There are expected to be about 40 new openings in the HVAC job market each yearWorkforce West VirginiaAs of January 1, 2016 a new law requires all HVAC mechanics and installers to have a license issued by the West Virginia Department of Commerce’s Division of Labor.
The new law also says that this state-issued license fulfills all HVAC qualification requirements that may have been imposed by individual cities or counties within West Virginia. In other words, your state-level HVAC license from the West Virginia Division of Labor entitles you to perform HVAC work anywhere in the state without additional city and county level licensing.
There are two license levels available:
Technician in Training License
This allows you to assist in HVAC work under the direct supervision and control of a licensed HVAC technician.
This allows you to provide HVAC services in the state of West Virginia independently without supervision, and permits you to work without a contractor’s license on projects under $2,500 (for projects more than $2,500 you’ll also need a contractor’s license).
Qualifying for the Technician in Training License
Qualifying for this license is as simple as filling out a one-page application and submitting it along with a fee to the West Virginia Division of Labor in Charleston.
Qualifying for the Technician License
You’ll need to have at least 2,000 hours – approximately one year – of experience, training, and/or education that relates directly to HVAC systems. Additionally you must also have at least 6,000 hours of experience, training, and/or education generally related to HVAC systems or other sheet metal industry work. This type of experience is typically gained through an apprenticeship or entry-level employment under the Technician in Training license.Altogether that translates into 8,000 hours – approximately four years – of HVAC experience before you’re eligible for an HVAC technician license.
You can apply some portion of an HVAC-specific education from a community college or trade school program towards the 8,000-hour experience requirement. That is why many decide to complete a career diploma/certificate or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in HVAC, either as a way to develop qualifications before applying for an entry-level job or while working as a technician in training.
After completing your period of on-the-job training, the last step to earning a license is to pass the West Virginia HVAC Technician Exam. See the exam section below.
In addition to counting towards the experience requirement, graduating from college with a credential in HVAC also gives you a competitive credential that signifies to employers you have real marketable skills in the HVAC industry.
Check with the West Virginia Division of Labor to confirm that your program qualifies to substitute for experience hours.
Many HVAC education programs also result in EPA certification under Section 608 – required for anybody working with controlled pressurized refrigerants, which applies to just about everybody in the industry.
EPA Section 608 Certification Requirement for Pressurized Refrigerants
In addition to the West Virginia licensing process you also must become certified under the EPA’s Section 608 federal law concerning the release of ozone-depleting substances. There are four types of certification options you can choose from depending on what type of work you’ll be doing:
To earn any of these certifications you must pass the EPA exam specific to the certification type.
If you complete an HVAC education program chances are good that it will include test preparation and proctoring for EPA exams. Your employer can also direct you to the nearest EPA certification site. Same-day testing and certification are common.
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.
Passing the West Virginia HVAC Technician Exam
Once you have 8,000 hours of acceptable experience you’ll be ready to take the HVAC technician exam to qualify for state licensure. The West Virginia Division of Labor contracts with the testing company Prov to administer this exam.
Prov provides detailed information about signing up for the exam, testing, and content in its candidate information bulletin (CIB) and also contains an exam registration form.
You have the option to take the exam on a computer or in written form with a pencil. You can take this exam at any one of five testing centers throughout the state:
Walk-in testing is available on a limited basis, and you are recommended to register for the exam in advance. You can do this online through Prov’s website, by mailing in the registration form in the CIB to Prov, by faxing the form (877-228-3926), or by phone (866-720-7768, #3).
The exam is open-book, three hours, and comprised of 80 questions on these topics:
- General knowledge – 30 questions
- Equipment – 10 questions
- Ducting and insulation – 10 questions
- Controls – 10 questions
- Piping – 6 questions
- Load calculations – 6 questions
- OSHA and safety – 4 questions
- Code requirements – 4 questions
You’re allowed to bring these reference materials with you for consultation during the exam:
- HVAC Basics for Contractors, 2nd Edition, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-269-23865-6
- International Mechanical Code, 2012. ISBN: Item #:3300S12
- SMACNA-Residential Comfort System Installation Standards Manual, 7th Edition. ISBN: 978-1617210648
70 percent is the minimum passing score, and you’ll receive your examination results while you’re at the testing center. Submit the results with your application for state licensure.
Getting Your HVAC License from the West Virginia Division of Labor
At this point you’ll be ready to submit an HVAC technician application for licensure to the Division of Labor. Include the following with your application:
You’ll need to renew your license every year, and the Division of Labor will mail you a renewal application at least 45 days before your license expires.
HVAC Technician and Technician in Training Reciprocity
If you hold an HVAC license in another state then you may be able to get a West Virginia license based on reciprocity. To qualify for a reciprocal license you must talk with the Division of Labor about reviewing the requirements where you were licensed to be sure they are similar enough to those of West Virginia. Be prepared to submit proof of your qualifications.
