HVAC Schools in Utah

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Home to the Great Salt Lake and Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah boasts mountains with peaks taller than 10,000 feet which descend into deserts in the lower elevations. Weather varies from arid to rainy and icy conditions. The many mountains and valleys are subject to seasonal changes in temperature from below freezing to blistering heat, as well as variances due to elevation. As a result, residents of the Beehive State require year-round heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) to remain comfortable.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (May 2016), 3,260 Utahns were employed as HVAC installers, mechanical, and maintenance workers. Training and professional support are provided by various organizations, including the Rocky Mountain Gas Association; the Utah Mechanical Contractors Association; and the Utah Plumbing and Heating Contractors Association. Members of these associations work closely with others in the HVAC industry as well as with government agencies to establish educational, performance, and licensing standards.

The typical workday of an HVAC technician in Utah is filled with a variety of responsibilities. Their job description is installing, maintaining, and repairing systems that control indoor temperatures and air quality. In addition to working on equipment in homes, technicians work on systems in factories, hospitals, offices, restaurants, and schools. Not surprisingly, any building with climate control can be a job site, requiring attention from minor repairs or maintenance to complex installations. Technicians troubleshoot equipment that isn’t functioning properly and repair or replace parts. They must be familiar with how belts, fans, filters, motors, or valves all work together to produce the desired air quality and air flow. Equipment that HVAC technicians install, service, or maintain includes boilers, compressors, heat pumps, humidifiers, refrigeration systems, and water pumps. In addition to installing new equipment, HVAC technicians are often responsible for connecting the system to electrical, fuel, or water lines and testing components such as thermostats and safety controls. Tools used in HVAC jobs range from everyday hand tools like screwdrivers or wrenches to those requiring specialized knowledge such as acetylene torches, combustion analyzers, and voltmeters.

Experienced HVAC professionals in Utah ensure that new equipment meets the specifications outlined in the blueprints and manufacturer manuals. Verification that installations comply with local and federal regulations is another part of the job, and HVAC professionals also evaluate the energy use of the equipment and recommend improvements to customers to increase operating efficiency. All technicians are required to keep their credentials and certifications current.

This guide explores this high-growth industry, including the career outlook, salary prospects, credentialing information, and accredited HVAC programs in Utah.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Workers in Utah

Utah is one of the fastest growing states in the U.S. The expanding population and extreme temperatures create superior employment opportunities for HVAC and refrigeration professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates stable employment into the future, as manufacturers and contractors have begun demanding year-round service contracts. Additionally, job post sites such as Monster and Indeed illustrate the abundant demand for HVAC workers in the state, mostly in the Salt Lake City area. Peak seasonal installations and repair services can result in overtime hours for technicians.

Nationwide demand for HVAC mechanics and installers continues to grow. The BLS (Dec. 2015) projected an increase of 14 percent in openings nationwide from 2014 to 2024. Projections Central expected that 970 jobs would be added to the HVAC industry in Utah during that same decade—an increase of 33.8 percent. By comparison, openings in all professions nationwide were expected to increase by only seven percent. The factors that have led to increases in HVAC employment include:

  • Construction of new commercial buildings and residences
  • Increasing demand for climate control
  • Increasing complexity of new climate control systems
  • Requirements that older systems be replaced, retrofitted, or repaired
  • Focus on improving energy efficiency and reducing pollution

Most HVAC technicians are employed by construction companies, and approximately 10 percent are self-employed.

HVAC Salaries in Utah

According to BLS (May 2016), the annual average wage for Utah’s 3,260 HVAC workers was $48,500, and the average hourly rate was $23.32—roughly on par with national figures. In fact, the average annual salary of U.S. HVAC workers was $48,320, equating to an hourly rate of $23.23. It’s important to add that Utah HVAC workers benefit from a lower cost of living. Nationally, it costs an average of $103.09 to buy what $100.00 buys in Utah according to one estimate. In more detailed terms, the BLS (May 2016) reported the following wage percentiles among HVAC workers nationwide:

United States: (294,730 HVAC workers): $48,320 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $28,440
  • 25th percentile: $35,440
  • 50th percentile (median): $45,910
  • 75th percentile: $58,960
  • 90th percentile: $73,350

United States: $23.23/hr. Average

  • 10th percentile: $13.67/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.04/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.07/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.35/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $35.26/hr.

Again, these figures were slightly higher in Utah, which boasted the following figures:

Utah: (3,260 HVAC workers): $48,500 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $27,970
  • 25th percentile: $35,220
  • 50th percentile (median): $46,180
  • 75th percentile: $59,190
  • 90th percentile: $75,790

Utah: $23.23/hr. Average

  • 10th percentile: $13.45/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $16.93/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.20/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.46/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $36.44/hr.

