Topeka, Kansas HVAC Schools & Certification

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Residents of Topeka, Kansas (KS) endure long, hot, and humid summers. The weather begins a warming climb in May, with temperatures in the 70s F, and doesn’t start cooling until October. July and August are the hottest months, with average highs hovering at a degree or two less than 90. The heat is accompanied by rainfall that frequently exceeds four inches each month, and averages nearly five and a half inches during June.

October provides a brief break in weather extremes before the winter cold descends in November and the start of snow season. The average high temperatures from December through February are in the upper 30s and low 40s. The lows are well below freezing. December receives the most snow, averaging just over five inches. January and February have slightly less snow each month, for an annual total of just under 18 inches.

Topeka is the capital of Kansas and a county seat, and government services make a significant contribution to the economy. The economic base of the city, however, is diverse. Industries include services such as education, finance, healthcare, insurance, professional services, and retail trade. Manufacturing companies such as Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Hills Pet Nutrition, and Frito Lay have facilities in Topeka. Numerous historic sites, museums, and a zoo draw visitors, as does a popular drag and road racing course.

Summer heat and humidity followed by frigid winters frequently keep Topekans indoors most of the year. They rely on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort whether relaxing at home or working. The manufacturing and industrial facilities, as well as the hospitality venues, often require the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R).

The healthcare and educational institutions, especially those engaged in research, frequently need specialized climate-control systems and equipment. As more companies begin to rely on technology, the demand will increase for equipment and systems designed to keep electronic components operating correctly.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2020) reports that 390 HVAC and HVAC/R technicians were employed in Topeka as of May 2019. Technicians and their employers receive support and resources from industry associations that include:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Association General Contractors of Kansas (AGC)
  • Kansas Building Industry Association (KBIA)
  • Kansas Contractors Association
  • Kansas Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors Association (PHCCKS)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA)
  • UA Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 441

Organizations such as these cooperate with each other and with government agencies to establish educational, licensing, and performance standards for the safety of technicians, the public, and the environment.

Occupational Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R Technicians in Topeka, KS

The BLS (2020) anticipates that the demand for trained HVAC and HVAC/R technicians will increase by 4 percent nationwide between 2019 and 2029. The outlook for Kansas technicians is brighter, as Projections Central (2020) anticipates an increase of 6.4 percent in new positions between 2018 and 2028.

Growth in the HVAC industry is primarily due to the construction of new commercial structures and residences. Existing buildings in older cities like Topeka are often “repurposed” to accommodate the growing and changing business needs. Renovating or remodeling them typically necessitates repairing, replacing, or updating aging climate-control equipment and systems. Climate control systems in newer structures are sometimes replaced due to changing regulations, technological advances, and new industries. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and pollution reduction is yet another factor driving industry growth.

New and modernized structures frequently incorporate sophisticated climate-control systems to meet the demands of “smart” buildings. The systems require trained technicians to install, maintain, and service. Technicians are expected to be skilled troubleshooters, understand electronics and high-tech, and be proficient with computers. Their expertise gives them the best job opportunities.

Technicians who specialize in new construction may occasionally experience unemployment if construction declines. Topeka has a strong and diverse economy that is expanding, making a decline in construction unlikely in the foreseeable future. Technicians who maintain, service, and repair equipment and systems can expect continuous employment regardless of the economy, as businesses and homeowners depend on climate control year-round.

HVAC and HVAC/R Salaries in Topeka, KS

The BLS (May 2019) data shows that HVAC mechanics and installers nationally received a median salary of $48,730. Technicians in Topeka earned an annual median salary of $61,170, as per the BLS. The difference in income is greater than it appears, as the cost of living in Kansas is less than in other American states.

The BLS data shows the following national, state, and regional salaries for HVAC professionals:

United States Kansas Topeka
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 3,530 390
Average Annual Salary $51,420 $54,020 $59,740
10th Percentile $30,610 $33,800 $41,420
25th Percentile $37,660 $40,440 $50,030
50th Percentile $48,730 $52,270 $61,170
75th Percentile $62,070 $64,110 $71,100
90th Percentile $77,920 $79,710 $77,550

HVAC Apprenticeships in Topeka, KS

HVAC technicians traditionally began their career in an entry-level position and acquired their skills through on-the-job training. Employment opportunities for untrained workers have decreased, so most workers now attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Formal coursework and apprenticeships open up more employment opportunities. Trained workers also start at higher wages and earn more throughout their career.

The average apprenticeship encompasses specified hours of on-the-job training, usually 2,000, combined with classroom work, usually 144 hours, annually for three to five years.

The Kansas Works Registered Apprenticeship Program provides information and resources for workers and employers. Apprentices must be employed by an approved sponsor, and those who complete their apprenticeship are awarded a certificate of completion that is valid nationwide.

Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 441 offers a five-year HVAC/R apprenticeship program that combines 280 hours of classroom work annually, alternated with on-the-job training. The Union finds an employer to provide the training. The coursework is completed during one week in Wichita, rotated with five weeks of local employment. Topeka students are eligible for lodging in a Wichita hotel during their week of study.

Workers may also attend HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs sponsored by 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)

The organizations provide details of programs available, scheduling, and fees on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Topeka, KS

It’s essential that students select a school that is accredited when pursuing formal education. Accreditation means that an independent agency has evaluated the curriculum and instructors of the institution. HVAC programs are accredited by HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).

