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Statewide, the number of jobs for HVAC professionals is expected to increase by 25.6% between 2014 and 2024.The Idaho Department of Labor (DOL)
Since 2005, HVAC technician licensing in Idaho has followed the standard licensing progression common in the skilled trades:

  • Apprentice
  • Journeyman
  • Contractor
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There are two general licensing categories in Idaho for HVAC professionals:

  • HVAC

    An unrestricted license for all HVAC systems (standard license that most HVAC techs hold); Requires 8,000 hours (approximately 4 years) of experience and 576 hours of classroom instruction

  • Specialty HVAC

    Specialty licenses (may include low-voltage electrical work)

    • Hearth – One year on-the-job training
    • Waste oil – One year on-the-job training
    • Fuel gas piping – One year on-the-job training
    • LP gas limited heating – Two years of on-the-job training

The experience necessary to earn these licenses comes in the form of entry-level employment or a formal apprenticeship.

HVAC Licensing in Idaho

HVAC Technician on the job

Idaho has a two-tiered licensing authority. The Idaho Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Board (referred to here as “the board”) is responsible for evaluating your license application. When all requirements are met, your license is then issued through the Idaho Division of Building Safety.

Most HVAC techs hold the standard unrestricted HVAC licenses, while specialty licenses are for HVAC techs working for companies with a narrower, more specialized focus:

HVAC

Design, construction, installation, improvement, extension and alteration of all piping, venting, duct work, appliances and appurtenances in connection with any heating, ventilation or air conditioning system or subsystems of such.

Specialty HVAC

Installation, improvement, extension, alteration or repairing of HVAC systems that includes aspects like gas piping, gas appliances and installation, or decorative gas-fired appliances.

You can earn a specialty license in four specialized sub-categories, each with a specific scope (each has experience requirements shorter than a standard HVAC apprenticeship):

  • Hearth – Installation and servicing of hearth and barbecue products, including low voltage work necessary to complete these
  • Waste oil –Installation and servicing of non-duct connected waste oil heaters
  • Fuel gas piping – Installation and servicing of fuel gas piping
  • LP gas limited heating – Installation, maintenance, servicing, and repair of LP gas fired appliances, LP fuel gas piping, and related exhaust venting (this does not include boilers, hydronic systems, ducted forced air systems, ventilating and air conditioning systems, systems with BTU input ratings over 300,000, or solid fuel and electric fueled systems)

Learning HVAC Skills On-the-Job

While every apprenticeship varies, you can expect to spend most of your time in the field. You’ll typically spend the first few weeks in the classroom going over laws, safety, and the basics of HVAC. After that it’s all about on-the-job supervised training, with only about six hours per week in the classroom, usually on weekends or evenings.

Standard HVAC – Standard HVAC apprenticeships are designed to be completed in four years and consist of:

  • 144 hours of education (576 total)
  • 2,000 hours of work experience (8,000 total)

Specialty HVAC – Specialty apprenticeships are shorter and do not necessarily include a classroom education segment:

  • Hearth – One year on-the-job training
  • Waste oil – One year on-the-job training
  • Fuel gas piping – One year on-the-job training
  • LP gas limited heating – Two years of on-the-job training

Making the Move from Apprentice to Journeyman

HVACTo finish your apprenticeship and qualify for journeyman status you must complete the following:

  • 576 hours of apprenticeship training school
  • 8,000 hours of competent work experience as an apprentice
  • Pass the journeyman examination

Specialty HVACTo finish your specialty HVAC apprenticeship(s) and qualify for journeyman status you must complete the following:

  • Hearth – You must prove one year of experience and either 60 hours of education in fuel gas code and piping installation methods plus a board-approved training course such as the National Fireplace Institute Program, or pass a board-designated examination
  • Waste oil – You must prove one year of experience and complete an approved waste oil burner manufacturer’s certification or examination
  • Fuel gas piping – You must prove one year of experience and either 60 hours of education in piping installation methods and the fuel gas code, or pass the fuel gas piping journeyman exam
  • LP gas limited heating – You must prove two years of experience and either 120 hours of board-approved professional-technical education in LP gas, or pass a board-approved examination

Journeyman HVAC Licenses and Exams

HVACYou can qualify to take the journeyman exam once you have completed your education and experience requirements. You can apply to test with Idaho’s Division of Building Safety with the HVAC journeyman exam application.

