Spokane, WA HVAC Schools

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Settled by Native Americans thousands of years ago, Spokane, Washington (WA) has rebounded from several economic downturns since Europeans established the first trading post in the 1800s. The region’s primary industries relied on agriculture, mining, and manufacturing but today, Spokane is now a bustling city at the center of the Inland Northwest.

The economy is diversified and thrives on innovations in research, education, health, and bio-science. Mining and advanced manufacturing still contribute to the economy, but aerospace, agriculture, finance, insurance, and transportation help keep the economy flourishing. The Lilac City is home to four major universities, which are undergoing significant renovations. Local businesses are hiring, and residential construction is booming. The steady economic growth has also contributed to the construction of larger public projects.

Spokane summers are hot and dry with minimal rainfall. The highs can soar into the 90s. Winters are cold and snowy with temperatures often below freezing. Residents and local businesses need heating, venting, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) all year for comfort.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 340 HVAC/R mechanics and installers were employed in the cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley. Local industry organizations, such as the following, provide training and support to the technicians:

  • Inland Pacific Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (IPC-ABC)
  • Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 44
  • Spokane Home Builders Association (SHBA)
  • Washington State Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Industry Association (WAACCA)

Additional support and resources for workers and their employers are provided by national industry associations. Local, state, and national organizations work with others in the industry and government organizations to establish educational and licensing standards. They strive to promote better relations throughout the industry and to maintain high professional standards. They serve all aspects of the HVAC and HVAC/R industries, including safety, performance, and promotion.

Read on to explore the career outlook in Spokane’s HVAC industry, including information about salaries, accredited training schools, and local credentialing.

Occupational Demand for HVAC Professionals in Spokane, WA

Demand for HVAC mechanics and installers is growing nationwide. According to the BLS (2018), the need for technicians is expected to increase 15 percent between 2016 and 2026, much faster than average of 7 percent projected for all occupations in the U.S. The demand for technicians in Washington is growing at a much higher rate than the national average. Projections Central predicted a 22.3 percent statewide increase for the same decade.

The growth of the HVAC and HVAC/R industry has several components. The primary factor is the increasing sophistication of climate control systems and the need to replace, retrofit, or upgrade older systems. Industries that rely on technology, such as those contributing to the growth in Spokane, frequently require specialized climate-controlled facilities.

The expansion by the universities in Spokane has created an additional need for specialized equipment and systems. The contemporary emphasis on energy efficiency and reducing pollution also contributes to the demand for new installations.

HVAC Salaries in Spokane, WA

The BLS reports that HVAC mechanics and installers in the U.S. receive a median salary of $47,080 annually and those in Spokane and Spokane Valley receive an annual median salary of $40,230. Here is a detailed salary comparison:

United States Washington Spokane-Spokane Valley
Number of HVAC workers 307,060 4,810 340
Average annual salary $49,530 $53,510 $44,650
10th percentile $29,120 $32,300 $27,530
25th percentile $36,150 $40,960 $32,370
50th percentile (median) $47,080 $52,870 $40,230
75th percentile $60,270 $63,380 $56,190
90th percentile $75,330 $78,140 $65,910

Accredited HVAC Programs in Spokane, WA

In the past, HVAC and HVAC/R technicians began their careers as helpers and learned the trade through hands-on training. It is still possible to do so, but these days, most workers attend classes or participate in an apprenticeship program. Formal training and apprenticeships can open up more employment opportunities.

Apprenticeships typically include at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and 144 hours of classroom work annually. Apprentices are paid for the hours worked, and many programs do not charge tuition for the classroom work.

The Washington Apprenticeship and Training Council (WSATC) establishes state regulations in compliance with the federal rules. Apprentices must register with WSATC. Employees who are not are regarded as journey-level workers and must be paid journey-level wages. Apprentices are paid based on their accumulated hours of training. There are currently 12 active HVAC or HVAC/R apprenticeship programs, one of which is located in Spokane and another within a 90-minute commute.

The Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 44 offers HVAC and HVAC/R training through the joint apprenticeship committee. Applicants must contact their Spokane training director for information, as details are not provided on their website.

For formal degree and certificate programs, it is essential to determine if a school is accredited and by which organization. Accreditation is a process by which an independent agency evaluates the quality of the program, including both the curriculum and the instructors. Two organizations evaluate and certify HVAC programs: HVAC Excellence, which has not yet accredited a Washington state program, and Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA), which has accredited Bates Technical College, a public post-secondary school located in Tacoma. Despite the five-hour drive from Spokane, Bates is included in the profiles below due to its accreditation status. Furthermore, there are other programs within Spokane and surrounding areas which boast other reputable forms of accreditation.

