December 2017) were primarily for technicians experienced with installing and repairing residential HVAC systems. An exception is Aerojet Rocketdyne, which wanted someone to adjust and monitor HVAC systems. Another company was offering $30.00 an hour for someone with at least one year of HVAC installation experience. The 288 listings on Monster (December 2017) included a need for an HVAC service manager. Another company wanted a field engineer experienced in installing and repairing commercial kitchen refrigeration equipment. Two companies were looking for Chiller Technicians. In short, the HVAC industry is especially robust in Sacramento.

HVAC Worker Salary in Sacramento, CA

The BLS (May 2016) reported that HVAC/R mechanics and installers nationally received a median annual salary of $45,910. Interestingly, Sacramento-based technicians received a slightly lower median salary of $41,560.

For comparison, the BLS (May 2016) reported the following annual salaries and percentiles for the United States, California, and Sacramento:

United States: (294,730 HVAC workers): $48,320 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $28,440
  • 25th percentile: $35,440
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,910
  • 75th percentile: $58,960
  • 90th percentile: $73,350

U.S.: $23.23 average hourly salary

  • 10th percentile: $13.67/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.04/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.07/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.35/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $35.26/hr.

California: (25,360 HVAC workers): $54,750 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $30,790
  • 25th percentile: $38,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $51,500
  • 75th percentile: $67,320
  • 90th percentile: $87,940

CA: $26.32 average hourly salary

  • 10th percentile: $14.80/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $18.27/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $24.76/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $32.37/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $42.28/hr.

Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade Metropolitan Area (2,030 HVAC workers): $47,820 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $30,220
  • 25th percentile: $34,330
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,560
  • 75th percentile: $61,150
  • 90th percentile: $75,490

Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade Metropolitan Area: $22.99 average hourly salary

  • 10th percentile: $14.53/hr
  • 25th percentile: $16.51/hr
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.98/hr
  • 75th percentile: $29.40/hr
  • 90th percentile: $36.29/hr

Accredited HVAC Schools in Sacramento, CA

Although individuals may eventually work their way up to being HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers without formal training, those who complete an apprenticeship program or attend an accredited school generally can start with higher wages and may earn more throughout their career.

Accreditation consists of an evaluation of the school by an independent agency or organization. The school must meet standards that ensure students obtain an education taught by qualified instructors.

The following organizations provide recognized program accreditation: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). There is a wealth of accredited programs within other regions of CA, including the PAHRA-accredited Mount San Antonio Community College of Walnut, CA and the following HVAC-Excellence recognized programs:

These schools all have websites detailing their programs. While there aren’t any PAHRA- or HVAC Excellence-accredited programs within Sacramento, the Sacramento-Sierra’s Building & Construction Trades Council sponsors the Sheet Metal Worker/HVAC Mechanic Apprenticeship Program. Applicants must be:

  • At least 18 years old (proof of age required)
  • Able to perform physical tasks and activities
  • A high-school graduate or have GED equivalent
  • Able to pass a drug-screen test
  • Able to provide a DMV printout of driving record
  • Able to pass a written entrance exam that includes math

The program is held at The Northern California Valley Sheet Metal, Heating and Air Conditioning Training Center in Mather, CA.

After meeting the requirements to enter the program, applicants seek employment with a company from a list of participating businesses. Workers are qualified as pre-apprentice employees until their employer sponsors their entrance into the apprenticeship program. They must also receive acceptance from the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC) before entering the program. The apprenticeship program lasts 60 months. Apprentices learn the following through coursework and hands-on-training:

  • Safety
  • Welding and soldering
  • Use of tools and equipment
  • Green construction practices
  • Pattern development and drafting
  • Plans and specifications
  • Codes and Standards, including the California Mechanical Code
  • LEED, Title 24, and SMACNA standards
  • Testing, balancing, servicing, and repair
  • Energy costs and efficient HVAC systems
  • Principles of airflow and efficient duct design
  • Fasteners and hangars that meet seismic requirements
  • Fabrication and installation methods

More information, including videos, is available on their website. Fees are not disclosed.

The Air Conditioning Trade Association offers apprenticeship programs and other classes online. Graduates receive a certificate of completion. Those who finish 6,500 work hours and pass the journey-level exam will receive the journey-level card, enabling them to work at the higher-paying journey-level jobs. The website includes information on requirements and course work. Fees are not disclosed.

The Charles A. Jones Career & Education Center, operated by the Sacramento City Unified School District, also offers an HVAC training program. The program includes 990 hours during a 33-week program. The classes are accredited by the Commission of the Council on Occupational Education. Students participate in coursework and hands-on demonstrations of skills. They learn how to install and repair HVAC equipment in large and small systems. They are taught how to handle refrigerants safely. Graduates receive a certificate of completion and skills sheet as a “Heating/Air Conditioning Installer and Service Technician.” The 2017 tuition was $7,710.00. The estimated cost of books and materials was $1,206.00, making the total cost of the program $8,916.00.

Students also can receive hands-on training in HVAC and green technology at the Sacramento Center for Employment Training. Program courses include:

  • HVAC safety and tools
  • HVAC mathematics
  • Principles of electricity
  • Refrigeration and recovery
  • Heating equipment
  • Pipe Fitting, brazing, and soldering
  • Duct work
  • Green HVAC technology
  • Basic computers
  • Customer service

The program takes 900 hours, which the average student can complete in eight or nine months.

Students are charged an estimated total of $12,182 for tuition, books, supplies, and tools. The program is accredited by the Council of Occupational Education.

Finally, Sacramento City College offers certificate of achievement and associate of science (A.S.) degree programs for HVAC. The programs are part of the engineering design technology program. The certificate class teaches students how to prepare HVAC mechanical designs for buildings. It requires 24 units of coursework. The HVAC systems design degree program requires 60 units to be completed within two years. Students continue to learn how to draft HVAC system designs using computer-aided design (CAD) technology. Tuition in 2018 is set at $46.00 per unit. Books and supplies are extra. Notably, Sacramento City College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Sacramento, CA

All technicians who work with refrigerants are required by federal law to obtain the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 Certification. Certification requires passing exams on the safe handling of refrigerants. Four levels of certification are available that apply to the size and type of equipment. The Universal certification allows technicians to work on all equipment. Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations. These include:

  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) – courses are taught by certified instructors and are available online. Technicians can study basic and advanced HVAC and HVAC/R principles.
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE) – training and certification in HVAC and HVAC/R knowledge areas.
  • HVAC Excellence – dedicated to improving HVAC technician competence through training and certification.

These and others offer Section 608 testing and certification.

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians who are employed in California are not required to be licensed, but self-employed technicians and contractors who provide services exceeding $500 must be licensed by the State Contractors License Board. The HVAC trades are classified as a Class “C” Specialty Contractor’s License and given a designation of C20 – Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Contractor.

To qualify, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Complete a C-20 license application and pay licensure/examination fees
  • Have at least four years of qualifying experience
  • Provide proof of having at least $2,500
  • File a $10,000 bond with the registrar
  • Pass two exams (business & law and HVAC)

As a final note, depending on the scope of the HVAC work involved, residents of Sacramento and the surrounding areas may be required to get permits from the Community Development Division of the City. It’s strongly recommended that all HVAC professionals ensure they have all necessary credentialing prior to beginning work.