HVAC Training Schools in Richmond, VA

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Although 2018 winter weather has been harsher than usual in Richmond, Virginia (VA), residents are used to cold winters and hot, muggy summers with temperatures averaging 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This state capital’s economy is based on a tripod of government, law, and finance. A Federal Reserve Bank and a United States Court of Appeals, as well as dozens of legal and banking firms, are located in the city. Not surprisingly, Richmond’s workers and residents seek refuge from the elements through indoor climate control during weather seasonal extremes. Consequently, there’s a healthy demand for professionals who service that equipment: heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) workers.

Locally, HVAC training and support for technicians and contractors is provided by the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc – Virginia Chapter (ABCVA) and the Association of Air Conditioning Professionals (AACP). Additionally, national associations are a source of conferences and online training. Among them are the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), the Air Conditioning Trade Association (ACTA), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC), and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA), among others. The organizations serve all aspects of the HVAC industry, offering education, networking events, various publications, professional advocacy, and other resources.

So what do these skilled professionals do in Richmond? HVAC and HVAC/R technicians work on systems that control the temperature, quality, and flow of air in buildings. A day’s work often requires travel from one job site to another. Technicians install, maintain, service, and repair equipment in large and small buildings, from residences to centralized systems in warehouses and factories. Each type of building has specific requirements.

Installers must be able to read blueprints and follow design specifications. They also connect equipment to electrical wiring, fuel and water supply lines, air ducts, and other system components. Their job includes calibrating controls and testing systems. Other technicians repair and maintain all types of equipment and systems. They must be proficient in troubleshooting and testing components. They understand how belts, fans, filters, motors, or valves all work together to produce the desired air quality and flow. Replacing or repairing defective parts can require skill in brazing or soldering. Technicians work with a variety of tools, from basics such as screwdrivers or wrenches to sophisticated testing instruments such as combustion analyzers. Part of the HVAC or HVAC/R job is helping consumers understand how to conserve energy. All customers received detailed written records of work completed as well as suggestions for improvement. Technicians are responsible for keeping their certifications current, and all work must be performed in compliance with safety guidelines.

This guide examines the accredited HVAC programs in Richmond, VA, as well as the career outlook and salary prospects of these professionals.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Technicians in Richmond, VA

Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers held 332,900 jobs nationwide in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Oct. 2017). The demand for HVAC technicians nationwide continues to grow. According to the BLS (Oct. 2017), openings for HVAC workers nationwide are expected to grow 15 percent between 2016 and 2026. That’s much faster growth than the anticipated average for all occupations (7 percent). A forecast for Richmond isn’t available, but Virginia is experiencing slightly slower growth in the demand for technicians. Projections Central predicted a 13.4 percent statewide increase for the decade ending in 2024.

Several factors contribute to the growth of the HVAC and HVAC/R industry:

  • Construction of new commercial buildings and residences
  • Increasing complexity of climate control systems
  • Emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution
  • Replacing, retrofitting, or upgrading older systems
  • Changing weather patterns

Contractors are the largest employers of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers, according to the BLS (Oct. 2017), and nine percent of technicians are self-employed. Technicians usually work full time, with overtime hours during peak seasons.

Although technicians usually work indoors, some may have to work on outdoor equipment even in bad weather. Technicians often work in awkward or cramped spaces. Work in buildings can also be uncomfortable because the air conditioning or heating system has malfunctioned. It’s important to note that HVAC and HVAC/R workers have a relatively high rate of injuries, which can include electrical shock, burns, muscle strains, and injuries from handling heavy equipment.

HVAC Worker Salary in Richmond, VA

The BLS (May 2016) reported that nationally, HVAC/R mechanics and installers received a median salary of $45,910 annually, while technicians in Richmond received $47,570—relatively generous considering that the the annual median salary was $38,070 for all occupations in Richmond, VA.

In greater detail, here were the BLS (May 2016) salary percentiles for HVAC mechanics and installers nationwide:

United States (332,900 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

US: $23.23 average hourly salary

  • 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.

City of Richmond, VA (1,830 HVAC workers): $47,440 average annual salary

  • 10th percentile: $27,840
  • 25th percentile: $36,500
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,570
  • 75th percentile: $58,680
  • 90th percentile: $68,570

$22.81 average hourly salary

  • 10th percentile: $13.38/hr.
  • 25th percentile: $17.55/hr.
  • 50th percentile (median): $22.87/hr.
  • 75th percentile: $28.21/hr.
  • 90th percentile: $32.07/hr.

Accredited HVAC Programs in Richmond, VA

According to the Department of Education, “The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.” Various agencies determine whether schools have met the applicable guidelines, and for HVAC programs, the most reputable accreditation agencies are HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA). The accreditation guidelines are available on the organizations’ websites.

