HVAC Training in Hawaii

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Although Hawaii (HI) may seem like a tropical paradise, the outdoor temperatures, especially during the summer, can make it all but unbearable to live without air conditioning. As such, many residents of the Aloha State have some form of climate-control systems in their home, which they rely on during the year. This is one of the many reasons that the demand for heating, air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) technicians is continuously growing.

In addition to a strong industry with growing job opportunities, HVAC technicians in Hawaii are also able to enjoy the myriad benefits offered by local unions and organizations. Many HVAC associations provide professional advocacy, continuing education, and even on-the-job training programs for those interested in pursuing a career in the field. One example is the Plumbers & Fitters UA Local Union 675 located in Honolulu. This union provides support for members by offering a pension plan, an apprenticeship program, and much more.

HVAC technicians in Honolulu may also choose to pursue membership with Hawaii Sheet Metal Workers, an organization that supports sheet metal workers, HVAC technicians, and others in the skilled trades. An apprenticeship and training program are available through this organization, along with professional advocacy and representation.

Ultimately, HVAC technicians in Hawaii generally show a great deal of satisfaction with the career that they have chosen. That said, anyone interested in a job in this field should fully understand what to expect before signing up for a training program. Typical job duties of HVAC mechanics and installers in Hawaii include:

  • Performing calculations on HVAC equipment
  • Ensuring that equipment is tested and properly calibrated
  • Keeping correct records
  • Reading various blueprints
  • Ensuring compliance with all relevant laws
  • Going to and from various worksites
  • Providing education to customers on energy use and conservation
  • Maintaining all required permits and licenses

Of course, some HVAC technicians in Hawaii may even perform tasks that do not appear on this list above. Furthermore, anyone who works with environmentally-sensitive refrigerants must maintain active EPA Section 608 Certification.

Overall, a career in the HVAC industry in Hawaii can be rewarding. As such, anyone interested in starting a new job in this field should be fully prepared for what to expect as they obtain the requisite training. To help in this process, the following guide outlines industry growth projections in Hawaii, salary expectations for future workers, a number of HVAC training programs in the state, and local licensure requirements.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Hawaii

Fortunately for those interested in finding work as an HVAC technician, available job opportunities are only expected to grow into the future. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017) reported that there were 332,900 HVAC technicians across the country, earning an average annual salary of $49,530; the industry is expected to add 48,800 new jobs between 2016 and 2026, an expansion of 15 percent overall.

The projected growth in Hawaii is not expected to be as robust as national figures. Specifically, Projections Central expected that the HVAC industry in Hawaii would grow 11.7 percent in the Aloha State over the same time period. Fortunately, this is still significantly higher than the seven percent average growth expected across all occupations nationally.

Of course, it is impossible to pinpoint only one reason for this rapid growth in the field of HVAC. There are a number of driving factors; for one, as buildings continue to be erected in the state, demand will grow for skilled HVAC technicians who can install climate-control systems in the new construction projects. Furthermore, climate-control systems must be maintained on a regular basis, and often need to be entirely replaced every 10 to 15 years; HVAC technicians must assist in this process. Finally, because the laws and regulations that govern the HVAC industry are constantly in flux, technicians must always stay abreast of these rules and help customers stay in compliance with the law.

Generally, the easiest way to visualize the surge in demand for HVAC technicians is by performing an online search for jobs available in the area. For example, a search for HVAC positions in Hawaii on Monster (Nov. 2017) brought up 162 results with companies such as SES, Engility Corporation, Johnson Controls, Inc., the State of Hawaii, and many others. A similar search on Indeed (Oct. 2018) yielded 167 results with companies including the Central Pacific Repair, Pacific Industrial Equipment Corp, Hawaiian Building Maintenance, and Ameresco, among others.

HVAC Worker Salary in Hawaii

The BLS (2017) showed that HVAC technicians can make a generous wage throughout their career. Indeed, the median salary for HVAC workers nationwide was approximately $47,080 per year, or $22.64 per hour, with these percentiles:

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 salaries amounted to:

United States: $23.81/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.

The national figures were slightly different according to another source of data, Payscale (Oct. 2018), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

United States: 879 HVAC workers responding

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

An additional 4,809 HVAC workers gave Payscale their hourly salary figures, resulting in these percentile wages:

  • 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.

