Lexington, KY HVAC Training Schools & Certification

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Situated in the famed bluegrass area, Lexington, Kentucky (KY) is nicknamed the “Horse Capital of the World.” As one of Kentucky’s largest cities, Lexington encompasses all of Fayette County within its borders and serves as the county seat. Horse breeding and race tracks have long been mainstays of Lexington’s prosperity. Horses, music, museums, and festivals continue to draw thousands of visitors each year, and the hospitality industry contributes significantly to the economy.

The economy is diversified, however, with multinational companies that include Toyota, Lexmark International, Valvoline, Amazon, Xerox, and Lockheed Martin with established corporate headquarters in the city. Healthcare, construction, and professional and business services also provide economic growth. A “rapidly growing high-tech sector and a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem” promise continued economic strength and stability.

Lexington’s weather is generally mild, and residents enjoy four seasons. July and August are the hottest months with average highs in the mid-80s and lows averaging about 20 degrees lower. The summers are humid, as rain falls during most months, with May receiving the most, more than five inches on average. June and July average more than four inches of rainfall each, and August receives slightly more than three inches. December, January, and February are cold, with highs hovering in the 40s and lows falling below freezing. The winter months receive small amounts of snow and the annual average snowfall is slightly more than 12 inches.

The weather and fertile soil create lush beauty, and Lexingtonians enjoy many outdoor activities. However, the weather, especially the humidity, and pollen from the vegetation also often keep people indoors, where they rely on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort. The hospitality venues frequently require the addition of refrigeration (HVAC/R) for the comfort of their guests. Many businesses, especially the newer high-tech enterprises, need specialized climate-control equipment and systems to keep their daily operations going.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS May 2019) 660 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in the Lexington-Fayette area. The following industry organizations provided training and support to the workers and their employers:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
  • Associated Builders and Contractors of Indiana/Kentucky
  • Home Builders Association of Kentucky
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of Kentucky
  • Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 452
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
  • Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association

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

Occupational Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R Technicians in Lexington, KY

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019) data predicted a 13 percent increase in new positions for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians nationwide between 2018 and 2028. That’s more than twice the national average of 5 percent which is predicted for all US occupations in the same time period.

The demand for HVAC technicians in Kentucky is also favorable. Projections Central predicted a 10.1 percent statewide increase in openings for HVAC professionals between 2016 and 2026—the addition of 420 fresh openings.

Much of the growth in the HVAC industry is the result of new construction. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and pollution reduction is also a primary factor in growth, as new systems and equipment must be installed to meet current environmental standards.

When the old systems in existing buildings are not replaced, the equipment typically must be repaired, retrofitted, or upgraded. On occasion, technological advances or changing regulations require the replacement of equipment in recently-built structures. Businesses that depend on technology often need specialized equipment to keep their electronics operating correctly.

Businesses and homeowners frequently expect new structures to be “smart” buildings. Those require sophisticated climate-control systems and equipment. HVAC and HVAC/R technicians need comprehensive training to install, maintain, and service the systems in old and new structures. Technicians who are proficient with computers, understand electronics, and are skilled troubleshooters will have the best job opportunities.

Those who specialize in new construction may experience unemployment if construction declines. Fortunately, Lexington has a diverse and strong economy, and a decline is not expected in the foreseeable future. In addition, Lexington is ranked as a high allergy area, which keeps residents indoors and reliant on climate control. As businesses and homeowners depend on climate control year-round, there is always a demand for technicians able to maintain, service, and repair equipment and systems.

HVAC and HVAC/R Salaries in Lexington, KY

According to the BLS (May 2019), HVAC mechanics and installers nationally were paid a median salary of $51,420 according to occupational data from May 2019. Technicians in the Lexington-Fayette area earned an annual median salary of $44,250. The lower earnings are not as significant as they appear as Kentucky has a much lower cost of living than other U.S. states.

National, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals are compared below:

United States Kentucky Lexington-Fayette, KY
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 342,040 4,290 660
Average Annual Salary $51,420 $42,780 $44,250
10th Percentile $30,610 $26,920 $23,890
25th Percentile $37,660 $32,730 $30,630
50th Percentile (Median) $48,730 $41,220 $43,860
75th Percentile $62,070 $50,960 $56,500
90th Percentile $77,920 $62,250 $65,230

HVAC Apprenticeships in Lexington, KY

In the past, workers were able to find work as helpers and learn their skills through on-the-job training. Few opportunities for doing so are available today. Workers now typically serve an apprenticeship or attend classes. The training they receive as HVAC or HVAC/R technicians opens up more employment opportunities. Trained workers typically earn higher wages at the start of their careers and sustain a higher earning potential throughout their careers compared with untrained workers.

Apprenticeships typically include 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 144 hours of classroom work annually for three to five years. Several opportunities for apprentices are available in Lexington.

The Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Division of Apprenticeship provides information and resources for employers and workers. Although registered apprenticeships are voluntary, workers who complete a registered apprenticeship receive a nationally recognized industry certificate.

Associated Builders and Contractors have numerous apprenticeship programs available throughout Kentucky. Currently, the closest HVAC program is available in Louisville. The training is based on the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) core curriculum guidelines.

The Building Industry Association of Central KY Apprentice and Workforce Development Training Program offers several apprenticeship programs in Lexington, including a two-year HVAC apprenticeship. Apprentices attend evening classes for formal training, followed by hands-on experience in the lab. Tuition is $3,500 annually.