HVAC Technician License Exemptions
Note that you DO NOT need a license to perform HVAC work in West Virginia if any of the following circumstances apply:
- If you’re performing HVAC work at your or your family’s residence
- If you’re an employee of a manufacturing plant or industrial facility, and the HVAC work you’re performing is at your place of employment
- If you’re already licensed or authorized to perform electrical or plumbing work, you may perform this work to the extent that you are generally authorized on an HVAC system
- If you’re performing routine maintenance at your place of employment, and this maintenance includes your employer’s HVAC system
Once you have your HVAC technician license you only need to get a contractor’s license if you independently bid and work on projects valued at more than $2,500.
The contractor’s license is issued at the state level through the West Virginia Contractor Licensing Board.
You’ll need to take an additional business and law exam. This is also proctored through third-party testing company Prov, and the registration process is the same as that for the HVAC technician exam. You can find helpful information in the business and law exam’s candidate information bulletin (CIB).
The exam is three hours long and consists of 50 questions. It covers the following subjects:
- Business management
- Legal requirements of establishing a business
- Taxes, laws, and regulations governing construction
- Labor law, contracts, and project management
You can study for this exam by purchasing the West Virginia Business and Law Study Guide for Contractors, 2nd edition from the Prov bookstore, however purchasing this is not mandatory.
After your exam, Prov will automatically report your exam score to the West Virginia Contractor Licensing Board.
If you passed by scoring at least 70 percent your next step is to fill out a contractor license application and submit this to the board. You’ll need to get a business license from the Secretary of State’s Business and Licensing Division, indicating your business organization is something such as a:
- Sole proprietor
- Limited liability company
- Limited liability partnership
- Limited partnership
There are some important details you’ll need to include in your license application:
- Include your federal taxpayer ID number, often your Social Security number
- Wage bond – this is required if you are a new contractor in West Virginia and should be in the amount equal to what you earn in one month, plus an additional 15 percent (if you only perform HVAC work in single family dwellings you’re exempt from this)
If you plan to hire employees you must also include this with your contractor application:
- Your unemployment compensation number – you can get this from Workforce West Virginia’s Unemployment Compensation Division
- Proof of workers compensation insurance and unemployment insurance
You must renew your contractor license every year, and the Contractor Licensing Board will mail you a renewal application at least 30 days before it expires.
West Virginia’s HVAC Industry Offers Promising Opportunities
In July West Virginia’s average high is 83 °F, while its average low in January is 22 °F. Well defined seasons ensure a baseline level of HVAC patronage, but that doesn’t explain why this industry is so strong throughout the state.
A better way of understanding this comes from looking at the leading industries in West Virginia:
- Chemical and polymer manufacturing
- Technology and information services
- Automotive component manufacturing
From controlled lab environments and large production factories to vehicles, each one of these industries relies on specific environmental conditions that can only be attained by HVAC systems.
The HVAC trade is also bolstered by new construction projects throughout the state. In Charleston, this has included the 2015 opening of the new Thomas Patrick Maroney Unity apartment complex, which came on the heels of the Graystone Manor development project that built apartments for 36 residents, and the development of 28 new apartment buildings on Washington Street West. Each new housing project boosts the demand for the HVAC installers on the construction side, as well as the service techs that keep these units running over the years.
And it’s not only the residential market that needs HVAC techs; 2015 saw the groundbreaking of a new 450-acre Proctor and Gamble plant near Martinsburg, which should be fully operational by 2018.
West Virginia’s utility companies also have an important role in strengthening the job outlook for HVAC techs and installers. With an eye towards improving energy efficiency it’s common for utilities to offer rebates and energy efficiency incentives for their customers. AEP Appalachian Power does just this through its commercial and industrial standard program. This program offers financial incentives for ratepayers who make efficiency upgrades to their HVAC systems.
HVAC Technician Salaries in West Virginia
In West Virginia, the top 10% of HVAC technicians make an average annual salary of $57,490, or $27.64 an hour. The median salary for HVAC technicians in the state is $35,370, or $17.00 an hour (2015 US Department of Labor Occupational Employment Statistics).
West Virginia HVAC Technician Salary (median)
West Virginia HVAC Technician Salary (top 10%)
In Arlington, the recorded salaries were higher than the national median and national top 10% for HVAC technicians.
HVAC Technician Salaries in West Virginia’s Largest Cities
The data below was sourced from the US Department of Labor’s 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics report. We’ve collected the average annual earnings as well as hourly figures. The data listed represents West Virginia’s eleven most populous cities.
*Salaries that exceed the national median or top 10%.
The Job Market for HVAC Technicians in West Virginia
Economists at West Virginia University are hopeful about the future of construction jobs in the state. According to a press release published in 2016 by West Virginia University’s WBU Today, the “construction, natural gas and service industries will pace the West Virginia economy over the next five years.”
In West Virginia, between the years of 2012 and 2024, the HVAC technician market is expected to drop by .4%. However, despite the drop, there are expected to be about 40 new openings in the HVAC job market each year, according to a report by Workforce West Virginia.