Northwest HVAC/R Association and Training Center

Northwest Center is a private vocational college that offers an HVAC/R service technician certificate of completion program. Coursework includes classroom lectures and hands-on training in a modern lab about HVAC/R fundamentals, job safety, trade math, electricity fundamentals, gas codes, installation preparation for the heating mechanics license exam, and much more. Students also complete an internship and take industry exam preparation classes. Upon graduation, they receive 900 hours of electrical state credit.

  • Location: Spokane, WA
  • Accreditation: Commission of the Council on Occupational Education (COE)
  • Tuition: $9,936
  • Program length: Eight and one/half months

Spokane Community College

SCC offers an HVAC/R degree program that prepares students for entry-level positions as technicians. Coursework includes classroom lectures and hands-on training in a fully-equipped lab. Students learn the fundamentals of electricity, heating systems, refrigeration, and air conditioning. They also study heat transfer theory, sheet metal layout and fabrication, system performance, servicing, and troubleshooting, heat pumps, and controls. Students may complete an optional internship. Graduates are prepared for industry exams and are qualified to receive their electrical trainee license.

  • Location: Spokane, WA
  • Accreditation: NWCCU
  • Tuition: $4,027 per year
  • Program length: Two years

Bates Technical College

Bates offers an HVAC/R support technician certificate of competency program and an HVAC/R technician associate degree program. Both programs require students to pass the Air Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) industry competency exams to graduate. Coursework includes exam preparation classes and graduates are qualified to take other industry exams that increase their employability. They receive 1,100 hours of credit toward the Washington State O6A electrical certificate.

The certificate program requires 99 credit-hours to complete. The program begins with training in HVAC fundamentals, job safety, and tools and equipment. Students progress to learning HVAC/R science, refrigeration systems, electrical components and systems, cooling tower basics, thermal storage, and troubleshooting. They also study heat pumps, hydronics, chilled water systems, and cooling systems, and learn skills such as soldering and brazing, drafting, and reading blueprints. They are also required to take industry math, communication, and humanities electives.

The degree program has two concentration options: welding or sheet metal. Coursework covers the same areas as the certificate program, with additional classes in the chosen option. Additional electives include practical applications and independent projects. The degree program requires 103 credit-hours to complete.

  • Location: Tacoma, WA
  • Accreditation: PAHRA; Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Tuition: $125.53 per credit-hour; $1,832 for books and supplies
  • Program length: Certificate (60 weeks); degree (two years)

HVAC Certification & Licensing in Spokane, WA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires technicians who work with refrigerants to obtain EPA Section 608 Certification. Certification requires passing an exam on the safe handling of refrigerants. There are four types of certifications according to the systems on which technicians work:

  • For servicing small appliances, Type I
  • For servicing or disposing of high-pressure appliances, except small appliances and motor vehicle air conditioning, Type II
  • For servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances, Type III
  • For servicing all types of equipment, Universal Type IV

Practice exams are available online.

Technicians may obtain additional training and HVAC certifications from industry organizations, which also offer Section 608 testing and certification. These include:

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

Details are available on their websites.

The State of Washington Department of Labor & Industries does not require a specific HVAC/R license; however, anyone working on electrical wiring or equipment must be a certified electrician or a supervised electrical trainee.

Trainees pay a fee and receive a certificate that’s good for two years. Renewal requires 16 hours of classroom education, verified work experience, and payment of a fee. Non-trainee HVAC/R workers may be licensed in one of two specialties, either HVAC/R (06A) or HVAC/R restricted (06B).

Applicants must complete an application, submit verified on-the-job experience (between 2,000 and 4,000 hours, depending on the license), meet educational requirements, pass an exam, and submit the required fees. Licenses are good for three years. Renewal requires 24 hours of continuing education and payment of a fee.

Self-employed individuals are generally regarded as contractors. Contractors are required to register with the state. HVAC/R contractors are included as specialty contractors. They may be required to obtain electrical licensing or plumbing certification in addition to their HVAC/R enrollment.

After contractors have registered with the state, they must apply for a Washington business license and pay the appropriate fees. Contractors must then complete the application for construction contractor filing. Documents to be submitted with the form include proof of $6,000 surety bond and general liability insurance coverage in the amounts of $50,000 property damage and $200,000 public liability. The fee is $113.40 for two years, after which the registration must be renewed.

Finally, the City of Spokane requires all businesses located or doing business within the city limits to obtain a license. Applicants must first obtain their state business license, then complete the city business license application. The basic fee for city licensing is $113 annually. An additional fee based on the number of employees is also due. For example, businesses are charged $10 per employee for the first five employees. Business facilities must also pass a safety inspection by the fire department.

Barry Franklin

Barry is the Editor in Chief of HVACClasses.org, operated by educational web publisher Sechel Ventures, which he joined as partner in 2013 after almost 20 years in the financial software industry.