Essential Tips for HVAC Professionals
One expert offers key tips on how HVAC professionals can stay ahead of the curve in an industry that is projected to remain in high demand.
HVAC is a constantly evolving industry. Imagine explaining ten years ago to a group of lifetime technicians the significant roles that DeVAP systems, IoT-enhanced thermostats, solar and geothermal HVAC systems, and sustainable heating and cooling designs would play. They likely would’ve been blown away.
In order to remain current with the ever-changing landscape of HVAC needs, professionals must stay abreast of innovative products, changes in customer attitudes, service upgrades, manufacturers’ offerings, global demands, and companion news items.
Read on to learn how HVAC professionals can stay ahead of the curve in an industry that is projected to remain in high demand.
Distributor and Manufacturer Training
One of the most common paths HVAC professionals take in order to keep aligned with the most recent products, technologies, trends, and features is attending supplemental training sessions that are offered by manufacturers. Often, distributors will invite manufacturers to their facilities in order to meet local installers and technicians and to educate them on their latest offerings.
HVAC providers frequently will pay their technicians to attend these events, and why not? Everyone — from manufacturer to employer to technician — benefits from these educational sessions.
Some of the top HVAC manufacturers offer training in person or online, including Carrier’s “Carrier University,” Emerson Climate Technologies, and Trane. Training sessions cover a wide spectrum of technical knowledge, from basic refrigeration cycles and fundamentals of HVAC design to zoned air systems and mechanical failure.
Industry Associations and Networking
Industry and trade associations offer expertise on the local, regional, and national levels to keep HVAC professionals apprised of changes and updates within the industry. Their continuing education opportunities include access to online self-teaching guides, instructor-led courses, annual conferences, and expos.
For example, the North American Technicians Excellence (NATE) nonprofit certification organization is one of the best-known associations. NATE’s “Ready-to-Work” and “HVAC Support Technician” certifications are fundamental demonstrations of basic HVAC knowledge. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) features a Learning Institute with scheduled courses, self-taught offerings, webcasts, certifications, and job postings.
Attending conferences, industry expos, and conventions is time well spent networking with other HVAC professionals. Growing a network can help pros learn more and become more engaged in their profession.
Not sure where to start looking for one of these association meet-ups? Try HVAC Insider, a well-respected industry platform with countless opportunities to boost your networking skills.
Recent analysis shows that the labor shortage in the HVAC industry will increase to 138,000 by the year 2022, with the retirement of older technicians acting as the primary driver in that growing gap. HVAC professionals that show the desire to increase their knowledge can quickly rise up the ranks, and one of the best strategies to supplement on-the-job experience is by pursuing continuing education at local universities, colleges, and trade schools.
The benefits are obvious and plentiful: the median annual salary (as of mid-2015) of an HVAC installer checks in at more than $45,000 and an engineer can make about $84,000, according to the United States Bureau of Labor.
Check your local academic institutions’ websites to see if they offer certification programs, or visit HVAC School to find more information on the school and program that best fits your lifestyle. Many companies will help pay for their employees’ continued educational endeavors, and scholarships can help alleviate any financial concerns.
With a schedule that permits seeking continuing education, pros can always opt for the old-fashioned route of reading on your down time. Experts have compiled much of what you’ll need to know in best-selling books, and many of these classic texts release new editions every few years with topical information and updates.
Textbooks and Manuals
- Those beginning their HVAC careers ought to pick up Modern Refrigeration and Air Conditioning. Most recently in its 20th edition, it introduces theory alongside real-life examples and helpful illustrations.
- The HVAC Equations, Data, and Rules of Thumb training manual is an indispensable complement to your daily routine. It offers proven equations, cooling and heating load factors, energy conservation, conversion factors, and much more — all in one handy book.
- One of the most popular texts is James E. Brumbaugh’s Audel HVAC Fundamentals, Volume 1: Heating Systems, Furnaces, and Boilers, which ranges from basic installation guides to troubleshooting a variety of heating systems, including coal and wood furnaces.
Industry Magazines and Publications
Have the information you seek delivered right to your mailbox in the form of HVAC periodicals, which offer some of the most well-known sources of industry information.
- Engineered Systems features a magazine specifically targeting engineers, with resources broken down by system types and sectors of management.
- Contractor is a monthly publication focusing on business owners and managers with product reviews, news, and instructional articles.
- HVACR Business is a magazine produced with corporate-level managers in mind, touching on business, marketing, and ownership challenges.
All of the aforementioned magazines are also available online.
Best Blogs for HVAC Pros
Some of the most up-to-date information isn’t kept in giant technical tomes, but in blogs written by industry professionals, experts, and other leaders. Both young technicians and trusted veterans can navigate the changes within the industry — such as environmental consciousness or federal regulations — by accessing easy-to-read blogs.
- ACHR News collects and curates the top HVAC industry news each week, with occasional analysis and commentary.
- HVAC News publishes only industry-related news.
- Builder Online focuses on all facets of construction and real estate development, but has its own HVAC space, particularly with regards to product reviews.
- In the same vein, Contracting Business has a commercial HVAC page with news, photo galleries, product reveals, and reviews.
By Professionals, for Professionals
- Goodway’s blog, “Just Venting,” is designed for HVAC professionals looking to “learn more about the technological, social, economic, and personal aspects” of the industry.
- Refrigeranthq.com focuses exclusively on refrigerants and news related to that sector of HVAC.
- MRHVAC.com is a trove of indispensable information for those seeking to start their own business in HVAC.
- Sign up for the Women in HVAC newsletter to receive updates on how the non-profit helps women grow their careers and business within a very competitive, traditionally male-dominated industry.
Forums and Message Boards
Forums are less centralized and offer more organic conversation than typical blogs. They allow for many users to comment on a specific topic (or “thread”) with multiple topics receiving attention daily and weekly.
- HVACProForums is a free interactive community just for industry professionals.
- Similarly, HVAC-Talk.com boasts that 150,000 HVAC professionals are users in their “#1 HVACR Community.”
- Contractor Talk has a dedicated area just for HVAC chatter.
- If you’re more familiar or comfortable with using Reddit, check out their subreddit board at r/HVAC.
As you can see, there are a plethora of ways you can stay up to date on what’s going on in the HVAC industry. If you’re just beginning, try checking out a few resources on this list to start. Once you find what works for you, you can subscribe or sign up so you never miss a beat.
Contributed by: Kevin Burns is the President of Bob Jenson Air Conditioning in San Diego with over 29 years of experience in the HVAC Field. He has worked in every aspect of the industry and has trained dozens of people. He has a passion for doing what’s right for each home and customer and sets this standard for his entire team.