HVAC Schools & Certification in San Fernando Valley, CA

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The San Fernando Valley is a unique urban area in Southern California, home to the cities of Burbank, Calabasas, Glendale, Hidden Hills, San Fernando, and parts of Los Angeles. Several unincorporated communities are also located in the Valley of the Stars, such as Universal City, the surrounding area of the film studio Universal Pictures.

The economy is diverse. Of course, the most pronounced industries are Hollywood and the film, music, and entertainment; however, the aerospace industry is also booming in the San Fernando Valley, and many other secondary ecosystems such as restoration, healthcare, and technology, round out the growing industries. Since these businesses require climate control for people and products, this industrial growth is one factor driving the rising demand for heating, venting, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) professionals.

The weather is another factor. The San Fernando Valley has desert-like conditions, with hot and dry summers and colder winters. The hottest summer months come later in the year, around September and October, with temperatures occasionally exceeding the mid-nineties Fahrenheit. Winter averages are well above freezing, usually hovering around the low forties.

HVAC/R services are an essential part of the Valley. Tourism increases the need for HVAC/R in restaurants, lodging, and entertainment venues. New construction demands the installation of equipment. The California Energy Commission has a plan for energy efficiency financing in public institutions, such as schools and hospitals around the state, which will require updating older systems.

Overall, the HVAC industry is thriving and so too is the availability of support for skilled professionals in this field, including the Los Angeles/Ventura Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors, the California Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors Association in Burbank, and the Institute of Heating and Air Conditioning Industries in Glendale. These organizations work with state and local agencies to solve industry issues and encourage investments that generate opportunities for contractors.

Read on to discover the career outlook for HVAC workers in the San Fernando Valley, as well as the accredited training programs in the area and how to become credentialed.

Occupational Demand for HVAC/R Technicians in San Fernando Valley

Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians is growing nationwide. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021), jobs for technicians are expected to increase by 4 percent between 2019 and 2029, which is as fast as the anticipated growth expected for all occupations in the country (4 percent). On top of that, demand in California is higher than the national average. Projections Central (2021) predicted a 12.5 percent statewide increase in HVAC job openings for the decade ending in 2028.

Several factors contribute to the growth of the HVAC and HVAC/R industry. The primary factor is the increasing sophistication of climate control systems and the need to replace, retrofit, or upgrade older systems. A second consideration is the contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution despite the increasing demand for critical levels of humidity and temperature across industries, such as internet technology and telecommunications. Finally, with the construction of new buildings and residences comes a demand for the installation of HVAC/R systems.

HVAC technicians in San Fernando Valley require training to install, maintain, and service the sophisticated climate-control equipment and systems in modern buildings. Technicians are expected to be knowledgeable about computerized systems and electronics.

Technicians 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.

Also, a brief survey of popular job posting websites further demonstrates the wealth of opportunities in this field. For example, Indeed (June 2021) yielded 386 potential openings in San Fernando Valley for HVAC professionals with companies such as Otis College of Art and Design, AvalonBay Communities, JLL, Warner Bros. Entertainment Group, McDonald’s, and The Aerospace Corporation.

HVAC and HVAC/R Salaries in San Fernando Valley, CA

The BLS (May 2020) reports that nationally, HVAC mechanics and installers receive a median annual salary of $50,590. Specific statistics for the San Fernando Valley are not available; however, technicians in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metropolitan Division are paid a median salary of $61,300. Below are the annual salary comparisons as calculated by the BLS (May 2020):

United States California Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA, Metropolitan Division
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 344,020 32,410 10,780
Average mean wage $53,410 $63,560 $65,130
10th Percentile $31,910 $35,450 $35,860
25th Percentile $39,320 $45,940 $48,210
50th Percentile (Median) $50,590 $59,800 $61,300
75th Percentile $64,350 $77,890 $81,350
90th Percentile $80,820 $100,120 $102,120

The BLS (May 2020) reported that there were 32,410 HVAC mechanics and installers across California, the second-most among all US states.

According to another source of data, the national figures were slightly different, Payscale (June 2021), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $32,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $48,908
  • 90th percentile: $77,000

As with any salary projections, taking into account the cost of living is also important. As such, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2021) found that California was the fourth most expensive state, coming in behind only New York, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii. For HVAC technicians, this means relatively high salaries may still not go as far as lower salaries in other states, so that is something to keep in mind.

