“I’ve learned everything I need to know,” said no HVAC service tech or installer ever …
The emerging technology that’s been put to use in HVAC systems and appliances are now largely responsible for shaping the HVAC industry and manufacturers are constantly striving to improve energy efficiency, capacity, and function. This means the HVAC pros servicing and installing this gear need to stay on top of these changes and know what they’re working with.
In some states, like Kentucky for example, continuing education is about more than professional development, it’s actually a requirement for maintaining a journeyman-level HVAC license. And in even more states, including Ohio, Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma, and others, continuing education is part of the requirement for maintaining a state contractor’s license.
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Even if you’re satisfying your continuing education requirements for no other reason than to keep your license current, you should take the opportunity to try to stay up-to-date on changes in technology so you can position yourself comfortably ahead of the curve and remain an expert in your craft.
There are a few ways to get caught up with the latest advances in HVAC so you can stay on top of your game—and get your required continuing ed hours in while you’re at it:
HVAC distributors want the contractors who purchase their equipment and supplies to focus on the latest products, and they certainly want them to understand the unique features of these products.
And what better way to get contractors caught up on the latest offerings in the HVAC market than to hold training and product information sessions right at the shop? Distributors invite manufacturers to come into their facility and talk to local techs and installers, where they discuss new technology and the ways in which their parts and equipment are changing. And manufacturers are more than willing to accommodate them.
Mike DeRicco, a Pittsburgh-area service tech in the commercial-industrial market says he always makes a point of attending classes offered by local distributors. It helps him do his job better, and he says his employer encourages him and his fellow service techs to sign up for these classes. And it’s always a bonus to attend these classes, he says, because his company pays the employees to attend.
DeRicco says this type of continuing education should be what service techs do minimally to keep up with what manufacturers are doing. According to DeRicco…
“If you don’t follow it, you kind of get lost in it. The best thing you could do would be to keep up with things as they change.”
Angie Snow, co-owner of an Orem, Utah-based HVAC company specializing in residential/light commercial/maintenance, echoes the need for continuing education in a field where home automation and technology are constantly changing the way things are done. As a result, she says that continuing education is an important aspect of their annual planning. According to snow, “We take a lot of time and plot out the training for our techs [because they] have to be up on their game.”
Snow also notes that continuing education for her techs goes beyond simply keeping up on technology changes and industry trends. She said she recently organized a training session for how to be better communicators because, she says, “that’s important, too.” Snows says that they are always looking for training opportunities through vendors and supply houses, as well as through other organizations.
You will find that manufacturers of HVAC equipment and supplies offer training in a variety of formats, including online and in person. For example, Carrier has something they call Carrier University, an elaborate training system that includes classroom and online courses and symposiums and seminars covering all aspects of the HVACR industry and all of the people involved in it, from service techs to facility managers to architects and owners.
They even have a host of courses aimed at service techs and installers who are new to the industry. Some of the course offerings include: Intro to High Performance HVAC Systems, Fundamentals of HVAC Design, Zoned Air Systems, and Basic Refrigeration Cycles.
Emerson Climate Technologies is another example of an HVAC manufacturer who takes the concept of continuing education seriously. Their in-depth educational resources are targeted at keeping service techs and other end users up to date on the latest industry technology and trends. As a result, their instructor-led training classes, internet-based courses, and webinars are plentiful. They offer more than 30 online courses alone. Courses cover the most basic topics—Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Basics—to the most advanced—Compression Operation and Mechanical Failure.
Trane’s abundant continuing education courses are designed for engineers, designers, contractors, technicians, engineering students, and professors who want to receive in-depth instruction on everything from basic HVAC designed and operation to advanced systems and controls. Their easy-to-navigate website allows you to find training classes near you and search for courses and other continuing education opportunities by topic and type.
Trade Association Continuing Education Opportunities
HVAC trade associations are a great source of continuing education opportunities, and why not? They want their members to be on the cusp of the latest in HVAC, engaged in the latest industry happenings, and always working to advance their careers and the profession. Look to both state and national associations for the latest in continuing education.
Take the Texas Air Conditioning Contractors Association, for example, which offers both online and classroom courses. Many of their courses are offered at local sites, which makes it super convenient to get some professional development under your belt. And many are taught by local HVAC experts, so you can be sure you’re getting the insider’s scoop on everything from meeting customer expectations to complying with Texas laws and regulations.
There’s also plenty of national associations you can turn to. For example, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ (ASHRAE) Learning Institute offers their share of continuing education opportunities, including instructor-led online courses, annual conference courses, and self-taught online courses.
Another popular association is the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association, an organization that is always on top of the latest geothermal technologies, and is willing to share their knowledge with contractors, installers, and designers in the field. Just a sampling of their offerings includes installer workshops, train-the-trainer courses, and designer/inspector workshops. Online courses, webinars, and training workshops held in conjunction with their annual conference and expo are just a few of the ways you can get up to speed on the heat pump industry.
And don’t forget the big names in continuing education: The North American Technicians Excellence (NATE) and HVAC Excellence. Both offer industry certifications, as well as plenty of continuing education opportunities to maintain certification.
NATE offers certification for HVAC technicians at every professional level, including the Ready-to-Work certification, designed to demonstrate an entry-level tech’s knowledge and skills in the fundamentals of HVAC and the HVAC Support Technician certificate, designed to demonstrate an early-career tech’s skills in areas like safety, basic science, installation, and system components.
HVAC Excellence offers a professional technician certification and a number of master specialist hands-on certifications in areas like air conditioning, gas heat, oil heat, and combustion analysis.
Other industry associations worth looking into for continuing education include:
Your State Licensing Board as a Resource for Continued Learning
If you live in a state that licenses HVAC techs or if your contractor’s license requires some ongoing training to keep it in good standing, chances are your state licensing board maintains a list of continuing education providers. What’s great about these lists is that you are sure to find a wealth of courses, workshops, seminars, and webinars to accommodate your schedule and pique your interest.
A couple good examples of this include Kentucky’s Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction, which maintains a list of continuing education providers, as well as a course calendar that keeps track of courses, workshops, and other continuing education opportunities, and Texas’ Department of Licensing and Regulation, which maintains a comprehensive continuing education spreadsheet that includes both online and classroom courses.
You will find that most state licensing boards approve continuing education through a number of providers, such as private online course providers, community/technical college courses, and courses offered through manufacturers and distributors.