Laredo, TX HVAC Technical Schools & Certification

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Laredo was once the capital of the short-lived Republic of the Rio Grande. It’s now the seat of Webb County and the largest inland port on the border with Mexico. Four international bridges and a railway bridge facilitate billions of dollars of trade between the US and Mexico. Additional worldwide trading partners include China, Malaysia, Thailand, France, and dozens of others. The world trade market continues to increase annually.

The city has millions of square feet of logistical space to support an economy based on industrial and commercial warehousing related to the international import and export trade. Other industries that contribute to Laredo’s economy include education, mining, oil and gas, agriculture, and public administration. Festivals and other cultural events, museums, a planetarium, and architecture featured on the National Register of Historic Places draw thousands of tourists annually.

Several geographical features affect the weather in Laredo, Texas (TX). It’s located in the Chihuahuan Desert, which covers parts of the American southwest and Mexico. Laredo sits on the bank of the Rio Grande River, which marks the US/Mexico border. The Rio Grande, the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains to the west, the Gulf of Mexico to the east, and the desert can protect the city from some weather extremes while creating others.

Summers are scorching with daytime temperatures in the high 90s that frequently soar above 100 degrees. Summer nights provide some relief from the heat, with averages that are about 20 degrees lower. Daytime temperatures during the winter hover in the high 60s and low 70s, with nighttimes about 20 degrees cooler. Freezing temperatures are a rarity, as is snowfall. Rain falls every month, with August receiving the most at nearly three inches.

Desert life with its relentless heat keeps Laredo residents indoors. After the searing summers, the winters feel cold to many. Laredoans depend on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for comfort, whether relaxing at home or busy at their workplace. Massive warehouses and other industrial structures often need the addition of large-scale refrigeration (HVAC/R). Tourist attractions and hospitality venues also rely on HVAC and HVAC/R to keep their facilities comfortable.

Data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2019) records show that 150 HVAC mechanics and installers were employed in Laredo, TX as of May 2018. Technicians and their employers received support from local, state, and industry associations such as the:

  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
  • American Subcontractors Association Texas Chapter
  • Laredo Builders Association
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
  • Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association
  • Texas Air Conditioning Contractors Association

These groups serve all aspects of the HVAC and HVAC/R industry by coordinating with other industry associations and governmental agencies to establish training and licensing standards. They strive to protect the environment as well as the health and safety of workers and the public.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Laredo, TX

The BLS (2019) predicted a 13 percent rise in the demand for HVAC and HVAC/R technicians nationwide between 2018 and 2028. That expected growth is almost twice the average of 5 percent anticipated for all occupations in the US. Texas is surpassing national expectations, as Projections Central predicts a 23.5 percent increase in the demand for technicians statewide between 2016 and 2026. This translates to 6,190 new positions over the decade.

In most areas, new construction is the primary contributor to the growth in the HVAC and HVAC/R industry. As international trade continues to expand, Laredo will need to construct more facilities to accommodate the growing import/export businesses. Many of the newer commercial structures and homes are “smart” buildings that rely on advanced climate-control systems. Businesses, such as those engaging in logistics, as well as healthcare institutions and research facilities at the University often depend on sophisticated technology that demands specialized HVAC/R equipment to operate efficiently. Remodeling or renovating existing structures typically requires that HVAC and HVAC/R systems be replaced, retrofitted, or upgraded to meet contemporary standards for energy efficiency and pollution reduction.

The increasing complexity of climate-control systems requires trained technicians to install, service, and maintain the equipment. Technicians who are skilled troubleshooters and those who are proficient with computers and electronics generally have the best job prospects. Occasionally, technicians who specialize in new installations experience seasonal unemployment. That is unlikely in Laredo in the foreseeable future, due to both the weather and the strong economy. Technicians with repair and maintenance skills can anticipate full-time employment as homeowners and businesses need to keep their equipment working efficiently year-round regardless of the economy.