HVAC and HVAC/R Apprenticeships in San Fernando Valley

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians can begin their careers as helpers and learn the trade on the job, but many workers now attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Coursework and apprenticeships can open up more employment opportunities.

The State of California Department of Industrial Relations maintains a database of apprenticeship programs. As of June 2021, six programs are available in Los Angeles County; however, not all programs are accepting apprentices at all times.

Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Fitters Local 250, located in Los Angeles, sponsors joint journeyman HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs. Apprentices attend evening classes twice a week for a total of 216 hours per year for five years. During the five years, they also complete 8,000 hours of on-the-job training. Graduates are qualified to receive their journeyman certificates.

Accredited HVAC and HVAC/R Schools in San Fernando Valley

When choosing a school, it is essential to determine if it is accredited and by which organization. Accreditation is a process in which an independent agency evaluates the quality of the program, which includes both the curriculum and the instructors.

Two organizations evaluate and certify HVAC programs. HVAC Excellence has accredited five California schools, including three within an hour’s drive from San Fernando Valley. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has accredited one California school, which also has the HVAC Excellence accreditation. The schools are included in the following profiles.

Brownson Technical School

Brownson offers two HVAC and HVAC/R technology tracks. Both feature “blended” curricula. Hands-on training in a fully-equipped lab and some coursework are completed on-campus. The remaining coursework is taught online. One track is designed to teach core skills to those new to the trade. The other is for students already working as technicians who wish to obtain further training and certification.

Graduates receive an undergraduate certificate and are prepared to take industry competence tests. They are prepared to work as technicians on residential, commercial, and industrial installations.

Comprising 40 credits each, these programs include courses such as basic thermodynamics, refrigeration, and copper works, commercial refrigeration, electrical, residential & light commercial air conditioning and gas heat, direct digital controls, controls, heat pumps, and ice machines, and building performance.

  • Location: Anaheim, CA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Format: On-campus and online
  • Expected Time to Completion: Day and blended programs (40 weeks); evening program (88 weeks)
  • Estimated Tuition: $17,220

Cypress College

This school offers several HVAC and HVAC certificates as well as a degree program. Students may take some coursework online. The resource center has computers for use in online studies for students without computers or internet access at home. Students complete 12 to 40 credits, depending on the certificate chosen.

Certificate programs include air conditioning and refrigeration, air conditioning and refrigeration project management, air conditioning codes and estimating, air conditioning customer service, commercial air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, heat pump, and HVAC building commissioning, among others.

Students may complete advanced work to earn their associate degree. The degree requires the completion of the air conditioning and refrigeration certificate program and additional general education for a minimum of 67 credits for graduation. All coursework is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on training. Students also complete several special projects.

Coursework includes the principles of thermodynamics and heat transfer, air conditioning, piping practice, tools and safety, blueprints and dimension analysis, refrigeration certification training, technician customer relations, electricity for air conditioning and refrigeration, gas heat transfer systems, sustainability design and application, commercial refrigeration, introduction to air conditioning controls, and commercial air conditioning. As students advance, they learn about refrigeration technology, absorption systems, chillers & cooling towers, air handlers, energy management, and direct digital controls.

  • Location: Cypress, CA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Format: On-campus and online
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (one to four semesters); degree (two years)
  • Estimated Tuition: Residents ($46 per credit); non-residents of the state of California ($285 per credit)

Los Angeles Trade Technical College

LATTC offers a certificate and an associate degree in heating, ventilating, air conditioning (HVAC) & refrigeration. Students may meet the requirements of either program by attending day classes or evening classes. Some coursework is available online. The certificate program requires the completion of 48 credits, while the associate program requires at least 60 credits.

Students in both programs complete coursework covering the fundamentals, principles, and mechanics of air conditioning and refrigeration; trade math; pipe and tube joining; electrical circuits and controls; refrigeration service; refrigerants; gas heating; and indoor air quality. Electives include contractor’s license law, project management, HVAC/R mechanical codes, refrigeration efficiency, gas heating, and industry exam preparation.

Students wishing to earn an associate degree must complete additional courses in general education electives. Graduates are prepared to seek employment as residential, commercial, and industrial technicians.