To date, HVAC Excellence has not accredited a Kansas school. PAHRA has awarded accreditation to Johnson County Community College, Overland Park. Although attending that school would entail a lengthy commute for Topeka students, it is included in the profiles below due to its accreditation. The remaining schools have received accreditation from other agencies.

Note: The information in this article was compiled in December 2020 during the “shelter-in-place” and “social distancing” restrictions. The profiled schools have temporarily suspended classes or are transitioning to online options to comply with the restrictions. Questions as to timing and format should be directed to the school administration.

Johnson County Community College

Johnson offers two HVAC programs: an HVAC technology certificate and an HVAC technology degree. Coursework for both programs is presented in classroom lectures combined with hands-on practice in the lab. The curriculum for the certificate program includes the fundamentals of HVAC, electricity and heating systems, sheet metal layout and fabrication, industrial safety, refrigerants, load calculation and duct design, cooling systems, installation and start-up, workplace skills, and an internship. Students are awarded their certificate at the completion of 32 to 34 credit-hours.

Students choosing the degree program complete all the technical coursework included in the certificate program. They also complete additional technical studies that include HVAC rooftop units, plumbing fundamentals, HVAC codes and certifications, and business math. They complete additional internship hours and general education coursework in subjects that include humanities, communication, social science, and economics, for a total of 61 credit-hours to earn their degree.

Graduates of both programs are qualified to sit for industry exams that include EPA Section 608 and OSHA 30-hour certifications.

  • Location: Overland Park, KS
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $94 per credit-hour for residents of Johnson County; $112 per credit-hour for other Kansas residents
  • Program Length: Certificate one year; degree two years

Kansas City Kansas Community College

The college offers a heating and refrigeration certificate program. The curriculum includes safety, refrigeration system components, electricity, sheet metal, HVAC and heating system fundamentals, heat pumps, refrigerants, servicing and troubleshooting, electric heating, cooling, refrigeration, and workplace skills.

Their instructor then selects up to nine additional credit-hours for students to complete from the following electives: refrigeration theory, sheet metal layout/fabrication, internship, R-410A safety, advanced cooling, refrigeration and components, electrical controls, geothermal heating, and special projects. Students complete a total of 44 credit-hours to earn their certificate. Graduates are qualified to sit for EPA Section 608 and R-410A certification exams.

  • Location: Kansas City, KS
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $82 per credit-hour for Wyandotte County residents; $88 per credit-hour for other Kansas residents
  • Program Length: One year

Washburn Institute of Technology

Washburn Tech offers a climate and energy control technology (HVAC) certificate program. Students may choose to attend on a half-day or full-day basis. The curriculum is the same for either option and begins with workplace skills and safety. Technical coursework encompasses electrical theory and fundamentals, heating systems, sheet metal fabrication, heat flow, gain, and loss, HVAC fundamentals, refrigerants, mechanical refrigeration, heat pumps, and commercial HVAC that includes hands-on training in the lab.

Graduates are qualified for several industry exams, including:

  • Building Automation Level 1
  • EPA Section 608
  • HVAC/R Industry Competency Exam (ICE)
  • Meter Certification
  • OSHA-10
  • R-410A Safety
  • Tool Safety

Students complete a total of 44 credit-hours, which they may transfer to a degree program at Washburn University.

  • Location: Topeka, KS
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $10,142
  • Program Length: Half-day students, two years; Full-day students, one year

Wichita Technical Institute

WTI offers an HVAC/R program at several of its campuses, including Topeka. The curriculum includes electrical and refrigeration fundamentals, EPA training and research project, heating systems installation and troubleshooting, heat pump systems, maintenance, and research project, air conditioning systems installation, troubleshooting, and research project, refrigeration systems, controls, and troubleshooting, and commercial refrigeration systems and research project.

Graduates are qualified to seek employment in a variety of industry positions such as appliance repair technician, HVAC/R technician, installer, or maintenance technician.

  • Location: Topeka, KS
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $16,800
  • Program Length: 48 weeks

HVAC and HVAC/R Certification and Licensing in Topeka, KS

All HVAC and HVAC/R technicians who work with refrigerants are required by Federal law to obtain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification. Certification involves passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. Four levels of certification are available based on the type and size of equipment on which a technician works. The levels are:

  • Servicing small appliances – Type I
  • Servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and automotive air conditioning – Type II
  • Servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances – Type III
  • Servicing all types of equipment – Universal

Practice exams are available online.

Technicians may also obtain training and certifications from industry organizations that will increase their employability. These include, but are not limited to:

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

Technicians may also obtain their Section 608 certification through these organizations. Further information as to the availability, scheduling, and fees may be found on each website. There is also more information on the HVAC certifications page.

The State of Kansas does not license HVAC technicians or contractors at the state level; however, businesses must register with the State. Licensing is the responsibility of local jurisdictions.

The City of Topeka Development Services Division requires contractors to pass an exam relevant to the license they seek or submit proof of education, submit proof of insurance, and pay the appropriate fee. Annual renewal of licenses requires eight hours of continuing education. Contractors may be licensed as Class A, which allows them to work on commercial and residential structures; Class B, which limits them to commercial and multi-unit structures; or Class C, which limits them to residential structures.

As licensing guidelines are subject to change, HVAC professionals are encouraged to ensure that they comply with current requirements before starting a project.

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.