Detroit, MI HVAC Training Schools & Certification

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All too often, when people think of Detroit, Michigan (MI), they imagine a decaying city. But Detroit has recovered from its financial troubles and is reinventing itself: “Just five years after Detroit was forced to file for bankruptcy protection, the city has become a thriving hub of innovation and entrepreneurship,” according to CNN. The 2019-2020 economic forecast for the State of Michigan as a whole includes an economy that “continues to diversify.” Diversification is also part of Detroit’s economic revival. In the words of one of the area’s biggest investors, “It is not only technology companies that are thriving in the city. Local and international retailers, as well as manufacturers are choosing Detroit. Simply put, Detroit is located at the intersection of muscles and brains.” In addition to the downtown revitalization, Detroit is investing millions of dollars in neighborhoods as part of its revival programs.

Winters in Detroit are cold, with nighttime temperatures consistently dropping below freezing. Daytime highs in January and February hover around freezing. Slightly less than four feet of snow falls during an average winter. Summers are much warmer, with July and August highs in the 80s. Nighttime lows average about 20 degrees cooler. Rainfall is moderate throughout the year.

The freezing winters and hot summers make heating, venting, and air conditioning (HVAC) essential for comfort in homes and workplaces. Detroit has a long history and many of its historic sites have been preserved. Additionally, sports and cultural attractions, especially those related to its musical heritage, draw millions of visitors a year. Continued conservation efforts, the hospitality industry, and the increasing number of technology-based industries require refrigeration (HVAC/R) as part of climate control.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) reports that 4,320 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI area in May of 2018. The technicians and their employers receive training and support from industry organizations such as the following:

  • Detroit Chapter of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc (ASHRAE)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association Detroit
  • The Michigan Air Conditioning Contractors Association
  • Michigan Minority Contractors Association
  • Michigan Plumbing & Mechanical Contractors Association
  • National Association of Women in Construction, Detroit
  • Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA) Metropolitan Detroit Chapter
  • Sheet Metal Local Union 80
  • UA Local 636 Steamfitters/Pipefitters & HVAC/R

These and similar organizations work to ensure the health and safety of members and the public by establishing educational, licensing, safety, and performance standards.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Detroit, MI

According to BLS (2019), the job outlook for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians nationwide is expected to increase by 15 percent between 2016 and 2016. That’s more than double the anticipated 7 percent increase across all occupations in the U.S. for the same decade. The outlook for new technicians in Michigan is slightly less than the national average. Projections Central predicts a 13.6 percent statewide increase, or 1,210 new openings, by the end of 2026.

New construction—especially the demand for “smart buildings”—is contributing significantly to the growth of the HVAC industry. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and pollution reduction creates an additional demand for new systems and equipment. If the old equipment and systems in existing buildings are not replaced, they often must be retrofitted or upgraded to meet environmental standards.

Modern climate control systems are complex and require trained technicians to install, maintain, service, and repair. Newer HVAC and HVAC/R equipment requires technicians that are proficient with electronics and computerized systems. These candidates, along with technicians who have superior troubleshooting skills, typically have the best job prospects. New equipment installers may experience seasonal unemployment, although Detroit’s revitalization efforts and economic growth make that unlikely in the near future. There’s always a need for maintenance, service, and repair technicians to keep existing equipment and systems working properly all year round.

HVAC Salaries in Detroit, MI

BLS (May 2019) statistics show that, nationally, HVAC mechanics and installers received a median salary of $47,610 as of May 2018. Technicians in the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI area received an annual median salary of $45,100. Their earnings are comparable to national wages when considering that Michigan has a lower cost of living than many other U.S. states.

The table below summarizes national, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals:

United States Michigan Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 324,310 9,100 4,320
Average Annual Salary $50,160 $49,030 $48,430
10th Percentile $29,460 $29,010 $27,840
25th Percentile $36,520 $35,500 $33,810
50th Percentile (Median) $47,610 $46,830 $45,100
75th Percentile $60,900 $60,670 $60,390
90th Percentile $76,230 $74,510 $77,740

HVAC Apprenticeships in Detroit, MI

HVAC and HVAC/R technicians can begin their careers as helpers and learn the trade through on-the-job training. However, most now participate in an apprenticeship or attend classes. Their formal training means they can have more employment opportunities, start at potentially higher salaries, and may earn more during their career.

Apprenticeships include specified hours of on-the-job training (2,000) and classroom work (144) annually for three to five years. The Michigan Workforce Development Agency manages the state’s registered apprenticeships programs. The Mechanical Contractors Association of Detroit sponsors five-year apprenticeships. Graduates receive journey-level status. The HVAC/R apprenticeship is through Local 636 Steamfitters/Pipefitters & HVAC/R. Contact either organization for further information, as details, such as tuition, are not available on the web sites.

Additional HVAC and HVAC/R apprenticeship programs are available through national industry associations such as:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA)
  • Sheet Metal Air Rail Transportation (SMART), formerly the Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)

Details are available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Detroit, MI

It’s important to choose a school that is accredited. Various organizations offer accreditation, which is the process of evaluating the quality of the curriculum offered and the instructors. The accrediting organization must be independent to be credible.

