HVAC Schools in Knoxville, Tennessee (TN)

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Knoxville, Tennessee, TN, lies in the northeast portion of Tennessee, in the Great Appalachian Valley. The city is the county seat of Knox County and the largest city in the Knoxville Metropolitan Area. It’s the third-largest city in Tennessee. Native Americans have inhabited the area for thousands of years. The first white settlers arrived in the mid-1700s. Knoxville began to boom a century later with the advent of the railroads, and the area became a thriving manufacturing center.

Although manufacturing has expanded, the economy has also diversified. “Trade, transportation, utilities, and financial activities” are growth industries. The city is “technology-forward,” which keeps it attractive to high-tech industries, especially telecommunications. The Tennessee Valley Authority and nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory help provide economic stability. The tourism industry is booming due to numerous attractions, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Agriculture, electronics, education, healthcare, mining, professional services, retail and wholesale trade, and “very high research activity” all contribute to the economy.

Knoxville is within the humid subtropical climate zone, which means the summers are hot and humid. Winters are wet but much cooler. June through September are the hottest months, with average temperatures in the high 80s F. June and July experienced record highs of 105 degrees F in 2012. More than five inches of rain falls during July, with more than three and four inches each in most remaining months. October is the driest month, averaging slightly less than three inches of rain. Temperatures start dropping in November, and Knoxville stays cooler through April. January is the only month in which the average lows drop below freezing. Snowfall averages about 4 inches annually, most of which occurs in January and February. Relative humidity averages 71.5 percent annually.

Knoxvillians rely on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort in their homes and workplaces. Educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and hospitality venues typically add refrigeration (HVAC/R) to their systems. The manufacturing and research facilities frequently need additional systems to protect their products and projects. Knoxville has numerous historic sites and museums that also need specialized systems and equipment to preserve artifacts and structures. As technology-based industries continue to grow and more businesses utilize high-tech, the demand for the specialized climate-control systems and equipment required to keep the electronics functioning correctly is increasing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2022) reports that 1,460 HVAC and HVAC/R technicians were employed as of May 2022 in Knoxville. The technicians and their employers are supported by national, state, and regional industry organizations that include the following:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • East Tennessee Chapter of ASHRAE (ETNASHRAE)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • TN Assoc. of Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors, Inc. (TAPHCC)
  • UA Local 102 Plumbers and Pipefitters

These and similar organizations collaborate with others in the industry and regulatory agencies to establish and maintain educational and licensing standards. They serve all aspects of the HVAC and refrigeration industries, including performance and the safety of technicians, the public, and the environment.

Occupational Demand for HVAC and HVAC/R Technicians in Knoxville, Tennessee

Nationally, trained HVAC and HVAC/R technicians can expect increasing employment opportunities. The BLS (2022) anticipates a 5 percent increase each year between 2021 and 2031 in the demand for trained installers and mechanics. That is an average of 40,100 new job openings each year. Projections Central also anticipates long-term growth of five percent annually nationwide, although their statistics are for 2020 to 2030 and reflect an average of 38,500 new positions yearly.

Growth in the HVAC industry primarily results from the construction of new commercial and residential structures. However, a significant growth factor in older cities like Knoxville involves repairing or replacing aging or obsolete systems and equipment in existing structures. Evolving efficiency, regulatory, and safety standards create additional demand for new or replacement installations. The contemporary emphasis on pollution reduction for all systems also creates a need for new installations, increasing employment opportunities for trained technicians.

Homeowners and companies want “smart” buildings incorporating high-tech, including their HVAC systems. The increasing complexity of modern climate-control equipment and systems requires trained technicians for installation, service, and maintenance. Technicians need excellent troubleshooting skills and expertise with computers and electronics if they want the best job opportunities. If they specialize in new installations, they may experience unemployment if construction declines.

That doesn’t seem likely in the foreseeable future in Knoxville, as according to a 2023 report, the city’s economy is “projected to grow despite the predicted recession.” The report further indicates “positive GDP” and that Knoxville continues “to thrive.”

As businesses and homeowners need year-round climate control, technicians who specialize in maintaining, servicing, and repairing equipment can expect continuous employment regardless of the economy.

HVAC and HVAC/R Salaries in Knoxville, Tennessee

Wage data compiled by the BLS (May 2022) indicates an annual median salary for HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide of $51,390. The median salary for technicians in Knoxville is $47,240 yearly. The wage difference is not as significant as it appears, as the cost of living in Tennessee is lower than in most American states.

Details of wage data nationally, in Tennessee, and in Knoxville are as follows:

United States Tennessee Knoxville, Tennessee
Number of HVAC professionals employed 374,770 9,940 1,460
Average annual salary $57,460 $49,820 $50,140
10th Percentile $36,170 $34,790 $36,430
25th Percentile $44,100 $38,540 $38,570
50th Percentile $51,390 $47,530 $47,240
75th Percentile $65,630 $60,410 $60,790
90th Percentile $82,630 $70,260 $70,920

HVAC Apprenticeships in Knoxville, Tennessee

In the past, HVAC technicians could begin their careers as helpers and acquire their skills through hands-on training. Few opportunities currently exist for doing so. Present-day workers usually attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program.