HVAC Salaries in Laredo, TX

The BLS (March 2019) wage and employment data indicate a median salary of $47,610 for HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide as of May 2018. Laredo, TX technicians earned an annual median wage of $37,450.

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

United States Texas Laredo, TX
Number of HVAC Professionals Employed 324,310 25,290 150
Average Annual Salary $50,160 $46,070 $37,820
10th Percentile $29,460 $27,930 $24,660
25th Percentile $36,520 $35,220 $31,010
50th Percentile (Median) $47,610 $44,550 $37,450
75th Percentile $60,900 $55,630 $45,990
90th Percentile $76,230 $66,090 $52,080

HVAC Apprenticeships in Laredo, TX

Although in the past aspiring HVAC and HVAC/R technicians were able to start as assistants and learn their skills through on-the-job training, few opportunities for doing so exist today. Employment opportunities increase for those who attend formal classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Trained workers can typically start at higher wages and potentially earn more throughout their career.

Most apprenticeships include 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 144 hours of classroom work annually for three to five years. Workers can find information on becoming a registered apprentice, as well as other resources for job seekers, at the Texas Workforce Commission website. Workers seeking to become apprentices must first find an employer willing to train them. The employer will need to register with the Commission if they have not already done so. The Commission grants funding to registered programs, classroom instruction, and apprentices.

Industry associations such as the following also sponsor apprenticeships:

  • Air Conditioning Contractors of America
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society
  • Sheet Metal Workers International Association

Further information, including schedules and fees, is available on their websites.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Laredo, TX

Independent agencies evaluate schools in a process known as accreditation. The quality of the curriculum and credentials of the instructors are included in the evaluation—the purpose of which is to assure students that they obtain the education they expect from the institution. It’s essential that students determine if the school they are considering is accredited and which organization granted accreditation.

Two industry organizations evaluate HVAC programs. HVAC Excellence has awarded accreditation to Laredo Community College, in Laredo, and Lincoln College of Technology, in Grand Prairie. The Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) has accredited Vernon College, in Wichita Falls.

Del Mar College

Del Mar offers three HVAC programs:

  • Air Conditioning Applied Technology, Level I Certificate – 36 credit-hours
  • Air Conditioning Applied Technology, Level II Certificate – 48 credit-hours
  • Air Conditioning Applied Technology, Associate in Applied Science (AAS) – 60 credit-hours

Coursework for all three programs is presented in classroom lectures followed by hands-on practice in a lab.

Curriculum for the Level I certificate program includes basic electricity, the principles of refrigeration, shop practices and tools, HVAC controls, residential HVAC, gas and electric heating, domestic appliances, window air conditioners, and an air conditioning installation and startup capstone project.

Students seeking the Level II certificate complete the above curriculum in addition to the following: residential HVAC system design, heat pumps, and commercial HVAC/R, which includes a capstone project. Students enrolled in the degree program complete the Level I and Level II curriculum as well as general education coursework that includes composition, and mathematics, communication, philosophy, and history electives.

Graduates gain the skills and knowledge needed to seek entry-level employment as HVAC technicians.

  • Location: Corpus Christi, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $64 per credit-hour
  • Program length: Certificates one year; degree two years

Laredo Community College

Laredo offers a one-year HVAC/R Level I certificate program and a two-year HVAC/R Level II certificate program. Programs prepare students for entry-level employment as HVAC/R technicians.

Coursework for the Level I certificate includes refrigeration principles, HVAC/R special topics, electricity, domestic appliances, window air conditioners, residential HVAC, troubleshooting, gas and electric heating, and air conditioning installation and startup. Students complete 32 credit-hours to earn their certificate.

Students enrolled in the Level II certificate program will complete the Level I curriculum, in addition to instruction in heat pumps, advanced electricity, residential HVAC design, commercial HVAC/R, and an HVAC/R cooperative education capstone project. Students complete a minimum of 51 credit-hours to earn their certificate.

