HVAC Schools in Kentucky

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The varied weather patterns across the Bluegrass State make this an ideal location to begin a career as a heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) professional. Kentucky experiences four distinct seasons, with blistering temperatures in the summer, and snowfall in the winter; these temperature extremes lead many residents to turn on the heat or the air conditioning, systems that require installation and routine maintenance by trained mechanics and technicians.

But the climate is not the only reason that HVAC technicians thrive in this state. In fact, these workers also enjoy the support provided by numerous unions and local organizations. The Local 502, for example, is affiliated with the Plumbers, Pipefitters & Service Technicians United Association. This local union offers myriad benefits to those in the skilled trade professions, including networking opportunities, education and training, and political representation.

Another organization that offers membership to Kentucky HVAC technicians is the Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 452 of Lexington. This local union has been in operation since 1903, and has since provided valuable assistance to HVAC workers and other skilled professionals throughout Kentucky. It offers a number of benefits, as well as a pension program to help retirees after they finish working.

Prior to pursuing this line of work, it’s important to understand the responsibilities. Here’s an overview of typical duties for HVAC mechanics and installers in KY:

  • Perform calculations on HVAC equipment
  • Calibrate and test equipment routinely
  • Keep accurate records
  • Read blueprints
  • Follow all relevant laws and regulations that pertain to the HVAC industry
  • Visit various worksites
  • Offer education on energy conservation to customers
  • Maintain permits and licensure

Additionally, all technicians who work with refrigerants are required by law to maintain active EPA Section 608 Certification, which is covered in detail below.

This guide provides detailed insight into the HVAC industry in Kentucky, including the training programs, salary expectations, and licensure requirements.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Workers in Kentucky

Statistics show that the HVAC industry is currently healthy, both in Kentucky and nationwide, and is slated to grow rapidly in coming years. Specifically, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2016) reported that 294,730 technicians were employed nationwide earning an average annual salary of $48,320. The BLS also projected a 14 percent increase in HVAC positions between 2014 and 2024; to put this in perspective, the average expected growth rate for all U.S. occupations during that same decade was only 6.5 percent.

In Kentucky, however, the projected expansion of the HVAC industry is likely to be much greater. By illustration, Projections Central predicted that HVAC job openings in the Bluegrass State would increase 24.8 percent over the same time period, adding an impressive 1,800 new positions.

There are several reasons for this anticipated growth. For one, as construction continues to rise in Kentucky, so to will buildings that require the installation of heating or air conditioning systems. These systems also require routine maintenance by a trained HVAC technician, and generally need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years. And as regulations governing the HVAC industry evolve, the demand will rise for skilled technicians who can ensure that both businesses and individuals remain in compliance with the law.

Online job boards reinforce this growing demand for HVAC professionals in KY. For example, a search on Indeed (Oct. 2017) for HVAC jobs in Kentucky yielded 767 results with organizations like Trinity Industries, KentuckyOne Health, Norton Healthcare, the Sun Products Corporation, and Western Kentucky University, among others. A similar search on Monster (Oct. 2017) brought up 791 jobs with Emcor Group, Service Expert, the Kroger Company, Comfort Design Heating & Air, Woodard Cooling & Heating, and more.

HVAC Worker Salary in Kentucky

The BLS (May 2016) found that HVAC workers earn relatively generous salaries throughout their career. As proof of point, the the median salary for HVAC workers was approximately $45,910 per year, or $22.07 per hour, with the following percentiles:

United States (294,730 HVAC workers): $48,320 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $28,440
  • 25th percentile: $35,440
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,910
  • 75th percentile: $58,960
  • 90th percentile: $73,350

In hourly figures, these salaries amounted to:

United States: $23.23/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $13.67/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.04/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.07/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.35/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $35.26/hr.

The national figures were slightly varied according to another source of data, Payscale (Oct. 2017), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles:

United States: 478 HVAC workers responding

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 25th percentile: $35,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,956
  • 75th percentile: $55,000
  • 90th percentile: $69,000

An additional 2,550 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): $19.27/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $24.00/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $30.00/hr.

Though the salary expectations for Kentucky HVAC technicians were somewhat lower than the rest of the nation, they are still competitive given the relatively low cost of living in KY. According to BLS data, there were 3,800 HVAC workers in the state earning an average annual wage of $42,850 and these percentiles:

Kentucky (3,800 HVAC workers): $42,850 average

  • 10th percentile: $23,690
  • 25th percentile: $31,670
  • 50th percentile (median): $39,750
  • 75th percentile: $50,940
  • 90th percentile: $63,870

In hourly figures, these equated to:

Kentucky: $20.60/hour average

  • 10th percentile: $11.39
  • 25th percentile: $15.23
  • 50th percentile (median): $19.11
  • 75th percentile: $24.49
  • 90th percentile: $30.71

The BLS also provided salary data on nine geographic regions within Kentucky, which had the following numbers of HVAC workers, average salaries, and percentiles:

