HVAC Training in Colorado

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In Colorado (CO) with its cold winters and various microclimates, there is a rich network of HVAC resources for both customers and professionals in the industry. In fact, Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC Oct. 2017) announced that the non-profit had more than $7.7 million in available funding for low-income residents to prepare their heating systems and pay for heating costs in the winter.

Additionally, for CO workers in heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC-R) there is an abundance of trade-based associations to support people in the industry. For example, the Colorado Association of Mechanical & Plumbing Contractors (CAMPC) traces its roots back to 1889 when it went by a different name; it now represents over 160 member companies which enjoy legal advocacy on important HVAC issues, business marketing tools, continuing education, and networking events. Notably, CAMPC partnered with the Colorado Safety Association to offer members discounted training. There is also the Pikes Peak Mechanical Contractors Association which offers technician training and hosts monthly meetings, energy efficiency incentive programs, community service opportunities, and more. Finally, the Mechanical Contractors Association of Colorado provides not only educational and professional networking conferences, but it also has a comprehensive list of regional and national resources for people in the industry such as the Building Jobs for Colorado Coalition, the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, the Colorado Competitive Council (C3), the Mountain States Employers Council, NAIOP Colorado, the Associated General Contractors of Colorado, the US Green Building Council of Colorado, and the Western Mechanical Labor Management Conference.

In sum, there is no shortage of supportive organizations for HVAC technicians in Colorado — but what is it that these professionals do? HVAC mechanics and technicians install, troubleshoot, or repair HVAC systems and their components (e.g., motors, filtration devices, intake & exhaust fans, ducts, ductless splits, wiring, pipes, vacuums, heat pumps, hermetic compressors, economizers, loop systems); interpret & implement blueprint plans; keep detailed records of services; make client recommendations to increase energy efficiency; calibrate systems to manufacturer recommendations; calculate heat loads & losses; and maintain appropriate licensure or permits. Some of these workers specialize in a type of equipment such as environmental & industrial setups, large-scale cooling plants, solar panels, commercial ventilation, or residential systems, to name a few; others are more generalist workers who provide a range of services across residential and commercial environments. In terms of requirements, people in HVAC typically must be able to lift at least 40 lbs and should be prepared to perform services in all kinds of weather.

In Colorado, there is expected to be an especially high demand for trained HVAC professionals in the years to come. Read on to check out the bright career outlook, salary prospects, accredited HVAC schools, and licensing requirements in this industry in CO.

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Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Colorado

Not only are there expected to be ample opportunities for HVAC professionals nationwide in the coming decade, but there is evidence that the future will be particularly bright for these workers in Colorado. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017) projects a 15 percent explosion in HVAC openings across the country between 2016 and 2026, much more robust than the 7 percent average increase anticipated for all occupations. In Colorado, the prediction is substantially higher. CareerOneStop (2017)—a data-crunching affiliate of the US Department of Labor—reported that the HVAC industry will be the third-fastest growing in Colorado among workers with some college. In more detail, CareerOneStop expected an astonishing 38 percent increase in openings between 2016 and 2026, more than double the national growth figure predicted in this industry. In short, there are especially bright prospects predicted in HVAC in CO in the years to come.

According to the BLS (2017), HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers can seek employment in a wide range of environments, particularly in high-growth cities such as Denver (which has a booming construction industry). In a state such as CO with cold winters, the demand for these skilled workers extends across residential and commercial buildings, including schools, factories, convention centers, retail shops, grocery stores, and much more. Notably, 9 percent of HVAC workers across the country were self-employed in 2016, and 64 percent were working as heating and air conditioning contractors. While some of these professionals perform services during normal business hours, HVAC workers may also be called upon to work evenings, weekends, and holidays, especially during the busy winter season. It is also worth noting that people in this occupation incur a higher-than-average rate of injury compared to other jobs in the US; this is likely because of the physical nature of the work and the types of chemicals such as refrigerants to which workers are exposed. Despite the threat of muscle strains, burns, and electrical shock, with proper safety training and prudence, these issues can generally be avoided.

As a testament to the booming HVAC industry in Colorado, Indeed (Oct. 2018) had 838 relevant job postings across the state at places such as Furnace World, Aurora Public Schools, Alpine Fireplace and Appliance, Siemens, and Pinnacle Entertainment to name a few. Furthermore, Monster (Oct. 2018) had an additional 61 postings with companies such as Emcor, ViLiving, and Precision Plumbing & Heating.

Colorado HVAC Technician Salary Data

For a profession which generally requires only one to two years of postsecondary training, HVAC mechanics and installers make a relatively generous salary, especially in Colorado. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017) reported that there were 332,900 HVAC workers nationwide with an annual average salary of $49,530; in CO, the 5,430 HVAC professionals enjoyed a mean salary of $57,070, or 15.2 percent higher than the national figure.

