How to Become an HVAC Technician in Florida
HVAC technicians install, maintain and repair heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. They also perform tasks such as working on air filters, thermostats and blower fans, identifying and troubleshooting problems with HVAC equipment, and inspecting and maintaining systems to be sure they are performing optimally. HVAC technicians must be knowledgeable of safety guidelines concerning HVAC systems as well how the systems work. They must also possess the electrical and mechanical skills to be able to perform maintenance and repairs on these systems. [Leer en español]
With systems needing to be updated and eventually replaced, the need for HVAC technicians will continue to rise. The humid Florida climate makes the state an ideal place for HVAC technicians to find employment, as people in these types of climates heavily rely on HVAC systems.
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Florida
To work as an HVAC technician in the state of Florida, you must have a state-issued license. There are two types of licensure you can get in Florida. You can apply to be either a registered HVAC contractor or a certified HVAC contractor. Registration allows you to work only in the jurisdiction where you are registered, while certification allows you to work anywhere within the state. Registration and certification in Florida are handled by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Hands-on work experience is a requirement to become registered or certified in the state of Florida. This work experience can be obtained through an apprenticeship program or through a combination of educational training and working.
HVAC Apprenticeships and Educational Programs in Florida
Completing an apprenticeship is the most common way to get started in this field. Apprentices can get the work experience they need to apply for licensure while getting paid. In-class instruction usually accompanies apprenticeships as well. In Tampa, Florida, the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (RACCA) offers two HVAC apprenticeship programs: Residential & Commercial HVAC installation and Commercial Refrigeration. These are four-year programs. Students work during the day and attend classes two nights a week until completion of the course. EPA Section 608 certification training is included in this program.
Another apprenticeship option in Florida is the program provided by the Air Conditioning Contractors Association (ACCA) of Central Florida. This program consists of 6,000 hours (three years) of hands-on work training and educational training. A certificate is given to those who complete this program.
For those who would rather go the formal education route, completing a program that has been accredited by either HVAC Excellence or the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) is recommended. Completing a program that is accredited is not mandatory, but it will show potential employers that you are dedicated to learning all that you can about the trade. There are a few colleges that offer accredited programs in Florida:
- Traviss Technical College. Traviss Technical College offers a one-year program that has been accredited by HVAC Excellence. A certificate or degree is not awarded in this program; however, it does prepare students to take the EPA Section 608 certification exam and trains them in the theory and applications of HVAC systems, reading blueprints and troubleshooting.
- Lively Technical Center. The training program at Lively is also HVAC Excellence accredited. This program provides students with hands-on training in how to service HVAC components and prepares students for entry-level work in the HVAC field. This is also a one-year program. Before students can graduate, they must pass three certification exams in Air Conditioning, Electrical and Heating.
Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Florida
EPA section 608 Certification provided through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is necessary for anyone who will be handling refrigerants. All HVAC technicians are required to get this certification. You must pass an exam to receive this certification, and there are four subtypes to this certification. They are:
- Type 1—for those working on small appliances
- Type 2—for those working on high pressure appliances
- Type 3—for those working on low pressure appliances
- Type 4—universal, for those who want to work on all appliances
To work on HVAC systems in Florida, you must be licensed. There is more than one license option in Florida. Here is a brief breakdown of each option:
- State Certified Class A Florida HVAC License. With this license, you can work anywhere in the state. You must have workers compensation insurance, pass the required test and meet the educational and work requirements. The fee for this exam is $355, and the certification fee is $125.
- State Registered Class A Florida HVAC License. This license allows you to work in the area in which you register. With a Class A license, you can work on any size unit. The registration fee for this license is $100.
- State Certified Class B HVAC License. You can work anywhere in the state with this license and must have workers compensation insurance, pass an exam and meet educational and work requirements. With this license, you are only allowed to work on cooling systems that are less than 20 tons and heating systems that are less than 500,000 BTU. The exam fee is $354.
- State Registered Class B HVAC License. With this license, you can only work in the area where you are registered. You are also only allowed to work on cooling systems less than 20 tons and heating systems less than 500,000 BTU. The registration fee is $100.
Besides the specific requirements for each license, there are baseline requirements. You must be at least 18 years old to apply for licensure. You must have at least four years’ experience (can be work experience or a combination of education and work experience). To renew these licenses, you must take 14 continued education credits annually and pay a renewal fee. Registered licenses must be renewed in August of odd years, and certified licenses must be renewed in August of even years.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
In the United States, Florida is the top state for both the highest employment of HVAC technicians and the highest concentration of HVAC technician jobs. In 2016, there were 32,670 HVAC technicians employed in the state of Florida, according to the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP). By 2026, there are expected to be approximately 41,410 HVAC workers in the state. This will be an almost 27 percent growth rate in this job field in Florida.
In 2017, Florida HVAC techs were making an hourly average of $20.32 and an annual average of $42,460, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The top 10 percent of earners in this field were making as much as $61,070 annually that same year.
Working as an HVAC Technician in Florida
HVAC technicians usually work for commercial or residential companies. Those starting out as apprentices and journeymen may work under independent contractors. Once you become a licensed HVAC contractor, you may wish to start your own business.
In Florida, areas known for high employment numbers in this profession include, but are not limited to: Jacksonville, Orlando, Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach, Miami Beach, Kendall, North Port, Sarasota, Bradenton, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Boca Raton. Some of the higher paying areas in the state include Jacksonville, Orlando, Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Port St. Lucie, Kendall, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Miami Beach, West Palm Beach, Naples, Immokalee, Marco Island and Boca Raton.
There are various training and work opportunities available for HVAC technicians in Florida, and the state has one of the highest growth rates for this profession. If you choose to complete an apprenticeship, you can start a job in this career within the state almost immediately.
How do I become an HVAC tech in the state of Florida?
- 1. Earn a high school diploma or GED
- 2. Complete a college-level educational training course in HVAC studies or an apprenticeship program, or a combination of both.
- 3. Get a state-issued license as either a registered HVAC contractor or certified HVAC contractor.
How much do heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers earn in the state of Florida?
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers in the state of Florida made an average of $44,720 per year in 2019. Entry-level heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers earned around $29,590 and some experienced professionals earned salaries as high as $63,270.