32 states added construction jobs in 2016. Oregon ranked second in the nation for the number of new construction jobs added in 2016 (7,600 new jobs).The Associated General Contractors of AmericaOregon does not have an HVAC-specific license. Instead, the Oregon Construction Contractors Board requires HVAC technicians and installers to hold a Limited Energy Class B (LE/B) license.
As an LE/B, you must work for an electrical contractor, a limited energy contractor, or for an employer in an industrial plant. You would start out in an entry-level position as an apprentice, trainee, helper or assistant as you work toward gaining the experience required to earn your Limited Energy Class B license.
The Board recognizes three paths to becoming a licensed LE/B:
How to Become Licensed as a Limited Energy Technician, Class B (LE/B)
HVAC Technical Schools/Colleges
Completing a formal HVAC/R program through a technical school or community college will provide you with the foundation needed to enter the field as an educated and knowledgeable apprentice or trainee.
Because apprenticeships in Oregon tend to be highly competitive, applicants with a background in HVAC through a formal HVAC program may enjoy an advantage during the application process. (Many programs rank applicants according to a “point” system, with more points given to applicants with previous education or experience.) To this end, a number of HVAC/R technical school programs in Oregon are even approved as pre-apprenticeship training programs through the Oregon State Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI).
Some technical schools actually offer apprenticeships that meet BOLI requirements and that result in earning an Associate of Applied Science along with an LE/B license and other state-mandated certification.
If you choose to complete an HVAC program outside of a formal apprenticeship in Oregon, you must complete your period of work experience under a contractor licensed as a Restricted Energy Contractor (CRE) and a Limited Maintenance Specialty Contractor HVAC/R (LHR). Technical schools often offer job placement assistance to help make the transition from student to entry-level employee a little easier.
Direct-Entry HVAC Apprenticeships
You can also enter directly into an LE/B apprenticeship program facilitated by a local union Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee or non-union trade association approved by BOLI. These formal apprenticeship programs consist of 144 classroom hours a year (for 2 years) and 4,000 hours of on-the-job training. BOLI maintains a list of both union and non-union apprenticeships.
Federal EPA and Oregon Brazing Certification for Working with Refrigerants
Completing an HVAC technical program or apprenticeship will often include test preparation and the testing itself for earning Federal EPA Section 608 Certification and Oregon State Brazing Certification for handling refrigerant.
Oregon Brazing Certificate
A Brazing certificate through the Oregon Air Conditioning Contractors Association (ORACCA) is required to work with commercial refrigerant in Oregon. You must take an examination to earn the Oregon Brazing certificate. You can read more about the requirements here.
EPA Section 608 Certification
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Section 608 Certification is required to meet the federal requirements of the Clean Air Act for handling controlled refrigerants known to cause ozone depletion. Anyone working to test pressure, add, or otherwise handle these common ammonia and Freon-based refrigerants must be certified in the proper procedures for recovering, recycling, and reclaiming these chemicals:
To earn EPA Section 608 certification, you must pass an examination that includes two sections: (1) a Core Section and (2) a section that aligns with the certificate type for which you are applying.
How to Become a Limited Specialty Contractor HVAC/R (LHR) in Oregon
If you want to take your HVAC/R career to the next level and establish your own HVAC/R business, you can apply to become a Limited Specialty Contractor HVAC/R (LHR). An LHR license is required for any HVAC/R jobs totaling $1,000 or more.
Step 1. Meet Experience Requirements
To qualify to become an LHR, you must have at least 4 years (4,000 hours) of experience in installation, including set-up and testing. You must also have completed specialized training through a school, apprenticeship program, manufacturer, or distributor, or through on-the-job training in one or more of the following areas related to commercial or industrial HVAC/R, dehumidifying or filtering equipment:
- Electrical repair
- Installation or replacement
Step 2. Complete Pre-Licensing Training and Pass the Test
You must complete at least 16 hours of training on law and business practices from an approved pre-license educator and pass the Oregon exam.
Step 3. Complete the Required Paperwork
Before applying for an LHR license, you must:
- File you corporation, LLC, or assumed/business name with the Secretary of State, Corporation Division. You can contact them at 503-986-2200.
- You must hold a CCB surety bond in the proper amount.
- Obtain general liability insurance in the required amount. (Certificate Holder must be Construction Contractors Board.)
- Obtain workers’ compensation insurance if you have any employees. You can learn more about workers’ compensation insurance by visiting the Oregon Workers Compensation Division website.
Step 4. Complete the License Application
Your LHR license must include the appropriate endorsement(s):
- Residential endorsement: Residential and small commercial structures
- Commercial endorsement: Both large and small commercial projects
If you perform work on both residential and large commercial structures, you must have both a residential and a commercial endorsement.The license application you complete will match the endorsement type for which you are applying:
Include your insurance certificate, original bond, and application fee of $325. Your LHR license is valid for a period of two years.
Oregon Playing Catchup as a Booming Housing Market Demands More Construction Workers
A booming housing market and a shortage of qualified construction workers means that for knowledgeable and qualified HVAC technicians and installers, there’s no better time than the present.
According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 32 states added construction jobs in 2016. Oregon ranked second in the nation for the number of new construction jobs added in 2016 (7,600 new jobs). Oregon’s growing housing market is good news for everyone, although for many contractors, it is also frustrating, given the shortage of construction workers throughout the state.
For example, Bend is still struggling to regain most of its construction workers, many of whom left following the market crash in 2007 and never returned. The lack of construction workers in Bend has resulted in a severe housing shortage. The city now estimates that it will need about 13,000 units to accommodate a growing population through 2028.
Bend’s housing market continues to soar with dozens of people moving into the city each month. However, builders are often forced to delay or even turn down jobs because they don’t have the employees necessary to handle the work.
HVAC Technician Salaries in Oregon
The US Department of Labor recorded in 2015 that the top 10% of HVAC technicians in Oregon made an average annual salary of $72,320, or $34.73 an hour. The median annual salary for HVAC technicians in the state that year was $46,120, or $22.17 an hour, which falls above the national median (Occupational Employment Statistics).
Oregon HVAC Technician Salary (median)
Oregon HVAC Technician Salary (experienced)
In Eugene, Portland, and Corvallis, the recorded salaries were higher than the national median for HVAC technicians.
HVAC Technician Salaries in Oregon’s Largest Cities
The data below is sourced from the US Department of Labor and shows the median to top 10% of earnings in both average annual salaries and hourly wages. We’ve included data for ten of Oregon’s most populous cities.
*Salaries that exceed the national median or top 10%.
The Job Market for HVAC Technicians in Oregon
According to the Oregon Employment Department’s 2012-2022 job forecast, “five of the six fastest-growing sectors [in Oregon] are in the construction trades.” The opportunities and job openings for HVAC technicians in the state are expanding just as quickly.
During the twelve-year span between 2012 and 2024, the HVAC job market in Oregon is expected to rise by 16.3%. This will increase the total number of HVAC jobs by 490, which amounts to an average of 100 new job openings per year (The State of Oregon Employment Department).
The State of Oregon Employment Department also listed HVAC technicians in the state’s “Occupations In Demand 2016” report, which lists the most promising career opportunities in the state.