Two organizations are recognized as accrediting HVAC and HVAC/R programs. HVAC Excellence has awarded accreditation to Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, MI; and The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has awarded accreditation to Grand Rapids Community College in Grand Rapids, MI. Due to its accreditation, that school is included in the profiles below although attending would require Detroit students to commute.

Grand Rapids Community College

The college offers HVAC/R technology certificate and HVAC/R technology degree programs. Students in the certificate program complete 33 hours of coursework as follows:

  • Basic refrigeration and refrigeration applications
  • Metallic and non-metallic joining
  • Heating and air conditioning theory
  • Blueprint reading
  • Design
  • Duct construction and design
  • HVAC/R controls
  • Mechanical codes
  • Commercial refrigeration
  • Advanced HVAC/R
  • Boiler operation
  • Geothermal HVAC systems

Graduates are qualified to seek employment as HVAC/R mechanics.

All of the certificate coursework may be transferred to the degree program. In addition, degree students must take at least 15 credit hours of general education coursework divided between English, humanities, social science, and math. They then choose from technical electives that include: technical math, industrial graphics, electricity and electronics, control systems, and welding.

They may also elect to complete an internship, for a total of 60 credit-hours to earn their degree. Graduates are qualified to seek positions as HVAC/R mechanics, system designers, sales reps, and similar positions in the industry.

  • Location: Grand Rapids, MI
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $115 per credit-hour
  • Program Length: Certificate (30 weeks), degree (two years)

Henry Ford Community College

The HFCC offers an energy technology heating and cooling advanced certificate program and an energy technology HVAC degree program. Coursework for both programs includes classroom lectures and hands-on training in labs. The certificate program is designed to prepare graduates for employment as residential and commercial installation and service technicians. The certificate curriculum includes:

  • Workplace skills
  • Energy technology
  • Electricity
  • HVAC/R technology
  • Sheet metal fabrication
  • Heating and cooling codes
  • HVAC installation and startup
  • Blueprint reading
  • Steam and hot water heating systems
  • Fundamentals of energy conversion
  • Commercial HVAC/R
  • Energy systems design and management
  • Energy technology project management

Students must complete 52 credit-hours to earn their certificate.

Students who wish to earn a degree must complete the above coursework with the addition of general education classes that include electives from social sciences and mathematics, as well as technical writing and communication and information technology. Students complete 68 credit-hours to earn their degree. Graduates gain expertise in the principles of energy measurement, conservation, and the operation and repair of residential and commercial HVAC/R equipment.

  • Location: Dearborn, MI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $99 per credit-hour for basic courses; $200 per credit-hour for advanced courses
  • Program Length: Certificate (64 weeks), degree (two years)

Macomb Community College

Macomb offers the following certificates:

  • Air conditioning: 24 credit-hours to be completed in eight months
  • Climate control technology: 42 credit-hours to be completed in 20 months
  • Heating: 27 credit-hours to be completed in 16 months
  • HVAC installation and service: 31 credit-hours to be completed in 16 months
  • Refrigeration: 24 credit-hours to be completed in eight months

Curriculum for each course includes HVAC basics and technology with the addition of coursework relevant to the specialty of the certificate.

The college also offers a degree in climate control technology. The coursework may be completed on either full time or part-time status. The curriculum includes: HVAC/R fundamentals, duct layout and fabrication, HVAC system design controls, steam and hot water heating systems, mechanical codes, and advanced HVAC/R. General education electives are also required to complete the 62 credit-hours needed to earn the degree.

  • Location: Warren, MI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $102 per credit-hour
  • Program Length: Certificates (as described above), degree (two years)

MIAT College of Technology

MIAT offers an HVAC/R technician career training program built around classroom lectures and hands-on training. The curriculum includes the following coursework: schematics, tool use, piping and fitting, sheet metal and fiberglass ducting, air handling and hydronics, electrical circuits and components, vent systems, troubleshooting controls, load calculations, inspection and documentation, and customer relations. Graduates are qualified to sit for industry exams, including EPA certification.

  • Location: Canton, MI
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $17,192
  • Program Length: Nine months

Northwestern Technological Institute

Northwestern offers a Climate Control Technology certificate program. Students receive hands-on training in the general categories of air conditioning, electrical systems, heating, troubleshooting, heat pumps, boilers, installation, property management, and career development.

Each category includes coursework specific to it. For example, the installation category includes subjects such as installation clearances, venting requirements, mechanical codes, electricity, pipe cutting and threading, sheet metal design and installation, wiring, and startup procedures. Graduates are qualified to sit for industry exams such as EPA certification and seek employment as residential or commercial technicians.