As of January 2018, PAHRA has not accredited a Virginia HVAC program, but HVAC Excellence has accredited the following programs:

  • Bridging Communities Regional Career and Technical Center, New Kent, VA
  • Edison Academy, Alexandria, VA
  • Northern Virginia Community College, Woodbridge, VA

Although workers can start as helpers and learn how to be an HVAC technician through on-the-job training, most workers these days participate in a formal apprenticeship program or attend classes on a college campus.

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry registers apprentices. Apprentices are paid employees of sponsoring companies, which must also register. Registered apprentices complete 2,000 hours of supervised hands-on training as well as 144 hours of coursework for each year of their four-year apprenticeship. Apprentices who successfully complete the program are recognized as journey-level technicians. Five Richmond HVAC companies are listed as sponsors as of January 2018. Not all companies are accepting apprentices at all times.

The Associated Builders and Contractors, Virginia Chapter, (ABCVA) offers a comprehensive HVAC apprenticeship program in Richmond. Applicants must be:

  • At least 18 years old
  • Employed by an HVAC company
  • Physically able to do the work
  • Proficient in English

The program includes apprentice registration. Students complete introductory coursework, as well as training in the following over the course of four years:

  • Trade mathematics
  • Piping practices
  • Soldering and brazing
  • Commercial airside systems
  • Chimneys, vents, and flues
  • Air quality equipment
  • Leak detection, evacuation, recovery, and charging
  • Alternating current
  • Troubleshooting gas heating and cooling
  • Heat pumps
  • Installation and maintenance practices
  • Sheet metal duct systems
  • Fiberglass and flexible duct systems
  • Refrigerants and oils
  • Compressors
  • Metering devices
  • Retail refrigeration systems
  • Commercial hydronic systems
  • Steam systems
  • Planned maintenance
  • Water treatment
  • Troubleshooting electronic controls, oil heating, heat pumps, and accessories
  • Construction drawings and specifications
  • Indoor air quality
  • Energy conservation equipment
  • Building management systems
  • System startup and shutdown
  • Heating and cooling system design
  • Commercial and industrial refrigeration

The training meets the standards set forth by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). The program is not further accredited. Fees are not disclosed on the website.

Lord Fairfax Community College, Workforce Solutions offers comprehensive HVAC apprenticeship programs and HVAC continuing education classes, including an online class titled HVAC/R Service Core program. The program is designed to prepare students for industry exams and certifications as well as the state licensing exam. Students learn:

  • The fundamentals of heating, pressure, gas, and air ventilation systems
  • Common safety practices
  • Diagnostic skills for electrical and motor issues
  • About comfort conditions and environments
  • How to operate and diagnose refrigeration circuits, equipment, and applications

The instructor is NATE-certified, and tuition is $3,795.00. Lord Fairfax Community College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Centura College offers an HVAC diploma program on the Richmond campus, which is located in North Chesterfield, VA. The program takes one year to complete and prepares students for entry-level positions. Students complete a total of 36 credit-hours to graduate, and the 2016-17 tuition was $450 per credit-hour. Books, supplies, and other fees were extra. Centura College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). Coursework includes:

  • Air conditioning and refrigeration
  • Air conditioning and refrigeration controls
  • Heating systems
  • Comfort and psychrometrics
  • Heat pumps
  • Advanced troubleshooting and service

The Richmond Adult Training Center (RATC) offers coursework to students participating in an apprenticeship program. The coursework is divided into three sections, and each section requires two semesters of attendance, taking one year to complete. Each semester consists of approximately 75 hours of instruction and 14 weeks in duration. Coursework includes:

  • Safety training
  • Refrigeration fundamentals
  • Thermodynamic principles
  • Tools and equipment
  • System components
  • Installation procedures
  • Refrigerants
  • Soldering and brazing
  • Electrical theory
  • Electric motors, circuits, schematics, and wiring diagrams
  • Residential and commercial heating systems
  • High pressure oil burners
  • Natural gas and electric furnaces
  • Hydronic systems

Classes are divided between theory and practical application, and the 2017-18 tuition per semester was $400. Books, supplies, and other fees are extra. The Richmond Adult Technical Center is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Richmond, VA

Federal law requires all HVAC technicians to obtain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 608 certification. Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. Four levels of certification are available based the size and type of equipment, and the “universal” (Type IV) certification allows technicians to work on all equipment. Various organizations offer classes and administer the exam.

Several industry organizations provide nationally recognized HVAC certifications. These include the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES), North American Technician Excellence (NATE), and HVAC Excellence. Details of certifications offered and fees are available on their websites.

Virginia’s Board for Contractors requires HVAC technicians to be licensed. Licensing requires passing an exam and paying a fee, and licenses are good for two years. During that time, technicians must complete three continuing education credit-hours covering updates to the International Mechanical Code. Additionally, the City of Richmond requires all contractors—including self-employed technicians—to obtain an annual business license. Fees are based on a percentage of gross receipts.

Overall, all HVAC professionals in Richmond, VA and beyond are advised to contact local governing offices to ensure that they have all necessary credentialing and permits prior to beginning any project.