In more detailed terms, HVAC workers across the country had the following salary percentiles (BLS 2017):

United States (332,900 HVAC workers): $49,530 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $29,120
  • 25th percentile: $36,150
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,080
  • 75th percentile: $60,270
  • 90th percentile: $75,330

In hourly figures, these wages equated to:

United States: $22.78/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $14.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.38/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.64/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.98/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $36.22/hr.

Payscale (Oct. 2018)—a site which relies on workers’ self-reported salaries—found differing figures. Among its 879 HVAC workers who responded with annual average wage estimates, Payscale found the following national percentile figures:

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 25th percentile: $36,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,402
  • 75th percentile: $56,000
  • 90th percentile: $71,000

Another 4,809 HVAC professionals chose to report their hourly salaries instead. Among those, Payscale (Oct. 2018) found the following:

  • 10th percentile: $13.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.00/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.26/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $24.00/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $30.00/hr.

In general, BLS figures are considered more reliable due to their methods and more comprehensive sample size. Regardless of the source, HVAC workers in Colorado enjoyed higher salaries than the national figures. As proof of point, the BLS (2017) found the following:

Colorado (5,430 HVAC workers): $57,070 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $33,810
  • 25th percentile: $42,740
  • 50th percentile (median): $55,790
  • 75th percentile: $67,690
  • 90th percentile: $81,950

And in hourly terms:

Colorado: $27.44/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $16.26/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $20.55/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $26.82/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $32.54/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $39.40/hr.

Before examining the regional salaries within CO, it is important to note that despite the relatively high wages, the cost of living within the state is also higher than most of the country. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2018) reported that CO was the eighteenth most expensive state in which to live, although it did boast some savings in utilities compared to the rest of the nation; this is good news for HVAC users.

The BLS (2017) found the following numbers of HVAC workers employed, average salaries, and wage percentiles across the nine BLS-designated regions of the state for which data was available:

Boulder, CO (270 HVAC workers): $53,410 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $36,200
  • 25th percentile: $42,990
  • 50th percentile (median): $51,970
  • 75th percentile: $62,530
  • 90th percentile: $74,720

Colorado Springs, CO (490 employed): $49,740 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $33,440
  • 25th percentile: $40,840
  • 50th percentile (median): $51,470
  • 75th percentile: $59,270
  • 90th percentile: $63,690

Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO (3,540 employed): $60,000 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $35,000
  • 25th percentile: $44,420
  • 50th percentile (median): $57,940
  • 75th percentile: $71,580
  • 90th percentile: $87,080

Eastern and Southern Colorado Nonmetropolitan Area (number of employed unavailable): $53,020 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $43,170
  • 25th percentile: $47,260
  • 50th percentile (median): $53,110
  • 75th percentile: $60,010
  • 90th percentile: $63,250

Fort Collins, CO (240 employed): $54,460 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $31,340
  • 25th percentile: $41,390
  • 50th percentile (median): $53,990
  • 75th percentile: $64,610
  • 90th percentile: $79,740

Greeley, CO (190 employed): $57,050 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $36,130
  • 25th percentile: $43,130
  • 50th percentile (median): $51,930
  • 75th percentile: $70,300
  • 90th percentile: $88,020

Northwest Colorado Nonmetropolitan Area (270 employed): $59,440 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $41,120
  • 25th percentile: $46,910
  • 50th percentile (median): $60,770
  • 75th percentile: $72,960
  • 90th percentile: $79,270

Pueblo, CO (50 employed): $48,280 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $32,180
  • 25th percentile: $41,670
  • 50th percentile (median): $48,530
  • 75th percentile: $56,880
  • 90th percentile: $62,820

Southwest Colorado Nonmetropolitan Area (number of employed unavailable): $56,530 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $32,650
  • 25th percentile: $39,610
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,680
  • 75th percentile: $54,590
  • 90th percentile: $61,680

Finally, for those who prefer the above salaries in hourly terms, here are the averages and percentiles among the ten BLS-designated regions of Colorado:

Boulder, CO (270 HVAC workers): $25.68/hour average

  • 10th percentile: $17.41/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $20.67/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $24.98/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $30.06/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $35.92/hr.

Colorado Springs, CO (490 employed): $23.91/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $16.08/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $19.63/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $24.75/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.49/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $30.62/hr.

Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO (3,540 employed): $28.85/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $16.83/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $21.35/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $27.85/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $34.42/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $41.87/hr.

Eastern and Southern Colorado Nonmetropolitan Area (number of employed unavailable): $25.49/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $20.75/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $22.72/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $25.53/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.85/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $30.54/hr.

Fort Collins, CO (240 employed): $26.18/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $15.07/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $19.90/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $25.96/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $31.06/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $38.34/hr.

Greeley, CO (190 employed): $27.43/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $17.37/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $20.74/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $24.97/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $33.80/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $42.32/hr.

Northwest Colorado Nonmetropolitan Area (270 employed): $28.58/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $19.77/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $22.55/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $29.22/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $35.08/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $38.11/hr.