The HVAC journeyman exam is administered on a computer at one of these three Division of Building Safety office locations:

  • Meridian – 1090 E. Watertower Street, Suite 150
  • Coeur d’ Alene – 1250 Ironwood Drive, Suite 220
  • Pocatello – 2055 Garrett Way, Building 1, Suite 4

To schedule your exam call (800) 955-3044 at least two days before you want to test. Arrive on testing day with valid photo identification.

The test is open-book, and includes multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions. You need to earn a score of 70 percent or higher to pass. You’ll have four hours to complete 120 questions.

To prepare for the exam you should consult these materials:

Once you’ve passed your exam the Division of Building Safety will issue your journeyman card. You can now work as an HVAC technician under the direction of a contractor without being directly supervised.

Specialty HVACBefore you can fill out the specialty journeyman license application you’ll need to fulfill your experience, testing, and/or education requirements. To arrange to take the hearth, fuel gas piping, or LP gas limited heating exams you must contact either of the following organizations:

  • College of Western Idaho in Nampa, (208) 562-3000 or (208) 562-2072
  • Northwest HVAC/R Association and Training Center in Spokane, Washington; (509) 747-8810

EPA Section 608 Certification

In addition to the state licensing process you also must become certified under the federal EPA’s Section 608 if you’re going to be working with certain ozone-depleting pressurized refrigerants, which virtually all HVAC techs do. There are four types of certification options you can choose from depending on what type of work you’ll be doing:

For servicing small, self-contained appliances containing five or fewer pounds or refrigerant

In most cases, your education and training program will include test preparation and proctoring for EPA exams.

To earn any of these certifications you must pass the EPA exam specific to the certification type. You can often find same-day education and certification programs locally.

If you are working with motor vehicle air conditioning (MVAC) systems you must complete a separate Section 609 EPA-approved technician training and certification program.

How to Become an HVAC Contractor in Idaho

Many HVAC technicians are content with being journeymen. However earning a contractor HVAC license allows you to have your own business and work independently.

Whether you’re a normal HVAC journeyman or specialty HVAC journeyman, you’ll need to take the following steps to earn your contractor license, which is issued by the Division of Building Safety:

  • Complete two years of experience as a journeyman
  • Fill out a contractor application (HVAC or specialty HVAC)
  • Pass a contractor examination – it’s the same examination whether you’re applying for an HVAC or specialty HVAC license, and you’ll receive registration information once you submit a contractor application
  • Submit a $2,000 compliance bond in the name of your company to the Division of Building Safety
  • Pay a licensing fee

The HVAC contractor exam is administered on a computer at one of these three Division of Building Safety office locations:

  • Meridian – 1090 E. Watertower Street, Suite 150
  • Coeur d’ Alene – 1250 Ironwood Drive, Suite 220
  • Pocatello – 2055 Garrett Way, Building 1, Suite 4

To schedule your exam call (800) 955-3044 at least two days before you want to test. Arrive on testing day with valid photo identification.

The test is open-book multiple-choice. You need to earn a score of 70 percent or higher to pass. You’ll have four hours to complete 110 questions which are taken from two sources:

Renewing Your License: Apprentice, Journeyman and Contractor

HVAC ApprenticeshipA standard HVAC apprenticeship status is granted for five years, and you should be able to complete this in four. If your apprenticeship extends for more than five years you’ll need to renew this with the Division of Building Safety.

Specialty HVAC Apprenticeship A specialty HVAC apprenticeship status is granted for two years, and you should be able to complete this in one (the LP gas limited heating apprenticeship status is granted for three years, and you should be able to complete this in two). If the specialty apprenticeship extends beyond this period then you’ll need to renew this with the Division of Building Safety.

Journeymen and ContractorsOnce you pass a journeyman or contractor license exam the Idaho Division of Building Safety will issue you a card known as a Certificate of Competency. This is issued for HVAC professionals and specialty HVAC professionals. Each year you’ll need to renew this card by paying a fee with the Division of Building Safety.