Workers can also find HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs by contacting national industry associations. These include, but are not limited to:

  • 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)

Details of available programs, schedules, and fees are available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC and HVAC/R Schools in Lexington, KY

When choosing a school, it is essential to select an institution that is accredited. Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the quality of the program, including both the curriculum and the instructors.

HVAC programs receive accreditation from two industry organizations. HVAC Excellence has accredited Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College in Bowling Green and Sullivan University in Louisville. Although attending Southcentral would require a lengthy commute for Lexington students, both schools are included in the profiles below due to their accreditation. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has not accredited a Kentucky school.

Kentucky Community and Technical College System includes 16 colleges and 70 campuses throughout Kentucky. Bluegrass Community and Technical College offers an HVAC program in Lexington. Others close to Lexington offering an HVAC program include Jefferson in Louisville, Maysville in Maysville and Morehead, and Somerset in Somerset.

Bluegrass Community and Technical College offers an HVAC technology degree program, an HVAC mechanic diploma program, and the following certificate programs:

  • Environmental control system servicer: 24-25 credit-hours
  • Environmental system repair helper: 9-10 credit-hours
  • Domestic air conditioner and furnace installer: 35-36 credit-hours
  • Refrigeration mechanic: 27-28 credit-hours

Coursework for the certificate programs includes the fundamentals of HVAC and electricity as well as subjects relevant to the certificate. The diploma program includes the certificate coursework as well as heat load/duct design, commercial systems, up to 12 hours of technical electives, digital literacy, written and oral communications, and a social science elective. Students finish with their choice of a practicum or special problems and earn their diploma at the completion of 48-57 credit-hours.

The HVAC degree program includes all of the above coursework and additional general education classes. Students complete 60-66 credits to earn their degree. Coursework for all the programs is presented in classroom lectures followed by hands-on training in the lab.

Jefferson Community and Technical College offers the HVAC mechanic diploma program and the above certificate programs. Maysville and Somerset Community Technical Colleges offer the HVAC mechanic diploma program and two additional certificate programs:

  • Boiler maintenance: 20 credit-hours
  • Chiller maintenance: 19 credit-hours

Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College offers the HVAC technology degree program, the HVAC mechanic diploma program, but currently does not offer the refrigeration mechanic, boiler maintenance, and chiller maintenance certificate programs.

  • Location: Campus locations indicated above
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges for all colleges in the system; HVAC Excellence at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College only
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $174 per credit-hour
  • Program length: Certificate (six to 12 months); diploma (12 to 18 months); degree (two years)

Sullivan University

Sullivan University, a private college, offers an HVAC/R technology degree program and an HVAC/R technology certificate program. Although the college has a campus in Lexington, the HVAC programs are currently available only in Louisville. The college partners with Harshaw Trane, which gives students an opportunity to participate in externships. Harshaw Trane also offers some scholarships.

The curriculum for the 43-credit certificate program includes computer applications, composition, information literacy, blueprint reading, HVAC/R systems, refrigeration, electrical applications, building automation, advanced math, and the student’s choice of commercial systems or an externship. Graduates are qualified to sit for industry exams and seek entry-level employment.

Students in the 91-credit degree program complete all of the certificate program coursework. Additional courses include commercial systems, air and water distribution systems, loads and humidity, troubleshooting, electro-mechanical devices, professional development, an externship, and a capstone project in addition to general education coursework.

  • Location: Louisville, KY
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $320 per credit-hour
  • Program length: Certificate (nine months); degree (18-24 months)

Students in Lexington who are unable to attend an on-campus school may prefer an accredited online institution. For more information on accredited programs available, visit the online HVAC training page website.

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Lexington, KY

All technicians who work with refrigerants are obligated by Federal law to obtain Section 608 certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. There are four types of certifications according to the systems on which technicians work:

  • Type I – for servicing small appliances
  • Type II – for servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioning
  • Type III – for servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances
  • Type IV – for servicing all types of equipment

Further information is available on the EPA website.

Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications from industry organizations, which also offer Section 608 testing and certification. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES): They offer comprehensive, cutting-edge education and certification to the HVAC/R industry.
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE): They certify the real-world working knowledge of HVAC/R systems.
  • HVAC Excellence: They validate that an individual has retained knowledge in a specific area of the HVAC/R industry.

Additional information about these and other industry certifications is available on the HVAC credentialing website.

Finally, the Commonwealth of Kentucky Department of Housing, Buildings & Construction requires licensing of all HVAC professionals including apprentices, limited journeyman HVAC duct installer, limited journeyman HVAC installer mechanic, journeyman HVAC mechanic, and master HVAC contractor.

All applications must include a recent photo of the applicant, and journeymen must certify that they are not in default on a school loan.

Apprentices must be under the supervision of a master HVAC contractor and a journeyman HVAC mechanic. The registration application requires the signature of the master HVAC contractor. Licensing for journeymen requires proof of at least two years of experience under a master contractor and a passing score on the business and law exam.

Master contractors must submit proof of experience, a passing score on the business and law exam, and proof of liability insurance in the amount of $50,000. Other requirements may vary for each category. Apprentices are not charged a fee for registration, but all other licensees must pay a fee. Licenses are renewed annually.

The City of Lexington requires all persons conducting business with gross receipts of more than $4,400 in Fayette County to obtain an occupational license. The initial fee and annual renewal fee are both $100.

As licensing guidelines are always subject to change, HVAC professionals are encouraged to confirm that they are in compliance 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.