  • Location: Laredo, TX
  • Accreditation: HVAC Excellence; Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $50 per credit-hour
  • Program length: Level I certificate one year; Level II certificate two years

Southwest Texas Junior College

Southwest offers two HVAC/R certificate programs and a degree program. The coursework for the one-year HVAC/R certificate program includes electricity, refrigeration principles, domestic appliances and window air conditioners, HVAC controls, residential HVAC, and air conditioning installation and startup. Students complete 23 credit-hours to earn their certificate.

The HVAC/R two-year certificate program encompasses all of the one-year program coursework as well as the following: commercial refrigeration, gas and electric heating, troubleshooting, heat pumps, residential HVAC system design, and a cooperative education HVAC/R technology capstone project. Students are awarded their certificates at the completion of 45 credit-hours.

Students seeking a degree complete all the certificate coursework, as well as general education electives from the social and behavioral sciences, humanities and fine arts, natural science and math, and other areas. They complete a total of 60 credit-hours to earn the degree.

Graduates are qualified to seek employment as entry-level residential and light commercial HVAC/R technicians.

  • Location: Uvalde, TX
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Format: On-campus
  • Tuition: $183 per credit-hour
  • Program length: “One-year” certificate, nine months; “two-year” certificate, 18 months; degree, two years

Laredo students who are unable to attend an on-campus program may choose online HVAC training. More information is available at the online HVAC training site.

HVAC and HVAC/R Certification & Licensing in Laredo, TX

HVAC technicians must demonstrate an understanding of the safe handling of refrigerants. They do so by passing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification exam. The EPA designates four types of certifications based on the type of equipment serviced, as follows:

  • Small appliances (Type I)
  • High-pressure appliances, except small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioning (Type II)
  • Low-pressure appliances (Type III)
  • All types of equipment (Universal)

Further information and practice exams are available online.

Technicians may obtain additional training and certifications, as well as Section 608 testing and certification, from industry organizations that include:

Details and fees are available on their websites.

Further information on industry certifications is available on the HVAC certifications page.

HVAC technicians in Texas must work under a licensed HVAC contractor and may not advertise their services. HVAC technicians are required to register with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). Registration requires an application and $20 fee and must be renewed annually.

Technicians also may voluntarily choose to register as certified technicians by submitting the following:

  • Proof of at least 24 months experience under a licensed HVAC contractor or proof of 2,000 hours of combined work experience and approved certification training program
  • A completed application form
  • A $50 fee

After the TDLR approves the documents, the applicant becomes eligible to take an exam relevant to the type of certification sought. Certification types include:

  • Environmental Air – Class A
  • Environmental Air – Class B
  • Commercial Refrigeration – Class A
  • Commercial Refrigeration – Class B
  • Certified Technician

Each exam requires a fee. Licenses must be renewed annually by submitting an application form and a $35 fee.

Becoming licensed as an HVAC contractor in Texas requires applicants to meet the following conditions:

  • Have 48 months of practical experience under a licensed HVAC contractor within the past 72 months or held a technician certification license for the past 12 months and have at least 36 months and practical experience under a licensed HVAC contractor within the past 48 months
  • Submit a completed application form
  • Pay a $115 fee
  • Successfully pass an exam
  • Meet minimum requirements for insurance coverage

Two classes of licenses are available: Class A permits contractors to work on any size project; or Class B, which limits projects to cooling systems of 25 tons and under and heating systems of 1.5 million BTUs/hour and under. Contractors may add endorsements for environmental air conditioning, commercial refrigeration, and process heating or cooling. Licenses are subject to annual renewal, which requires eight hours of continuing education, an application, and a $65 fee.

The City of Laredo requires all businesses to register. Details regarding information required and fees are not disclosed on their website.

State and local licensing requirements are always subject to change. HVAC technicians are encouraged to ensure that they comply with any 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.