Apprenticeships typically include specified hours of on-the-job training, usually 2,000 hours, and classroom work, usually 144 hours, annually for three to five years. Coursework and apprenticeships open up more employment opportunities, and technicians potentially start at higher wages and earn more throughout their careers.

ApprenticeshipTN provides information and resources for aspiring apprentices. UA Local 102 Plumbers and Pipefitters offers a five-year registered apprenticeship program in HVAC Service. Details are available from the Knoxville representative at (865) 525-6305. The Knoxville PHCC offers a four-year apprenticeship program certified by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training, and has Veterans Administration approval.

Shoffner Kalthoff Mechanical and Electrical Service employees are eligible for a four-year HVAC apprenticeship program as a paid employee benefit. Their program is registered with NCCER (National Center for Construction Education and Research) and the Department of Labor.

Aspiring HVAC and HVAC/R technicians can also find apprenticeship programs through industry associations such as the following:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES)
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA)

Each organization provides details of schedules and fees on its website.

Accredited HVAC and HVAC/R Schools in Knoxville, Tennessee

Workers who prefer to obtain their training by attending school should select an accredited institution. Accreditation is a process by which a school undergoes an evaluation of its program’s curriculum and instructors by an independent agency.

HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) are the agencies that specifically evaluate HVAC programs. HVAC Excellence has accredited 16 Tennessee College of Applied Technology campuses, including Knoxville. PAHRA has not yet accredited a Tennessee school. The University of Tennessee has institutional accreditation from a reputable agency.

Tennessee College of Applied Technology

TCAT offers the following HVAC/R program divided as follows:

  • HVAC Mechanic Assistant Certificate
  • Domestic Unit Repair Certificate
  • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Technician Diploma
  • Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Technician Diploma

The program course takes 1,728 hours to complete.

Students may complete the program during the day or the evenings. The coursework and cost are the same for both options. All students are expected to maintain a work-like and neat appearance. Appropriate attire is required at all times.

The curriculum includes worker characteristics (work ethics), technology foundations, OSHA and shop safety, tools, equipment, and shop practices, refrigeration fundamentals, electricity and controls, installation, green awareness, introduction to system service, basic automatic controls, motors, EPA, gas, electric heat, air conditioning, heat pumps, carbon monoxide, all-weather systems, and commercial refrigeration. Students take employment-ready exams throughout the coursework.

Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level positions as technicians and are qualified to sit for numerous industry exams and certifications that increase their employability.

  • Location: Knoxville, TN
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Commission of the Council on Occupational Education
  • Estimated Tuition: $5,273.00; books and supplies $2,640.00
  • Estimated Program Length: 16 weeks

University of Tennessee

UT offers an HVAC/R program that prepares students for “work ready” certificates, such as the HVAC Excellence “Employment Ready” Certificate and the NATE “Ready to Work” Certificate. Graduates are qualified to seek entry-level employment, or they may choose to obtain additional training as an apprentice. Coursework is completed online.

The curriculum includes safety, tools and equipment, shop practices, automatic controls, electric motors, commercial refrigeration, air conditioning, all-weather systems, domestic appliances, commercial air conditioning, and chilled water systems. The coursework also includes virtual simulations of troubleshooting and electricity.

  • Location: Knoxville, TN
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Estimated Tuition: $2,895
  • Estimated Program Length: Self-paced

Aspiring Knoxville technicians who cannot attend one of the above schools may find that an online institution will meet their needs. More information on accredited programs is available at online HVAC training.

HVAC and HVAC/R Certification and Licensing in Knoxville, Tennessee

Training prepares technicians for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification exams. The EPA requires all technicians who handle refrigerants to pass safety exams. The exams and certifications are based on the type and size of equipment on which a technician works, as outlined below:

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

The EPA website includes information about each level and exam.

Industry organizations offer information and testing for certifications, including Section 608, that increase a technician’s employability. These include but aren’t limited to:

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

Details of availability, scheduling, and fees are on each organization’s website. There is also more information on the HVAC certifications page.

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance requires HVAC contractors and subcontractors to obtain licensing for projects of $25,000 or more. All contractors must take a business and law exam. An additional trade-specific exam, including HVAC, is also required. In addition to testing, applicants must submit financial statements, reference letters, proof of insurance, proof of experience, a notarized application, and pay the $250 fee. Licenses must be renewed every two years.

The City of Knoxville requires mechanical contractors and installers to be registered or licensed if they work on a project requiring a permit. Applicants must have a state license, submit a photo ID, and pay a fee. Installer licensing applies only if projects are less than $25,000. Applicants must submit a passing score on the state trade exam, proof of four years of experience, a photo ID, and pay a fee.

HVAC professionals, including those with a home-based business, are encouraged to confirm that they comply with current state and local requirements before starting a project, as regulatory agencies may change their guidelines.

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.