HVAC Schools in Port St. Lucie, Florida (FL)

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Although the region surrounding Port St. Lucie, FL, has been settled since the 1500s, the city itself wasn’t established until the 1960s. The name dates back to the first nearby settlement, founded on St. Lucia’s Day. From a tiny population at its incorporation, the city has never stopped growing. More than 200,000 people call it home, and it’s part of the burgeoning Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Port St. Lucie Combined Statistical Area.

Additionally, the city and the county of St. Lucie joined Martin County to form the Port St. Lucie Metropolitan area to support the expanding economy. Recent reports indicate that communities within St. Lucie County are experiencing growth not seen “anywhere else,” especially with the development of “commerce parks under development now,” and the “future looks bright. Very few communities have investors committing to the future as they are doing with these parks, and in a first-class way.” FedEx and Amazon are among the companies either locating to Port St. Lucie or expanding existing facilities.

Industries contributing to the diversified economy include agriculture, construction, healthcare, and retail trade. The city is home to a planetarium, the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Hall of Fame, other PGA-related attractions, and museums—all supporting the hospitality industry.

The region’s tropical climate hasn’t slowed the growth of Port St. Lucie. The months from April through November experience highs averaging in the 80s F, increasing to the 90s from June through September. Record-setting years can climb higher, exceeding 100 on occasion. Rain falls every month, with September receiving nearly eight inches and the other summer months receiving five to six inches each. The annual total rainfall exceeds 53 inches. Wintertime highs hover in the low to mid-50s. The lows dip below freezing only in record-setting years. Although rain continues all winter, snow is unknown.

The hot and often muggy weather has created a need for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) to keep residents comfortable in their homes and workplaces. Refrigeration (HVAC/R) is often added to the climate control systems serving educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and retail outlets. The hospitality industry and entertainment venues also need HVAC/R to keep visitors comfortable. Climate control is essential to preserve items in museums, galleries, and displays of historical objects. Businesses that depend on high-tech often need specialized equipment and systems to keep their electronics operating correctly.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2021) reports that 490 HVAC and HVAC/R technicians were employed in Port St. Lucie. They, and their employers, receive resources and support from local, state, and national industry associations that include, among others:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Air Conditioning Trade Association (ACTA)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCCA)
  • UA Local Union 630 Plumbers, Pipefitters, & HVAC

These organizations work with others in the industry and regulatory agencies to establish and maintain educational and licensing standards. They serve all aspects of the HVAC and refrigeration industries, including performance and the safety of technicians, the public, and the environment.

Occupational Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R Technicians in Port St. Lucie, FL

The BLS (2022) expects an increase of 5 percent in the nationwide demand for trained HVAC and HVAC/R technicians from 2021 to 2031. That equals an average of 38,500 new job openings each year.

The construction of new commercial and residential structures accounts for most of the growth of the HVAC industry. The renovation and remodeling of existing buildings also contribute to industry growth. Obsolete equipment and systems in aging buildings must be repaired, replaced, or updated to meet efficiency, regulatory, and safety requirements. Sometimes, technicians must replace systems in newer buildings due to technological advances or the demands of new industries. Lastly, the contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and pollution reduction is another significant factor in industry growth.

Homeowners and businesses, new and old, want buildings to incorporate high-tech. They expect “smart” buildings with sophisticated climate-control systems. Technicians working with those systems must be skilled troubleshooters, proficient with computers, and understand electronics and high-tech. Their training and expertise provide the best job opportunities.

HVAC technicians specializing in new construction can face reduced opportunities if development declines. That doesn’t seem likely in the foreseeable future in Port St. Lucie due to the continuing efforts to bring in new businesses and Florida tax benefits available for constructing new facilities. The city’s economy continues to diversify and is expected to remain strong.

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 Port St. Lucie, FL

The BLS (May 2021) reports that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a yearly median salary of $48,630. They further note that technicians in Port St. Lucie earned an annual median salary of $46,230. The wage difference is greater than it appears, as the cost of living in Florida is slightly higher than in other American states.

