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The top 10% of HVAC technicians make an average annual salary of $61,460, or $29.55 an hour.US Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2015
To become an HVAC tech in Texas, you’ll need to register with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation in one of two ACR (Air Conditioning and Refrigeration) technician categories:

  • ACR Technician

    Any person working to assist a licensed ACR contractor with air conditioning and refrigeration maintenance work must register as an ACR technician

  • Certified ACR Technician

    This is an optional qualification but an important one, since it involves passing a qualifying exam covering EPA’s Section 608 regulations regarding refrigerants commonly used in AC systems

Federal-level EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Section 608 certification is required of any professional that conducts refrigerant line-pressure tests, or otherwise handles or adds refrigerant to existing AC systems, making the EPA certification common among service technicians.

A career diploma or Associated of Applied Science in HVAC-R from a technical school will typically include an exam package that makes obtaining certification quick and easy. These programs also offer the training and education necessary to prepare graduates to meet entry-level job and apprenticeship requirements, in addition to meeting state registration requirements for the Certified ACR Technician designation.

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On the whole, Certified ACR technicians have an easier time finding employment and a brighter career path than techs who are only registered.

Going through a technical school program will also allow you to take advantage of job placement services that schools typically offer.

How to Become an HVAC Technician in Texas: Registration & EPA Certification

  • ACR Technician

    Becoming a Registered ACR Technician is as simple as submitting an online application and paying a $20 fee. You must be at least 18 years of age, but you don’t need an experience or even a current job in the field to register.Registration and certifications for ACR technicians expire after one year. You can renew them online 24 hours a day at the TDLR website. The renewal fee is $20 per year, with $10 late fee charged if you are between 1 and 90 days late, and a $20 late fee if over 90 days late.

  • Certified ACR Technician

    The benefit to becoming certified is that it qualifies you to perform more complex work and earn more money than a registered technician. Although you will need more preparation, certification is a good first step on the path toward becoming a licensed HVAC contractor in Texas, which is where the real money is.Section 608 of the Federal Clean Air Act covers the uses of regulated refrigerant substances. There are four categories of certification:

Small appliances service and repair

You only have to pass one in order to qualify for the Certified ACR Technician designation, however.

The qualifying exams are often offered as a part of HVAC technical school programs. This would involve taking the exam as part of your regular program.

A full list of qualifying schools is available on the FAQ page.

Registration and EPA Certification Exemptions

There are a number of exemptions to the registration and certification requirements. You do not require either registration or certification if you are:

  • Only engaged in installing HVAC systems as part of new construction and not involved in servicing.
  • Only engaged in total replacement of HVAC systems.
  • Already licensed as an ACR Contractor in Texas.
  • Maintaining an HVAC system as part of regular maintenance duties at an apartment or office complex.

You may not advertise your services as a licensed or certified ACR technician. Only licensed ACR Contractors are allowed to solicit HVAC business.

How to Become an HVAC Contractor in Texas

If you are the kind of person who likes to be your own boss, has a head for business, and can be a salesman as well as a technician, after five or six years working in the field you will probably start thinking about becoming an independent HVAC contractor.

Air conditioner repairmen work on home units

Going out on your own is a big step and the biggest mistake people make at this point is doing it without a big enough bankroll to last through the startup phase. You can make good money running your own shop, but you have to take all the risks that come with business downturns and unforeseen expenses. It’s not for everyone, but if you are independent and level-headed, you are a good candidate to apply for a state HVAC contractor’s license.

It’s possible to become a contractor without ever having worked as an ACR technician, but this is unusual, since gaining practical, on-the-job experience is critical to getting customers and managing projects.

Having a solid educational background as well as experience is vital for contractors. You will be the person in the shop responsible for making all the big decisions. You will need to have the technical knowledge to make them correctly, or you’ll be on the hook when things fall apart.

The biggest choice you will have to make when getting started is between specializing in commercial or residential units.