Bowling Green (200 HVAC workers): $38,670 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $24,680
  • 25th percentile: $29,340
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,620
  • 75th percentile: $45,670
  • 90th percentile: $57,710

Central Kentucky Nonmetropolitan Area (340 HVAC workers): $42,560 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $25,780
  • 25th percentile: $30,770
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,430
  • 75th percentile: $52,250
  • 90th percentile: $68,770

East Kentucky Nonmetropolitan Area (130 HVAC workers): $34,750 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $23,410
  • 25th percentile: $27,920
  • 50th percentile (median): $33,360
  • 75th percentile: $39,940
  • 90th percentile: $48,360

Elizabethtown-Fort Knox (number of HVAC workers not listed): $37,880 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $32,840
  • 25th percentile: $34,580
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,480
  • 75th percentile: $40,250
  • 90th percentile: $46,270

Lexington-Fayette (860 HVAC workers): $43,590 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $20,500
  • 25th percentile: $23,640
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,580
  • 75th percentile: $51,560
  • 90th percentile: $74,530

Louisville/Jefferson County (1,380 HVAC workers): $43,160 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,150
  • 25th percentile: $33,320
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,590
  • 75th percentile: $50,750
  • 90th percentile: $63,170

Owensboro (80 HVAC workers): $42,980 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $26,470
  • 25th percentile: $30,870
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,950
  • 75th percentile: $51,690
  • 90th percentile: $59,190

South Central Kentucky Nonmetropolitan Area (240 HVAC workers): $37,190 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $23,040
  • 25th percentile: $28,380
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,490
  • 75th percentile: $44,640
  • 90th percentile: $58,860

West Kentucky Nonmetropolitan Area (210 HVAC workers): $40,810 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $18,390
  • 25th percentile: $32,310
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,400
  • 75th percentile: $49,720
  • 90th percentile: $61,330

Accredited HVAC Schools in Kentucky

Before finding a job in the HVAC industry, an aspiring technician must first complete hands-on training and often some classroom education to develop the necessary skills. This may involve the completion of an apprenticeship, an associate degree, or a certificate program.

Apprenticeships are generally the most competitive option, allowing participants to work for a wage while simultaneously earning a salary and completing a degree or certificate. For example, through the UA Local 502 of Louisville, apprentices complete a five-year program and concurrently complete an associate degree in applied science (A.A.S.) from Ivy Tech Community College. This program is divided into one-year segments, each of which includes between 1,700 and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and at least 246 hours of related classroom instruction.

Aspiring HVAC technicians who are looking for other options to develop industry-specific skills may consider an A.A.S. in HVAC at Southcentral Kentucky Community & Technical College of Bowling Green. This program has been accredited by HVAC Excellence, one of the two main accrediting organizations for this type of study in the U.S. Students must complete between 64 and 66 credit-hours, which generally takes two years of full-time study. Tuition is $162 per credit-hour for in-state students.

Aspiring HVAC professionals also have the option of completing a certificate program through the Sullivan College of Technology and Design of Louisville, which can be completed in as few as nine months. It also has been accredited by HVAC Excellence.

It is important to note that many aspiring HVAC technicians are choosing to pursue degrees or certificates through accredited programs. Accreditation from a recognized entity may serve as a proxy for program quality, as these programs have been evaluated by an external authority for their facilities, student resources, curriculum, student outcomes, and other measures. In addition to HVAC Excellence, the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) also accredits these programs. As of October 2017, there were two HVAC Excellence-accredited programs—both profiled above—and no PAHRA-accredited programs in KY.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Kentucky

All technicians who handle refrigerants in Kentucky must have the EPA Section 608 Certification, which has four subtypes varying by equipment serviced: type 1 (small appliances), type 2 (high-pressure appliances), type 3 (low-pressure appliances), and type 4 (universal).

Furthermore, a handful of skill-specific certifications are available to HVAC technicians who wish to demonstrate their various areas of expertise. These certifications are offered through 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 in depth about these national certifications, please visit the main HVAC credentialing page.

Finally, it is important to note that all aspiring HVAC professionals in Kentucky are required to have a license to perform work in this field. The various licenses offered by the Kentucky Department of Housing, Buildings & Construction for HVAC technicians include the following:

  • Apprentice
  • Limited journeyman HVAC duct mechanic
  • Limited journeyman HVAC installer mechanic
  • Journeyman HVAC mechanic
  • Master HVAC contractor

In order to apply for any of these licenses, the applicant must submit proof of experience; pass an examination on business and law; and have general liability insurance of at least $500,000. Because the additional requirements for each type of license may vary, aspiring technicians are encouraged to research the criteria carefully before submitting an application to begin working in this capacity.

Lastly, municipal permitting and credentialing requirements may vary, and all HVAC workers should contact local city offices prior to beginning any HVAC work to ensure compliance with all regulations.