National, Florida, and Port St. Lucie earnings of HVAC professionals, as per the BLS (May 2021), are as follows:

United States Florida Port St. Lucie, FL
Number of HVAC professionals employed 356,960 30,480 490
Average annual salary $54,690 $46,850 $45,140
10th percentile $34,320 $29,740 $29,940
25th percentile $38,450 $37,360 $36,920
50th percentile $48,630 $46,940 $46,230
75th percentile $62,000 $57,110 $49,100
90th percentile $78,210 $62,250 $61,300

HVAC Apprenticeships in Port St. Lucie, FL

Trained workers must install, maintain, or service the complex climate-control equipment and systems currently in use. Seeking employment as a helper and learning through on-the-job training is rarely an option now. Most aspiring technicians currently attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Obtaining formal training creates more employment opportunities for most workers.

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.

Florida’s registered apprenticeship program is administered by the state’s Department of Education. They provide information and resources for apprentices and employers. UA Local 630 offers a five-year HVAC apprenticeship at several training centers, one serving Port St. Lucie.

Apprentices complete 216 hours of classroom work and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training annually. Graduates are awarded journey-level status. Indian River State College and Palm Beach State College offer HVAC apprenticeship programs. Details are available on their websites.

Workers can also attend HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs from industry associations such as the following:

  • 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 Port St. Lucie, FL

Aspiring apprentices who prefer to attend a school should select an accredited institution. Accreditation is how the school’s program, including the curriculum and instructors, has been evaluated for quality. HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) accredit HVAC programs.

HVAC Excellence has accredited the following Florida schools:

  • Lively Technical College, Tallahassee, FL
  • Palm Beach State College, Lake Worth, FL
  • Suncoast Technical College, Sarasota, FL
  • Suncoast Technical Education Center, Brooksville, FL
  • Traviss Technical Center, Lakeland, FL
  • Withlacoochee Technical College, Inverness, FL

PAHRA has accredited the Osceola Technical College, Kissimmee, FL.

The profiles below include Palm Beach State College and Osceola Technical College.

Florida Career College

FCC has campuses throughout Florida. The closest to Port St. Lucie are in Boynton Beach and West Palm Beach. Students may earn a diploma as an HVAC technician at both campuses. Courses are taught on campus and online.

The curriculum includes basic electricity, motors, controls, basic refrigeration theory and application, air conditioning, troubleshooting, heat pump systems, heating systems, boilers, duct design, blueprint reading, load calculation, commercial refrigeration systems, specialized commercial equipment, green awareness, regulation, building automation, and electrical and mechanical troubleshooting. The coursework is divided between classroom lectures and hands-on practice in the lab. Students are prepared to take the EPA Section 608 and the Universal R410A certification exams. Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level positions as technicians.

  • Location: Boynton Beach, FL; West Palm Beach, FL
  • Accreditation: Council on Occupational Education
  • Tuition: $21,500
  • Program length: Ten months

Fortis Institute

Fortis, a privately owned school, offers its HVAC/R diploma program in several cities, including Port St. Lucie. Students learn through classroom lectures and hands-on practice in the lab.

The curriculum includes thermodynamics, electricity, HVAC/R controls, motors and motor controls, refrigerant, residential air conditioning, commercial air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, industrial refrigeration, electric heat, heat pumps, gas heat, regional systems, HVAC system performance, water-based heating, HVAC troubleshooting, service calls, and EPA certification preparation. Graduates are qualified for entry-level employment as technicians in a variety of positions.

  • Location: Port St. Lucie, FL
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools; Licensed by Florida Department of Education Commission for Independent Education
  • Tuition: $18,350
  • Program length: One year

Indian River State College

The college offers two HVAC certificates: residential air conditioning refrigeration and heating systems assistant; and air conditioning refrigeration and heating systems technology. Students may also obtain an HVAC/R technology degree.

The residential HVAC/R system assistant certificate curriculum includes principles of HVAC/R, electricity, and heat pumps for 12 credit hours. Students in the HVAC/R system technology certificate program complete the same coursework as the assistant program and add classes in applied electricity, heat, heating and cooling load calculations, and HVAC service management. They earn their certificate after 24 credits.

