HVAC Schools in Columbus, OH

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Columbus goes by many names—the Arch City, the Indie Art Capital, and the Biggest Small Town in America, to name a few—and is the largest city in OH. This state capital has a humid continental climate and hot summers, and consequently, it boasts a high demand for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) services, a need reflected in the abundance of professional associations in the city to assist skilled HVAC professionals in their occupation.

By illustration, the Mechanical Contractors Association of Ohio holds a majority of its meetings in Columbus to discuss industry-impacting legislation, regulations, technologies, and other worker advocacy issues. The MCA is dedicated to protecting Ohio’s Prevailing Wage Laws, the value of competitive bidding and open contracting, reforming city tax laws, workers’ compensation, and providing an apprenticeship program to impart the fundamentals of the trade.

So what are those fundamentals? HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers in Columbus and beyond take on responsibilities such as laying piping or wiring for HVAC systems; installing and calibrating equipment to manufacturer standards; performing maintenance on systems and HVAC components (e.g., fans, ducts, humidifiers, economizers, motors, filters, compressors, condensers, refrigerant controls, heat pumps, etc.); soldering or brazing parts; interpreting blueprints or mechanical diagrams; keeping detailed customer service records; calculating head loads and losses; checking the chemical compositions of parts; ensuring all credentialing and permits are up-to-date; and making recommendations to clients for energy efficiency or upgrades. Some HVAC workers in Columbus work with a variety of systems and others may specialize in a particular type of equipment such as commercial, residential, or gas systems. Additionally, all HVAC professionals who deal with refrigerants must have an active EPA Section 608 certification, the sole mandatory federal credential in the industry.

This guide examines accredited HVAC schools in Columbus, OH, as well as the occupational demand, salary prospects, and credentialing procedures in the city.

Demand for HVAC Workers in Columbus, OH

According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015), there’s expected to a be a strong demand for HVAC professionals nationally in the coming decade. In fact, the BLS (2015) predicted a 14 percent explosion in fresh openings in this field between 2014 and 2024—the addition of 39,600 openings—double the average growth projected across all US occupations during that same decade (7 percent). Projections Central (Feb. 2017), a BLS affiliate, adds that the growth prediction is slightly stronger for Ohio HVAC workers at 14.9 percent; with the addition of 1,470 openings in HVAC—many of them in the state capital—there should be an abundance of opportunities for people in this field on into the future.

What are the forces contributing to the thriving employment climate for HVAC professionals in Columbus? First, as with any city with a steady stream of new development, there’s a need for climate control systems across most new structures. Second, HVAC systems generally need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years. Also, HVAC units generally come with service contracts which provide for regular maintenance throughout the year. Finally, as regulations continually evolve, sometimes old equipment will need to be modified or replaced in accordance with safety protections.

Some HVAC professionals in Columbus work normal business hours, and others are called upon to work weekends, evenings, or holidays, especially during the high summer season.

It’s important to note that compared to other occupations, HVAC workers suffer a higher-than-average rate of injury and illness largely due to the physical nature of the work, which puts them at increased risk of muscle strains, electrical shock, burns, and other complications. With the donning of proper safety equipment and rigorous training, however, these problems can generally be kept at bay.

As evidence of the thriving employment climate in Columbus, OH, one need not look further than common job posting sites. For example, Indeed (Feb. 2017) advertised 195 HVAC openings at places such as Nationwide Children’s Hospital Crossroads Group, Lennox International, Direct Energy, AZ Air Conditioning and Heating, Inc., the EV Bishoff Company, Enervise, Logan Services, Inc., Centerline Communications, Muetzel Plumbing Heating Cooling, Valley Mechanical Services, Coldren Mechanical, Inc., Mission Mechanical, Comfortrol Heating & Air, and more. Monster (Feb. 2017) had an impressive 461 relevant job postings in the Columbus area with companies such as United Refrigeration Service, Inc., Synerfac, CARE Heating And Cooling, FIRE & ICE Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc.​, AAA Ohio Auto Club, Camelot Facility Solutions, Sauer Group, Inc., Sandvik Hyperion, and Hotsy Equipment Company, among others.

