Richmond, VA HVAC Training Schools & Certification

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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). 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 367,900 jobs nationwide in May 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The demand for HVAC technicians nationwide continues to grow. According to the BLS, openings for HVAC workers nationwide are expected to grow 13 percent between 2018 and 2028. That’s much faster growth than the anticipated average for all occupations (5 percent).

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

  • Construction of new commercial buildings and residences
  • The 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 (May 2019), 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

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019), HVAC professionals earn relatively competitive salaries, particularly for positions that may require just two years of post-secondary training. BLS (May 2019) states, the median salary for HVAC workers nationwide was $48,730 per year, while the median salary for HVAC technicians in Richmond, VA was $49,300 per year.

The table below is a comparison of national, state, and regional salaries of HVAC professionals.

The BLS (May 2019) reported the following salary figures in the Richmond area:

United States Virginia Richmond, VA
Number of HVAC professionals employed 342,040 11,670 2,070
Annual mean wage $51,420 $50,460 $47,690
10th percentile $30,610 $28,500 $26,350
25th percentile $37,660 $38,140 $37,160
50th percentile (median) $48,730 $49,770 $49,300
75th percentile $62,070 $61,360 $58,980
90th percentile $77,920 $74,350 $64,710

Another source, Indeed (July 2020), stated that HVAC workers in Orlando, Florida made $45,781 per year on average. Also, found that HVAC mechanics made an average of $47,573 as of July 2020.

The national figures were a bit different according to another source of data, Payscale (July 2020), which relies on self-reported salaries. Among the HVAC workers reporting their annual salaries, Payscale found these percentiles for the United States:

  • 10th percentile: $31,000
  • 50th percentile (median): $47,128
  • 90th percentile: $74,000

It is important to note that the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC 2020) reported that Virginia had the 31st lowest cost of living in the United States for 2020.

HVAC Apprenticeships in Richmond, 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 Associated Builders and Contractors, Virginia Chapter

The Associated Builders and Contractors, Virginia Chapter, (ABCVA) offers a comprehensive HVAC apprenticeship program in Richmond. Applicants for this apprenticeship must be: at least 18 years old, employed by an HVAC company, physically able to do the work, proficient in English, and have a high school diploma or GED equivalent.

The program includes apprentice registration. Students complete introductory coursework, as well as training in the following over the course of four years: trade mathematics, soldering and brazing, piping practices, commercial airside systems, vents, air quality equipment, chimneys, alternating current, evacuation, leak detection, recovery, as well as charging, troubleshooting gas heating and cooling, installation, maintenance, heat pumps, sheet metal duct systems, refrigerants and oils, fiberglass and flexible duct systems, compressors, retail refrigeration systems, metering devices, commercial hydronic systems, steam systems, planned maintenance, indoor air quality, water treatment, and energy conservation equipment among others.

This apprenticeship consists of 8,000 hours (approximately 2,000 hours per year) of on-the-job training, and 600 hours (approximately 150 hours per year) of related classroom instruction.

The training meets the standards set forth by the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). Students will gain valuable skills in the program that instantly make them useful to employers. They will learn how to design specifications or use blueprints for installing or repairing HVAC/R systems, install electrical wiring and controls, inspect and maintain customers’ HVAC/R systems, repair or replace worn or defective parts, and determine HVAC/R systems’ energy use and make recommendations for improving efficiency.

  • Location: Richmond, VA
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years
  • Estimated Tuition: Level 1 (ABC-VA member tuition: $1,800 and non-member tuition: $2,100); Levels 2 – 4 (ABC-VA member tuition: $1,400 and non-member tuition: $1,700)

Lord Fairfax Community College, Workforce Solutions

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 about the fundamentals of heating, pressure, gas, and air ventilation systems, common safety practices, diagnostic skills for electrical and motor issues, comfort conditions and environments, and also learn how to operate and diagnose refrigeration circuits, equipment, and applications.

The instructor is NATE-certified and apprenticeship classes are ideal for new entrants to the field or those currently employed who would like to enhance their skills and work toward a journeyman/master license. Apprenticeship programs have been designed in accordance with the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). The HVAC technician program provides students with entry-level skills necessary to take up HVAC technician jobs. Students can also gain three coveted national credentials in the HVAC industry through the program.

For admission to the apprenticeship programs, students must complete registration and attend a WorkKeys session two weeks prior to the commencement of classes.

  • Location: Warrenton, VA
  • Accreditation: Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Expected Time to Completion: HVAC apprenticeship (four years); HVAC technician fast track career training program (13 weeks)
  • Estimated Tuition: Online HVAC/R service core program ($3,795)

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 July 2020, PAHRA has not accredited a Virginia HVAC program, but HVAC Excellence has approved the following:

  • Advanced Career Education Center at Hermitage (Henrico, VA)
  • Franklin County High School (Rocky Mount, VA)
  • Edison Academy (Alexandria, VA)
  • Norfolk Technical Center (Norfolk, VA)
  • Northern Virginia Community College (Woodbridge, VA)
  • The Hanover Center for Trades and Technology (Mechanicsville, VA)
  • Virginia Beach Technical and Career Education Center (Virginia Beach, VA)

Please note that all of the Richmond-based programs below have regional (or programmatic) accreditation from a reputable entity.

Centura College

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 including the following coursework: air conditioning and refrigeration, air conditioning and refrigeration controls, heating systems, comfort and psychrometrics, heat pumps, and advanced troubleshooting and service.

This diploma program teaches students about HVAC systems and provides them with practical training in three areas: electrical, mechanical, and airflow systems, as well as how to troubleshoot in each of these areas.

Students will learn about the basic refrigeration cycle, discuss procedures for brazing and soldering tubing, troubleshoot electrical problems, identify the types of duct system installations, and list procedures used for bending copper tubing. Graduates of this program can take up roles such as HVAC technician assistant, comfort cooling technician, HVAC service technician, solar photovoltaic installers, boilermaker, and wind turbine technicians.

Students will also be eligible to earn HVAC certifications such as OSHA 10-Hour Safety Certification and the EPA Section 608 Refrigerant Transition Certification.

  • Location: Richmond, VA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 12 months
  • Estimated Tuition: Contact Centura College for a customized assessment

Fortis College

Fortis College in Richmond, VA offers the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration program, preparing its students for entry-level HVAC technician roles. Students in this HVAC program are trained in running computerized diagnostics in order to tackle systems such as heat pumps, gas heaters, commercial refrigerators, ventilating systems, and air conditioners.

The program is taught by experienced instructors, who teach students to apply their learnings to real-world problems. The practical skills they gain in the lab will help them operate with a wide range of heating, ventilation, and cooling systems. To qualify for admissions, students must be a high school graduate or its equivalent.

  • Location: Richmond, VA
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Varies
  • Estimated Tuition: $14,359

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Richmond, VA

In addition to receiving the proper training in the field, HVAC technicians, mechanics, and installers around the country must ensure that they have the proper national and regional credentialing. 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 on the size and type of equipment

  • Type I (small appliance)
  • Type II (high-pressure appliances)
  • Type III (low-pressure appliances)
  • Type IV (universal)

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.

Lastly, HVAC workers are encouraged to verify whether they have proper regional licensure or permitting prior to beginning work. Virginia’s Board for Contractors requires HVAC technicians to be licensed. All HVAC workers in VA who perform services in excess of $1,000 must have a license issued by the Virginia Board for Contractors. There are three levels of licensure:

  • Journeyman
  • Master
  • Contractor

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.

Farheen Gani

Farheen is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).