Texas has two classes of HVAC Contractor license available:

  • Class A

    Class A allows work on any size unit, making it the right choice for commercial installers

  • Class B

    Class B allows work only on cooling systems of less than 25 tons and heating systems providing 1.5 million BTUs/hour or less, which covers most residential units

Each of those classes are further categorized by three different available endorsements:

  • Environmental

    Environmental systems focus on treating air to match human comfort requirements.

  • Commercial

    Commercial endorsements qualify you to work on systems controlling environments to meet production system requirements, or to work on dedicated industrial refrigeration.

  • Combined

    Qualifying for both environmental and commercial installations.

The commercial endorsement is better thought of as an industrial endorsement, since it doesn’t mean commercial in the same sense that most of the HVAC industry uses the term to describe business and larger-scale installations.

Your background experience will play a large role in which of these classes and categories you will be successful in, so when you are picking where to apply as a technician, look for outfits that work on the same kind of systems you’ll want to become a contractor for.

For any class or combination of endorsements you will have to pass a test administered by PSI Exams. You will not have to contact the exam company. TDLR will inform PSI that your application has been processed and they will contact you in order to set up a date and time for the examination.

In order to qualify for the exam, you must be at least 18 years old. You must also fulfill experience requirements by providing proof of 48 months of practical experience under the supervision of a licensed ACR contractor within the past 72 months. Education can be counted for part of the practical experience requirement:

  • A completed four-year degree counts as equivalent to 24 months of experience if in one of the following fields:
    • Air conditioning engineering or technology
    • Refrigeration engineering or technology
    • Mechanical engineering
  • A completed two-year associate’s degree or certification focused on air conditioning and refrigeration is equivalent to 12 months of experience
  • A completed one-year certificate is equivalent to 6 months of experience
  • Other education may be reviewed on a case-by-case basis

You will document your experience and provide other information by submitting a completed Texas ACR Contractor License Application form together with a $115 application fee.

The Class A test has 120 questions to be completed in 240 minutes and the Class B has 100 questions to be completed in 180 minutes. A 70 percent score or better is passing.

After passing the exam, you will have to submit a certificate of insurance to TDLR in order to complete the licensing process. The amount of coverage varies by license category:

  • Class A – $300,000 to $600,000
  • Class B – $100,000 to $200,000

Contractor License Renewal

An ACR Contractor license expires after one year. You can renew online 24 hours a day at the TDLR website. The renewal fee is $65, escalating to $97.50 if you renew between 1 and 90 days late, and $130 if renewing more than 90 days late.

You are required to have eight hours of continuing education each year in order to renew your license. At least one hour must cover Texas air conditioning and refrigeration law and regulations. Only courses taken within the license period can be counted for continuing education purposes.

The courses must be taken from an approved provider. A list of providers and courses is available on the TDLR website. The provider will take care of notifying the state that you have fulfilled your requirement by completing their course.

Reciprocal Licensing for HVAC Contractors in Texas

Texas has reciprocal ACR contractor licensing agreements with Georgia and South Carolina.

To receive a Texas ACR contractor license if you already hold a license in one of those states, you must:

  • Have held your out-of-state license for at least one year.
  • Complete a Texas ACR Contractor License Application form.
  • Submit a letter of good standing from the licensing department of the state you are coming from.
  • Submit a copy of your license from that state.
  • Provide proof of insurance.
  • Pay the Texas state license fee.

The exact transference of endorsements and classifications between your out-of-state license and the Texas credential can be found on the TDLR frequently asked questions page.

It is also possible to acquire a Texas ACR contractor license if you hold a comparable license in another state or municipality. These applications are reviewed on a case by case basis by the TDLR. You must submit your application together with a copy of your current license and information about when and where it was obtained.

Many Factors Contribute to a Strong Job Market for HVAC Techs and Contractors in Texas

Heat is a fact of life in Texas, where summer highs average in the upper 90s. In that climate, both homes and offices require air conditioning as a matter of course. And the work goes beyond new installations, since the many existing HVAC systems in the state have to be serviced and maintained.