HVAC Technician Salary in Columbus, OH

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2015) reports that HVAC technicians make relatively attractive salaries, particularly for a career which typically does not require a four-year postsecondary degree. The BLS (May 2015) reported that the 274,680 HVAC workers nationwide earned an annual average salary of $47,380 and the following wage percentiles:

United States (274,680 HVAC workers): $47,380 annual average salary

  • 10th percentile: $27,790
  • 25th percentile: $34,920
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,110
  • 75th percentile: $58,070
  • 90th percentile: $71,690

Translated into hourly figures, these became:

United States: $22.78/hr. average

  • 10th percentile: $13.36/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.79/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $21.69/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $27.92/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $34.47/hr.

It’s worth noting that these national figures varied by source of data. As proof of point, Payscale (Feb. 2017), a site which relies on self-reported wage data, had 451 HVAC worker respondents with the following annual salary percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $29,000
  • 25th percentile: $35,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $42,886
  • 75th percentile: $53,000
  • 90th percentile: $67,000

An additional 2,486 HVAC professionals gave Payscale (Feb. 2017) their hourly salaries, resulting in the following percentiles:

  • 10th percentile: $13.00/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $15.00/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $18.00/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $24.00/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $29.00/hr.

The BLS (May 2015) reported that HVAC workers in Ohio made slightly less than the national average:

Ohio (10,740 HVAC workers): $45,190 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $27,690
  • 25th percentile: $35,020
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,150
  • 75th percentile: $54,560
  • 90th percentile: $63,360

Put into hourly figures, these became:

Ohio: $21.72/hr. avg.

  • 10th percentile: $13.31/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.83/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $/21.23hr.
  • 75th percentile: $26.23/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $30.46/hr.

Another source, Indeed (Feb. 2017), stated that HVAC workers in Columbus, OH made $21.57 per hour on average, roughly on par with the national figure. Also, Salary.com (Feb. 2017) found that among 21 OH cities, Columbus paid the fourth highest wages for HVAC mechanics at an average of $40,708 annually.

Before examining the more granular regional data, it’s important to note that HVAC professionals in OH enjoy a more affordable cost of living than in most other US states. By illustration, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2017) reported that OH was the 19th most affordable state in the country, enjoying particular savings in housing and utilities. Please keep this in mind while evaluating the following regional salaries.

The BLS (May 2015) designated seven regions within 100 miles of Columbus, OH. Here were the average annual salaries, numbers of HVAC mechanics and installers employed, and wage percentiles among those areas:

Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN (2,000 employed): $49,750 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $32,080
  • 25th percentile: $39,510
  • 50th percentile (median): $50,470
  • 75th percentile: $59,680
  • 90th percentile: $67,540

Columbus, OH (1,670 employed): $46,370 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $28,910
  • 25th percentile: $36,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,220
  • 75th percentile: $56,330
  • 90th percentile: $66,480

Dayton, OH (940 employed): $42,370 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $22,430
  • 25th percentile: $33,360
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,730
  • 75th percentile: $49,680
  • 90th percentile: $60,370

Lima, OH (230 employed): $39,900 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $27,910
  • 25th percentile: $33,330
  • 50th percentile (median): $39,020
  • 75th percentile: $46,740
  • 90th percentile: $52,020

Mansfield, OH (120 employed): $41,410 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $31,490
  • 25th percentile: $34,220
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,350
  • 75th percentile: $47,230
  • 90th percentile: $59,050

Springfield, OH (70 employed): $44,040 avg.

  • 10th percentile: $34,060
  • 25th percentile: $37,620
  • 50th percentile (median): $43,010
  • 75th percentile: $48,420
  • 90th percentile: $58,500

Southern Ohio Nonmetropolitan Area: no data available

Accredited HVAC Programs in Columbus, OH

To become an HVAC professional in Columbus, OH, there are varied pathways. First, some aspiring workers in this field choose to enroll in an apprenticeship program. For example, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services offers registered apprenticeship programs in the HVAC industry, which include at least 2,000 hours of hands-on training and 144 hours of technical education. Some of the businesses which have teamed with the state government to provide these programs are TP Mechanical Contractors, Inc., Mid-Ohio Air Conditioning, and ABC Inc. Central Ohio. At ABC, for example, treats registered apprentices as full-time employees as they learn to install, repair, and maintain heating and A/C systems in both residential and commercial buildings. Their job placement rate stands at 59 percent.

Other aspiring HVAC mechanics and installers may enroll in accredited HVAC programs in Columbus, OH and the surrounding areas. There are two predominant accreditation agencies for HVAC programs: these are HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). To learn about how programs are approved, please check out the websites themselves or the detailed section on the HVAC programs homepage.