  • Location: Southfield, MI
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $16,320
  • Program Length: 11 months

Oakland Community College

Oakland offers the following HVAC/R systems technology certificate programs at the Auburn Hills campus:

  • Heating: 28 credit-hours
  • Air conditioning: 31 credit-hours
  • Refrigeration: 29 credit-hours

Each program includes basic HVAC/R principles with additional coursework in subjects relevant to the specific certificate. The OCC also offers an HVAC/R Technician degree program, also at the Auburn Hills campus. The curriculum includes:

  • Introductory HVAC/R
  • Sheet metal layout and fabrication
  • HVAC/R controls
  • Commercial refrigeration
  • HVAC/R design
  • Codes and regulations
  • Troubleshooting
  • Applied technology
  • Cooperative internship

In addition to the technical coursework, students are required to take general education subjects such as English/communication, fine arts/humanities, mathematics/science, social science, and business communication. Students complete 64 credit-hours to earn their degree. Graduates are qualified for employment as HVAC/R technicians, system designers, manufacturer’s representatives, and other industry positions.

  • Location: Auburn Hills campus, MI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $92 per credit hour
  • Program Length: Certificates vary; degree two years

Wayne County Community College District

The college offers HVAC certificate programs for:

  • 3rd class refrigeration, 28 credit-hours: includes coursework in blueprint reading, introductory HVAC and hermetics, commercial refrigeration and controls, electricity, codes and regulations, algebra, and English
  • Geothermal technology, 33 credit-hours: includes coursework in thermogeology, renewable energy, geothermal systems and technology, introductory HVAC and hermetics, GHEX accreditation, and algebra
  • High pressure steam, 30 credit-hours: includes coursework in blueprint reading, heating controls, forced air and hydronic heating, codes and regulations, boiler plant maintenance and accessories, steam, and algebra
  • Sheet metal design and fabrication, 34 credit-hours: includes coursework in blueprint reading, heating controls, introductory HVAC and hermetics, ventilation and duct fabrication, properties of air and duct design, and algebra

Graduates of the certificate programs are qualified to seek entry-level employment as technicians in their specialty.

The College also offers an HVAC degree program. The curriculum includes the coursework required for all of the certificate programs with the addition of the following: commercial refrigeration, advanced HVAC, technical communication, and advanced controls. Students also complete general education requirements in humanities, American government, English, natural science, and social science. They must complete 64 credit-hours to earn their degree.

  • Location: Detroit, MI
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $107.10 per credit hour
  • Program Length: Certificates one year; degree two years

Washtenaw Community College

The college offers HVAC/R certificate programs and a degree program. The certificate programs include:

  • HVAC I: four credit-hours
  • Sheet metal fabrication: four credit-hours
  • HVAC II: four credit-hours
  • Residential and light commercial air conditioning: four credit-hours
  • Residential HVAC competency exams and codes: three credit-hours
  • HVAC independent study: one to eight credit-hours
  • Energy audits: four credit-hours
  • Air system layout and design: three credit-hours
  • Refrigeration systems: three credit-hours
  • Hydronic systems: four credit-hours

Not all programs are available all semesters.

Students may also earn an advanced certificate in HVAC commercial trade with the completion of 17 credit-hours in the following:

  • Refrigeration systems
  • Hydronic systems
  • Commercial standards with competency exams
  • Energy audits
  • Air system layout and design

The program takes 45 weeks to complete.

The HVAC/R degree program incorporates the curriculum included in all the certificate programs and adds required electives in subjects such as writing and communication, humanities, natural sciences, and social and behavioral sciences. Students complete 60 credit-hours to earn their degree. Credits are transferable to Eastern Michigan University.

  • Location: Ann Arbor, MI
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $95 per credit hour
  • Program Length: Certificates (vary), degree (two years)

HVAC Certification and Licensing in Detroit, MI

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain EPA Section 608 Certification. 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:

  • For servicing small appliances (Type I)
  • For servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioning (Type II)
  • For servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances (Type III)
  • For servicing all types of equipment (Universal)

Practice exams are available online.

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): Their mission is to provide opportunities for enhanced technical competence by offering comprehensive, cutting-edge education and certification to the HVAC/R industry.
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE): Their certification tests represent real world working knowledge of HVAC/R systems.
  • HVAC Excellence: Their exams and certifications are intended to validate that an individual has retained knowledge in a specific area of the HVAC/R industry.

Details are available on their websites.

As a final note, the State of Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) requires HVAC contractors to obtain a mechanical contractor’s license. Applicants must submit proof of three years of experience in each classification and must pass an exam in the classification for which licensing is sought. Classifications include:

  • Hydronic heating and cooling
  • HVAC equipment
  • Ductwork
  • Refrigeration
  • Limited heating service
  • Unlimited heating service
  • Limited refrigeration and air conditioning service
  • Unlimited refrigeration and air conditioning service

The license fee is $300, and the license must be renewed annually. Exam fees are separate and paid directly to the testing agency.

The City of Detroit also requires all business to obtain a business license. Applicants must submit legal documents pertaining to their form of organization (sole proprietor, partnership, corporation), a completed application, and a fee. Licenses are renewed annually.

HVAC professionals are encouraged to ensure that they have all necessary licenses before beginning any projects.

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.