Idaho’s Booming HVAC Industry

Idaho’s HVAC market is either hot or really hot. And right now it’s really hot. The Idaho Department of Labor projects a job growth rate of 25.6 percent for HVAC technicians between 2014 and 2024.

The underlying factors surrounding this strong HVAC demand are many fold. One significant development is the state’s residential, commercial, and industrial sector growth. In December 2016 census data came out that revealed Idaho has:

  • The third-highest rate of growth in the nation
  • The fifth-highest rate of in-migration in the nation
  • The seventh-highest birth rate in the nation

Cold winters and hot summers are another factor that keep HVAC technicians busy. Considering that heating and cooling systems use the second-highest amount of energy outside of transportation, Idaho’s utility companies and government are both taking steps to encourage residents to install more energy efficient HVAC systems.

Energy efficiency programs in Idaho that stimulate HVAC jobs include:

  • Heating and Cooling Efficiency Program

    Pointing out that half of a home’s energy cost can stem from heating and cooling, this program offers residential and business incentives for improvements in HVAC systems like air source heat pumps, loop water heat pumps, ductless heat pumps, evaporative coolers, and more.

  • A/C Cool Credit Program

    Over the past 20 years nearly every new home in Idaho has an air conditioner in it. This program gives financial credit to residents who have a cycling device installed in their air conditioning unit that will reduce consumption during peak times.

  • Energy House Calls Program

    For residents who live in a manufactured home that is heated by an electric furnace or heat pump, this program pays for a free house call for a technician to test duct systems for leaks and seal these, replace air filters, and assess the potential impact of energy-efficient HVAC systems.

HVAC Technician Salaries in Idaho

The Idaho Department of Labor reported that HVAC technicians in the state earned an average salary of $38,850 ($18.08 hourly) as of 2014.

The DOL predicts an extremely high level of job growth for HVAC specialists in the state in the years ahead. Statewide, the number of jobs for HVAC professionals is expected to increase by 25.6% between 2014 and 2024. A number of regions are expecting even faster growth:

  • South Central – 40.4%
  • Southwestern – 37.1%
  • Southeastern – 34.8%
  • Northern – 29.2%
  • Eastern – 28.8%

In its detailed analysis of job growth between 2012 and 2022, the Idaho Department of Labor highlighted the construction industry. With a 39% increase in the number of jobs expected during this period, construction is the leading sector for job growth in the state.

Salaries for HVAC Techs in Idaho’s Largest Cities

The US Department of Labor provides the hourly wages and annual salaries for HVAC technicians in the major metropolitan areas of Idaho as of 2015. The salaries shown here range from the median to the top 10%.

  • Boise

    • Annual: $38,970 – $61,760
    • Hourly: $18.73 – $29.69
  • Coeur d’Alene

    • Annual: $37,560 – $56,190
    • Hourly: $18.06 – $26.53
  • Idaho Falls

    • Annual: $25,500 – $73,410*
    • Hourly: $12.26 – $35.29*
  • Lewiston

    • Annual: $46,590* – $64,850
    • Hourly: $22.40* – $31.18
  • Pocatello

    • Annual: $38,500 – $59,640
    • Hourly: $18.51 – $28.68

*Higher than the national average for the categories shown.

A Growing Number of Opportunities for HVAC Professionals in Idaho

With the construction industry booming in Idaho, skilled tradesmen are in short supply. The Idaho chapter of the Associated General Contractors (ACG) of America unveiled a program aimed at changing that.

In November 2016, the chapter announced the formation of WeBuildIdaho.org—a new workforce development effort dedicated to the construction industry. Governor Otter gave his full support at the public unveiling.

The new portal can be used for everything from learning more about education requirements for specific construction jobs to finding jobs with companies looking to hire.

ACG of America’s CEO Stephen Sandherr said that most firms in the country face growing labor shortages in the construction industry. The CEO also lamented the sad fact that too few students are being exposed to careers in construction or provided with the basic skills necessary to prepare for a career path in construction.

For Idaho to continue revitalizing, growing, and urbanizing, the state must produce enough specialists skilled in HVAC and other construction trades.