As of February 2017, there were eight PAHRA-accredited programs and two HVAC Excellence-accredited programs in Ohio, including a couple within 100 miles of Columbus. For example, the University of Northwestern Ohio of Lima boasts both accreditation types and a curriculum comprising 70 percent hands-on training. Coursework includes units on refrigeration systems & controls; electronics; air conditioning systems & controls; heat pump systems; and applications of refrigeration & temperature controls, among others. This program costs $1,550 per six-week session; there are eight sessions per year.

Another school with dual accreditation is the Pike County Career Tech Center of Piketon, which has a two year vocational program featuring courses such as the brazing & soldering; air conditioning & troubleshooting skills; preventative maintenance; OSHA training; basic electricity; gas & electric heating; and green energy & heating technologies, to name a few. Since tuition varies by many factors, please use the PCCTC tuition calculator to estimate how much it costs.

For those seeking programs in the heart of the state capital, Columbus State Community College offers a two-year associate of applied science (AAS) degree in
HVAC technology. This program has instruction in the principles of refrigeration; load calculations; hand tools & safety; the instrumentation & combustion process; automatic controls; business communications; and piping systems, among other subjects. Additionally CSCC also offers five HVAC certificates in subfields of the discipline: controls, high pressure boiler license training, large commercial systems, residential & light commercial systems, and testing & balancing. Ohio residents pay just $135.93 per credit hour of instruciton, and non-residents pay $303.03.

Finally, FORTIS has campuses in Columbus (Westerville), Cincinnati, Cuyahoga Falls, and Centerville. The FORTIS HVAC/R program includes units on heat pumps, gas heat, A/C, commercial refrigeration, and more. Please contact a program representative to determine a tuition estimate.

For aspiring HVAC workers who find it difficult to attend an on-campus program, there are various distance-based HVAC training schools as well. To learn about these, please visit the main online HVAC programs page.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Columbus, OH

As mentioned in the introduction, there is one mandatory certification for all people who work with refrigerants, the EPA Section 608 certification, and there are four subtypes: type 1 (small appliance), type 2 (high-pressure appliances), type 3 (low-pressure appliances), and type 4 (universal). A majority of HVAC programs include training for this credential as part of their curriculum. For those that don’t, there’s a variety of Section 608 certification programs around the country.

There are other national credentials in this field from three main entities. Here are those three organizations and some sample certifications which they offer:

  • HVAC Excellence credentials offered: heating, electrical, air conditioning technology (HEAT), HEAT Plus, heat oil combustion, systems diagnostics troubleshooting, green awareness, residential heat load analysis, etc.
  • North American Technician Excellence (NATE) credentials offered, including many in Spanish: specialties (installation, service, and senior), installation specialties (air conditioning, air distribution, heat pump [air-to-air], oil heating [air], gas heating [air]), service specialties (air conditioning, air distribution, oil heating [air], gas heating [air], heat pump [air-to-air], hydronics gas, hydronics oil, commercial refrigeration, light commercial refrigeration)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) credentials offered: commercial air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, controls, domestic service, dynamic compression, heating, heat pump, HVAC-R electrical

To learn more about how to achieve any of these competency-based national certifications, please visit the HVAC certifications page.

Lastly, before seeking HVAC work, technicians, mechanics, and installers in this field should ensure that they have all necessary state and municipal credentialing. While there is no state licensure required for general technicians, commercial contractors must be licensed through the Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board (OCILB). To qualify, candidates must be at least 18 years old and have the following:

  • Proof of a minimum five years of experience under a licensed contractor, showing a permit for one project, or be a registered engineer with three years of business experience in HVAC
  • At least $500,000 in contractor liability insurance
  • Clean background check
  • Passing score on the OCI Examining Board’s test
  • Application fee ($25)

To maintain, contractor licenses require at least ten hours of continuing education annually. Also, OH has license reciprocity with four nearby states: Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, and South Carolina. The City of Columbus also has its own Board of Review of Warm Air Heating and Air Conditioning/Hydronics Contractors to “adjudicate matters pertaining to a department-registered OCILB licensed warm air heating and air conditioning contractor (HVAC).” Additionally, some HVAC installation work may require a city-issued mechanical contractor permit.

In sum, HVAC workers in Columbus, OH should ensure that they have all necessary credentialing prior to agreeing to any work.