Students seeking a degree complete all the coursework in the certificate programs. They also complete additional technical curriculum that includes control systems, refrigerant recovery and reclaim, components of refrigeration, duct systems, light commercial refrigeration, R410A certification, green mechanical awareness certification, alternative energy applied to HVAC, geothermal energy for the home certification, HVAC/R cooperative work experience, automotive HVAC, and energy in building design. Additionally, to earn their degree they must take general education coursework that includes English composition, humanities/fine arts, mathematics, natural science, social/behavioral science, and quantitative reasoning or intermediate algebra, for a total of 64 credits.

  • Location: Fort Pierce, FL
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $103.83 per credit
  • Program length: certificates vary, degree one year

Osceola Technical College

OTech offers an HVAC/R technology certificate. The coursework is divided into sections, so that students completing each section have Occupational Completion Points (OCP) that will qualify them to seek employment. The coursework includes classroom lectures followed by hands-on training in the lab. Students may attend full-time or part-time. Classes are available mornings, afternoons, and evenings.

The HVAC 1 section includes the following coursework: Introduction to HVAC/R, HVAC/R fundamentals, and HVAC/R service principles. It takes nine months to complete. The curriculum for the HVAC 2 section includes intermediate service practices, advanced service practices, and advanced commercial and industrial service practices. It takes seven months to complete. Graduates are prepared to take industry exams, such as NATE, OSHA, EPA Section 608, and CPR certification, and seek entry-level employment.

  • Location: Kissimmee, FL
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; Council on Occupational Education
  • Tuition: $5,500
  • Program length: 16 months

Palm Beach State College

The college offers two HVAC career certificate programs: HVAC/R technician and residential HVAC technician. Students in both programs attend classroom lectures and gain hands-on training with up-to-date equipment in the lab.

The residential HVAC residential technician certificate curriculum includes HVAC/R helper 1 and 2, HVAC/R mechanic assistant 1 and 2, and HVAC/R mechanic 1 and 2. It takes 30 weeks to complete the nine credits.

The HVAC/R technician certificate program includes the coursework required for the residential technician certificate. Students complete additional coursework, including HVAC/R mechanic assistant 3 and 4, and HVAC/R heating technician 1, 2, and 3. Students enrolled in the daytime track take 45 weeks to complete the program. Those in the evening track take 70 weeks. Both tracks are 22 credit hours.

  • Location: Lake Worth, FL
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Tuition: $83.40 per credit
  • Program length: As noted above

Port St. Lucie students who cannot attend one of the profiled schools may find that an online institution will better fit their needs. More information on accredited programs is available at online HVAC training.

HVAC and HVAC/R Certification and Licensing in in Port St. Lucie, FL

Tthe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates that all HVAC and HVAC/R technicians handling refrigerants must pass refrigerant safety exams. Those who pass receive Section 608 certification, which is required for most employment opportunities. Four certification levels are available based on the type and size of equipment on which a technician works, as described below:

  • 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

The EPA defines each level and provides additional information on its website.

Technicians may obtain Section 608 certification and other certifications that increase their employability from industry organizations that include, among others:

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

Each organization includes details of availability, scheduling, and fees on its website. There is also more information on the HVAC certifications page.

The construction industry in Florida is regulated by The Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation. Three classes of licensing apply to HVAC and HVAC/R contractors, as follows:

  • Class A: unlimited
  • Class B: limited to 25 tons of cooling and 500,000 BTU of heating in any one system
  • Class C: limited to the servicing of air-conditioning, heating, or refrigeration systems, including any duct cleaning and equipment sanitizing which requires at least a partial disassembling of the system

A certified contractor has a certificate of competency issued by the department which allows them to work in any jurisdiction in Florida without being required to fulfill the competency requirements of that jurisdiction. A registered contractor needs to have the department competency certification and can work only in jurisdictions where they have met local competency requirements.

Applicants for all licenses must meet experience requirements, pass an exam, obtain liability, property damage, and workers comp insurance, be financially stable or submit a bond, and pay the relevant fees. Licenses are valid for two years. Renewal requires 14 continuing education units in specified subjects and paying a fee.

The City of Port St. Lucie requires all businesses operating within the city limits to obtain a business license.

HVAC professionals are encouraged to confirm that they comply with current state and local requirements before starting a project, as the guidelines are subject to change.

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.