Fortunately for aspiring HVAC technicians in Hawaii, average salaries are much higher on the island than in the rest of the nation. To be sure, there were 1,140 technicians working in Hawaii, earning an average annual salary of $62,540 and these wage percentiles:

Hawaii (1,140 HVAC workers): $62,540

  • 10th percentile: $34,240
  • 25th percentile: $44,110
  • 50th percentile (median): $61,850
  • 75th percentile: $81,130
  • 90th percentile: $95,300

In hourly figures, these equated to:

Hawaii: $30.07/hour average

  • 10th percentile: $16.46/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $21.21/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $29.74/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $39.00/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $45.82/hr.

The BLS also provided data on three different geographic regions throughout the state of Hawaii:

Hawaii/Kauai Nonmetropolitan area (number of HVAC workers not reported): $58,950 average

  • 10th percentile: $35,020
  • 25th percentile: $43,850
  • 50th percentile (median): $58,240
  • 75th percentile: $72,820
  • 90th percentile: $89,310

Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina (number of HVAC workers not reported): $60,880 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $33,610
  • 25th percentile: $44,460
  • 50th percentile (median): $61,140
  • 75th percentile: $77,070
  • 90th percentile: $91,970

Urban Honolulu (1,020 HVAC workers): $62,790 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $34,260
  • 25th percentile: $44,080
  • 50th percentile (median): $62,130
  • 75th percentile: $81,900
  • 90th percentile: $95,600

Accredited HVAC Schools in Hawaii

Before finding a job in the industry, aspiring HVAC technicians must first obtain some type of training, whether it is conducted formally or on the job. In many cases, the best training options are available through apprenticeships and degree or certificate programs, as they include both classroom education and hands-on training to ensure the graduate has the requisite skills and knowledge to succeed in the field.

For anyone interested in comprehensive training under the supervision of skilled professionals, an apprenticeship program through the Plumbers & Fitters UA Local Union 675 may be a worthwhile pursuit. This apprentice must complete 10,000 hours of on-the-job training and takes courses in safety, soldering, brazing, welding, and various other skills. Apprentices are also paid for their work, and receive other benefits, as well, including access to a pension, health insurance options, vacation time, and more.

Aspiring HVAC technicians also have the option to complete a degree program, such as the associate of applied science (AAS) in refrigeration and air conditioning technology offered by Honolulu Community College. In this program, students take courses on a variety of subjects related to the HVAC industry, graduating with an understanding of the field and the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed.

Of course, future technicians also have the option of a certificate of achievement through Honolulu Community College; this requires fewer credits than the AAS, although the training may not be as comprehensive. That said, students who complete a certificate of achievement may still be prepared to find employment as HVAC technicians. Ultimately, the tuition for both of the programs offered by this school depends on the number of credits taken in a given semester; as such, anyone considering this option may wish to contact the school directly for more information.

As a final note, it is necessary to mention that a growing number of students are choosing to enroll in accredited programs, which often last for six months to two years. Currently, two main organizations offer accreditation for HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). As of this writing, no HVAC programs exist in Hawaii that has received recognition from these accrediting agencies.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Hawaii

As alluded to above, HVAC technicians must retain active EPA Section 608 Certification in order to perform work with refrigerants. This certification is split into four categories as follows:

  • Type 1 (small appliances)
  • Type 2 (high-pressure appliances)
  • Type 3 (low-pressure appliances)
  • Type 4 (universal)

Furthermore, a number of skill-specific certifications are available to HVAC technicians, many of which can assist in a future job search. Currently, certifications are available through a number of organizations, including the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (e.g., entry-level Certified Assistant Refrigeration Operator); North American Technician Excellence (e.g., Industry Competency Exams or ICE); HVAC Excellence (e.g., Heating, Electrical, Air Conditioning Technology Plus); and others. To learn more about certifications, please visit the HVAC Certification page.

Finally, all HVAC technicians must comply with licensure requirements as set forth by the state government before performing any work. In Hawaii, in order to obtain a contractor license, a candidate must submit an application to the Board of Professional & Vocational Licensing with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, along with an application fee of $50, and the following information:

  • Proof of worker’s compensation insurance
  • Proof of liability insurance in the amount of $100,000 for each person and $300,000 for each occurrence
  • Proof of property damage insurance in the amount of $50,000 for each occurrence
  • Location of place of business
  • An additional application submitted by a responsible managing employee, along with separate fees

Once the application is approved, the applicant must then complete two licensing examinations: one on business and law, and one on HVAC. Applicants should carefully choose the contractor classification for which they wish to apply. Class C-4 licenses cover those working with boilers, hot-water heating, and steam fitting, while C-40 is for refrigeration contractors and C-52 is for ventilating and air conditioning contractors.

The licensure process for HVAC workers in Hawaii may seem somewhat complex, but it is imperative that all professionals ensure they remain in compliance with the law.