Finally, the BLS designated eight regions within the state. Not surprisingly, HVAC workers in Salt Lake City enjoyed the highest average annual wage at $57,600. Here were the numbers of HVAC workers, average salaries, and detailed percentiles:

Central Utah Nonmetropolitan Area (40 HVAC workers): $37,950 average

  • 10th percentile: $17,490
  • 25th percentile: $32,220
  • 50th percentile (median): $37,150
  • 75th percentile: $52,160
  • 90th percentile: $56,750

Eastern Utah Nonmetropolitan Area (unknown number of workers): $45,250 average

  • 10th percentile: $26,990
  • 25th percentile: $30,410
  • 50th percentile (median): $38,800
  • 75th percentile: $58,690
  • 90th percentile: $65,780

Logan, UT (150 workers): $42,170 average

  • 10th percentile: $26,960
  • 25th percentile: $32,730
  • 50th percentile (median): $40,780
  • 75th percentile: $51,040
  • 90th percentile: $60,060

Ogden-Clearfield, UT (520 workers): $46,160 average

  • 10th percentile: $27,230
  • 25th percentile: $32,930
  • 50th percentile (median): $44,520
  • 75th percentile: $55,090
  • 90th percentile: $63,210

Provo-Orem, UT (670 workers): $41,550 average

  • 10th percentile: $18,090
  • 25th percentile: $33,800
  • 50th percentile (median): $41,290
  • 75th percentile: $51,010
  • 90th percentile: $60,660

Salt Lake City, UT (1,420 workers): $57,600 average

  • 10th percentile: $36,620
  • 25th percentile: $43,960
  • 50th percentile (median): $54,570
  • 75th percentile: $70,280
  • 90th percentile: $86,610

Southwest Utah Nonmetropolitan Area (30 workers): $37,280 average

  • 10th percentile: $27,390
  • 25th percentile: $32,860
  • 50th percentile (median): $36,660
  • 75th percentile: $40,560
  • 90th percentile: $49,530

St. George, UT (240 workers): $36,760 average

  • 10th percentile: $26,600
  • 25th percentile: $29,190
  • 50th percentile (median): $34,050
  • 75th percentile: $41,750
  • 90th percentile: $54,710

Please note that apprentices can expect to earn about half what experienced and certified technicians earn.

Accredited HVAC Schools in Utah

Individuals desiring to become HVAC technicians traditionally learned the trade by hands-on instruction. Apprentices today combine classroom study with paid on-the-job work and take three to five years to complete their training. Local chapters of industry associations are one source of apprenticeship programs. These include:

  • Air-Conditioning Contractors of America
  • Mechanical Contractors Association of America
  • Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association
  • Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association

For example, the Utah Career Center of SLC has a five-year HVAC/R apprentice program under the auspices of the Utah Mechanical Contractors Association. Students receive 1,800 hours on-the-job training under the supervision of a certified journeyman. They also attend classes three nights a week where they learn the science, theory, and practical application of the trade. Upon completion, apprentices receive a certificate and journey-level status. The Salt Lake Community College also offers a four-year apprenticeship program comprising 8,000 on-the-job training hours and at least 576 hours of classroom instruction. Tuition is currently $458 per semester, plus fees. Apprentice applicants must typically have the following to qualify:

  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Have a safe driving record
  • Be physically able to handle the job
  • Be prepared to work inside and outdoors
  • Supply proof that they are at least 18 years old
  • Be a high school graduate or have their GED
  • Pass a drug screen

HVAC and refrigeration systems are increasingly complex. For this reason, contractors often prefer to hire workers who have completed formal coursework as well as on-the-job training.

It’s important to make sure that training programs are accredited to ensure that industry standards are met. While the Partnership for Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) and HVAC Excellence are the two most common accrediting agencies for HVAC schools, there are currently no programs in Utah recognized by these entities. Instead, the schools listed below are accredited by the Council on Occupation Education, another organization authorized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit schools:

Typical classwork in HVAC programs includes, but is not limited to:

  • Air distribution systems
  • Blueprint reading
  • Ductwork installation
  • Electricity fundamentals
  • Energy conservation equipment
  • Gas and hydronic heating
  • Hand and power tool use
  • Humidity control
  • HVAC troubleshooting techniques
  • HVAC/R mathematics
  • Residential HVAC system design and installation
  • Safety practices

Please note that the completion time varies by student.

HVAC Licensing in Utah

Fabricating and installing complete HVAC systems requires obtaining a Utah Contractor’s license. Utah’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing calls for applicants to pass an HVAC exam and have a minimum of four years of experience during the previous ten years. Their work has to be under the direct supervision of a licensed HVAC contractor. The exam tests applicants on:

  • HVAC system design
  • HVAC system fabrication
  • HVAC system installation
  • HVAC system maintenance
  • HVAC safety

A Utah contractor’s license is required on all contracting jobs that exceed $1,000. Applicants are charged a non-refundable fee, which is currently $110.00, to take the exam. To remain licensed, technicians must undergo continuing education, including a minimum of eight hours on the current edition of the National Electric Code. Additionally, HVAC professionals must pass the Rocky Mountain Gas Association certification exam if they plan to work on gas appliances.

In addition to local requirements, there are various national HVAC certifications available. HVAC Excellence offers a variety of employment-ready certifications in HVAC/R, designed to improve one’s technical competency in the industry. North American Technician Excellence (NATE) tests and certifies working knowledge of HVAC/R systems and documents competency in specific knowledge areas. The Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES) provides training and testing designed to increase and certify the skills of HVCA/R workers. The requirements, costs, and expiration dates of the certifications vary. Lastly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain EPA Section 608 Certification. The four types of this certification are:

  • Type 1: Small appliances
  • Type II: High-pressure refrigerants
  • Type III: Low-pressure refrigerants
  • Type IV: Universal (all types of equipment)