Heating and Cooling Technician  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dotIt's a blistering 95 degrees outside. Not a cloud in the sky to shield the sun's rays. It could be a long, miserable summer if it weren't for heating and cooling installers.

dotHeating and cooling technicians install and maintain heating and cooling units, and sometimes plumbing. A big part of the business is driven by the construction industry.

These technicians need to be able to find their way around a construction site or a set of blueprints. They may be called upon to lay down sheet metal in air ducts, install vents, set up air conditioning systems, make all the needed electrical and water connections and test the whole thing when they're finished.

dotThis vocation requires technical ability, troubleshooting skills and the ability to work with a whole array of equipment. Pressure gauges, voltmeters, electrical drills and pipe cutters are just a few of the tools of the trade.

Mel Croonenberghs, owner of a heating and cooling company, looks for employees who have the technical aptitude for the job and who can relate to customers. "The technicians represent the company, so they have to be able to interact well."

dotMaintenance work for technicians is seasonal, but steady. In winter months, heating units may need simple work like adjusting a burner or thermostat. But over the summer when heat isn't needed, filters are replaced and ducts cleaned.

When air conditioning is in use, very little work is done unless there's a problem. But as soon as it cools off, a major overhaul of a unit's compressor or vent systems may be required.

An average work schedule is a 40-hour week, but that may include early mornings, nights and weekends. In the busy season it can even mean some 12- to 13-hour days.

dotSome mechanics and technicians also work on refrigeration units, like the ones that keep food and medical supplies fresh. This work brings with it a special challenge -- managing environmentally unfriendly chemicals.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires that all heating and cooling technicians be trained in proper handling and recycling of this material. The EPA provides a special course and certification.

dotThis line of work comes with its share of hazards. One of the biggest challenges is dealing with the weather: repairs on a heating unit in the dead of winter may require the technician to stand out in the cold to do the work. An AC repair may include working in the hot sun for many hours.

Other dangers include electrical shock, burns, muscle fatigue from lifting and working in small spaces, and even frostbite from improper handling of refrigerant.

At a Glance

Install and maintain heating and cooling devices

  • The workweek is usually 40 hours, but that may include early mornings, nights and weekends
  • You'll need technical ability and troubleshooting skills
  • Training may be done through a three- to four-year apprenticeship or trade school