Pueblo, CO (50 employed): $23.21/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $15.47/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $20.03/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $23.33/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $27.35/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $30.20/hr.

Southwest Colorado Nonmetropolitan Area (number of employed unavailable): $22.37/hour avg.

  • 10th percentile: $15.70/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $19.04/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.44/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $26.24/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $29.65/hr.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Colorado

For aspiring HVAC technicians in Colorado, there is an array of quality training programs available. While some of these skilled professionals seek out an apprenticeship to learn the hands-on techniques of the trade, others enroll in diploma, certificate, or degree programs in HVAC technology.

There are currently two main entities which accredit programs and institutions offering HVAC training: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). To learn about how programs are approved, please reference the HVAC programs’ accreditation section.

As of October 2018, there are two HVAC Excellence-accredited schools in Colorado.

IntelliTec Colleges has a campus in Colorado Springs that offers programs to prepare students for entry-level employment as an HVAC technician. With a strong focus on refrigeration, students in the program have the opportunity to complete an 18-month associate of occupational studies (AOS) degree with advanced training to pass professional certification exams including the EPA Section 608. Classes include the installation and operation of electrical controls; refrigerant recovery & evacuation; HVAC troubleshooting; combustion analysis; domestic air conditioning operation, maintenance & repair; and blueprint reading. As of 2018, the refrigeration & HVAC tech program at IntelliTec costs $32,117 total (including uniforms, books, and tools).

Pikes Peak Community College, also in Colorado Springs, offers the second HVAC Execllence-accredited program in Colorado. This associate of applied science (AAS) degree includes instruction in the fundamentals of gas heating; career math; residential air conditioning; mechanical code; interpersonal communication; psychology of workplace relationships; basic refrigeration; and piping skills for HVAC. In addition to the AAS program, PPCC also has several certificate programs in areas such as direct digital controls, industry upgrades, and residential HVAC services. For in-state tuition, PPCC’s programs cost $144.55 per credit hour, and for out-of-state students, the cost is $593.10.

Front Range Community College has campuses around Colorado, but its Loveland campus offers the state’s only PAHRA accredited HVAC program. Front Range has several programs, including a 60-credit AAS in HVAC with coursework in basic electricity; commercial refrigeration; electrical components for air conditioning & refrigeration; heating for commercial appliances; international residential codes (mechanical & fuel gas); and hot water heating systems. Additionally, FRCC offers certificate programs in residential AC & heating, light commercial AC & heating, commercial refrigeration, and HVAC/R fundamentals. Excluding fees, FRCC’s programs cost residents $233.90 per credit hour for on-campus coursework and $348.20 for online classes (many general education courses are offered online). For non-residents, these fees swell to $610.90 and $401.25 per credit, respectively.

Finally, Red Rocks Community College of Lakewood provides both degree (AAS) and certificate programs in HVAC. Its AAS degree programs include specializations in air conditioning; heating; refrigeration; air conditioning, heating & refrigeration; and hydronic heating. RRCC’s certificate programs include air conditioning; refrigeration (level I or II); HVAC fundamentals; forced-air heating; hydronic heating; HVAC energy efficiency; and HVAC controls technology, among others. Prices vary between programs.

For students who live in rural regions in CO or are otherwise unable to attend an on-campus program, there are various distance-based training schools available. To survey the options, please check out the online HVAC programs page.

Colorado HVAC Licensing

In addition to pursuing a training program or apprenticeship, HVAC professionals in Colorado must ensure that they have all necessary credentialing prior to beginning work. For all people who work with refrigerants, there is one mandatory national credential – the EPA Section 608 certification – with four subtypes: type 1 (small appliance), type 2 (high-pressure appliances), type 3 (low-pressure appliances), and type 4 (universal). Most accredited HVAC programs will include EPA 608 certification as part of their training, but to learn about the array of training available to get this certification, check out the EPA Section 608 programs page.

There are other national certifications which typically connote that an HVAC worker has mastered a particular skill or set of skills. The agencies which bestow these national certifications include North American Technician Excellence (e.g., Industry Competency Exams or ICE); HVAC Excellence (e.g., Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology Plus); and the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (e.g., entry-level Certified Assistant Refrigeration Operator). To learn in-depth about the variety of HVAC credentials, check out the main HVAC certification page.

While the Colorado’s Division of Professions & Occupations does not regulate HVAC licensure, local laws governing HVAC work within regions of the state vary. For example, the City of Boulder requires mechanical contractors to become licensed. To qualify, candidates must complete an application; provide proof of International Code Council (ICC) certification; show a copy of one’s insurance; and pay a licensing fee. These licenses are valid for one year.

In Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department regulates HVAC workers, with separate licensing available for commercial and residential HVAC contractors. These licenses can be renewed annually following the completion of six hours of continuing education.

Above all, since local laws vary, aspiring HVAC professionals in Colorado are advised to reach out to their city administrators to determine all necessary credentialing prior to beginning work.