As of 2005, two-year warranties are mandatory on HVAC systems installed in new construction or remodels.

Since 2011, construction permits and leading indicators have been outpacing the national average. Housing sales increased by 20 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Commercial construction may be even hotter in the Lone Star State. According to Forbes in 2016, the state was the top commercial construction market in the country with a number of major employers shifting large numbers of workers there, including:

  • Toyota
  • State Farm
  • Liberty Mutual Insurance

All this has been driving the job market for HVAC technicians just as rapidly.

  • According to the Texas Workforce Commission, Texas added almost 7,000 HVAC jobs between 2014 and 2015.
  • More than 2,000 new HVAC positions are projected to open up in the next year.
  • HVAC will experience nearly 30% growth in Texas in the next decade.
  • After Florida, Texas is the second biggest employer of HVAC technicians in the nation.

HVAC Technician Salaries in Texas

The top 10% of HVAC technicians make an average annual salary of $61,460, or $29.55 an hour. The median salary for HVAC technicians is $40,610 or $19.52 an hour (US Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2015).

In Amarillo, the recorded salaries were higher than the national median and top 10% for HVAC technicians.

As Texas’ economy grows, the job market in the state continues to profit. In November 2016 alone, the number of jobs in Texas increased by 20,900. The construction industry benefitted from this growth, steadily adding jobs from April through November 2016 (Texas A&M Outlook for the Texas Economy, 2017).

Between the years of 2012-2024, the HVAC job market is expected to expand by an impressive 29.4%, expanding the workforce by roughly 6,740 jobs—or 1,020 jobs a year (Texas Workforce Commission).

For HVAC contractors interested in working as independent contractors or opening an HVAC business, Texas is a great place to get started. In fact, the state ranked number 4 on Business Insider’s 2016 list of “The Best and Worst States to Start a Business.” Texas ranked highly because of the high success rate of businesses in the state, multiple clusters of major economic centers, and an affordable cost of living.

HVAC Technician Salaries in Texas’ Largest Cities

To give an accurate representation of what HVAC technicians in Texas can expect to make, we’ve recorded salary figures ranging from the median salary to the top 10% of HVAC technicians, broken down by average annual wages and hourly figures. This data, sourced from the US Department of Labor, represents fifteen of Texas’ largest cities.

  • Amarillo

    • Annual: $45,830* – $72,960*
    • Hourly: $22.03* – $35.07*
  • Houston

    • Annual: $44,830 – $72,960
    • Hourly: $21.59 – $31.33
  • Dallas

    • Annual: $43,560 – $67,630
    • Hourly: $20.94- $32.52
  • College Station

    • Annual: $43,270 – $60,400
    • Hourly: $20.80 – $29.04
  • Odessa

    • Annual: $43,200 – $58,550
    • Hourly: $20.77 – $28.15
  • Beaumont

    • Annual: $42,870 – $57,930
    • Hourly: $20.61 – $27.85
  • Fort Worth

    • Annual: $41,810 – $60,150
    • Hourly: $20.10 – $28.92
  • San Angelo

    • Annual: $41,680 – $50,410
    • Hourly: $20.04 – $24.24
  • Corpus Christi

    • Annual: $41,490 – $61,310
    • Hourly: $19.95 – $29.48
  • Abilene

    • Annual: $41,110 – $60,270
    • Hourly: $19.76 – $28.98
  • Tyler

    • Annual: $40,940 – $58,400
    • Hourly: $19.68 – $28.08
  • San Antonio

    • Annual: $40,250 – $59,840
    • Hourly: $19.35 – $28.77
  • Longview

    • Annual: $39,350 – $57,870
    • Hourly: $18.92 – $27.82
  • Lubbock

    • Annual: $39,100 – $67,060
    • Hourly: $18.80 – $32.24
  • Austin

    • Annual: $38,780 – $56,560
    • Hourly: $18.64 – $27.19

*Salaries that are higher than the national median or top 10%.