Graduates will be able to repair and maintain HVAC/R systems, analyze the proper operation of HVAC/R systems, certify the proper and efficient operation of HVAC/R systems, and use appropriate test instruments and tools effectively and safely.

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior College, Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Format: On-campus and online
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (12 to 18 months); degree (two years)
  • Estimated Tuition: Residents ($46 per unit); Non residents ($289 per unit)

Mt. San Antonio College

Mt. San Antonio offers air conditioning and refrigeration technology certificates and degree programs. Classes are available days and evenings and are designed to prepare students for employment within one year. Some coursework may be completed online. Combining hands-on experience with classroom knowledge, these programs provide students with the knowledge and skill about HVAC systems, including troubleshooting components, properly disposing of refrigerants, and performing residential heat loads.

Students enrolled in the certificate program complete 31.5 credits of coursework in technical math, welding, codes and standards, fundamentals of refrigeration and electricity, gas heating, heat load calculations & design, the properties and measurement of air, commercial electrical for HVAc/R, and commercial systems. Students seeking a degree can complete the same coursework, as well as general education electives. The associate of science (AS) degree is made up of 61.5 credits.

Students in both programs spend time in labs learning how to read schematic drawings and circuits, operate equipment, and use computer software to design duct systems, perform load calculations, and building automation mockups.

  • Location: Walnut, CA
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence, PAHRA, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Format: On-campus and online Schools
  • Expected Time to Completion: Certificate (one year); Degree (two years)
  • Estimated Tuition: Residents ($46 per credit); Non-residents ($334 per credit)

Newport International United Corporation

NIU college offers an advanced HVAC technology program providing students with working knowledge about the cooling and heating cycles and the fundamental principles of electrical systems and controls associated with HVAC systems. Graduates will earn several certifications such as the EPA section 608 certificate, R-410 A safety certificate, HVAC Excellence air-Conditioning and heat pump certification, and OSHA 10 hour certificate.

This 220-hour program includes courses such as basic safety, introduction to the HVAC trade, copper and plastic piping practices, soldering and brazing, ferrous metal piping, basic electricity, introduction to cooling & heating, and air distribution systems, among others.

Upon successful completion, students will be prepared in installing, repairing, cleaning, and maintaining HVAC systems, inspecting and testing HVAC systems and components, installing electrical components and wiring, repairing or replacing defective parts, and keeping records of work performed.

  • Location: Woodland Hills, CA
  • Accreditation: N/A; approved by the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education
  • Format: On-campus
  • Expected Time to Completion: 11 weeks
  • Estimated Tuition: $12,999.50

HVAC and HVAC/R Certification and Licensing in San Fernando Valley

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain EPA Section 608 Certification, which includes passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. The four types of certifications are based on the systems on which technicians work:

  • For servicing small appliances (Type I)
  • For servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and motor vehicle ACs (Type II)
  • For servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances (Type III)
  • For servicing all types of equipment (Universal)

Practice exams are available online.

Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations, which also offer Section 608 testing and certification. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES): Their mission is to provide opportunities for enhanced technical competence by offering comprehensive, cutting-edge education and certification to the HVAC/R industry.
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE): Their certification tests represent real-world working knowledge of HVAC/R systems.
  • HVAC Excellence: Their exams and certifications are intended to validate that an individual has retained knowledge in a specific area of the HVAC/R industry.

For more details on these national credentials, check out the HVAC certification guide.

The California Contractors State Licensing Board requires HVAC contractors to be licensed for all projects that exceed $500. A self-employed technician is considered a contractor and must have a contractor’s license. Applicants must submit proof of four years of journey-level experience, submit proof of a minimum of $2,500 in working capital, file a $10,000 bond and proof of workers compensation insurance, pass exams in trade and law and business, and pay the required fees. Applicants must also disclose details of criminal convictions and be fingerprinted.

As a final note, municipal credentialing and permit procedures vary by area. For example, the City of Burbank requires a business license for all businesses, including those operated from a home office. Contractors from out of the city must also obtain a business license for city projects. The City of Los Angeles requires all contractors and subcontractors to obtain a business tax registration certificate as well as a business license.

To remain in compliance with local legislation, all aspiring HVAC professionals are encouraged to contact their local government offices.

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.