How to Become an HVAC Technician in Puerto Rico
HVAC technicians are well-qualified workers who service heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems. In Puerto Rico, these workers are also known as refrigeration and air conditioning technicians. These individuals are responsible for the installation, repair and upkeep of refrigeration, air conditioning and related equipment in homes and other buildings. This can be a physically demanding and sometimes dangerous job, but the proper safety education and training can help you to be proficient in this career field. [Leer en español]
Requirements for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Puerto Rico
Other than holding EPA Section 608 certification to work with refrigerants, there are no national requirements for working as an HVAC technician. Other certification, licensure and permitting requirements are handled on a statewide basis.
Puerto Rican refrigeration and air conditioning technicians are required to be licensed. You must be at least 18 and a U.S. citizen, as well as a resident of Puerto Rico. Educational and work experience are also required to get an HVAC license on the island. Puerto Rican refrigeration and air conditioning technicians are also required to hold Section 609 certification, which covers the servicing of motor vehicle and similar air conditioners, in addition to the Section 608 certification.
HVAC Programs in Puerto Rico
Those interested in becoming a refrigeration and air conditioning technician in Puerto Rico must complete a minimum of 800 educational hours from an institution that has been accredited. In the United States, the two main agencies that accredit HVAC programs are the Partnership for Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) and by HVAC Excellence. However, in Puerto Rico, the Department of Education and the Council of Higher Education are responsible for accreditation. There are several refrigeration and air conditioning technician programs offered at Puerto Rican colleges. Below you will find an overview of a few of them:
- D’Mart Technical Institute. Located in Barranquitas, D’Mart Technical Institute offers a refrigeration and air conditioning technician program that also focuses on Programmable Logic Circuits (PLC) and renewable energy. This program lasts approximately 56 weeks (13 months) and consists of 42.5 credits or 1,350 educational hours of study. Upon completion of this program, students will be ready to work as entry- level refrigeration technicians and be prepared to sit for the license exam.
- National University College- IBC Institute (NUC-IBC). NUC-IBC has more than a dozen campuses in Puerto Rico. They offer a refrigeration and air conditioning technician program that consists of 54 credits and can be completed in one year. This program emphasizes equipment operation, safety standards and studying PLC.
- Huertas College. Huertas College is located in Caguas and offers a one-year training program in refrigeration and air conditioning. This program prepares students not only to install and repair commercial, domestic and industrial refrigeration equipment, but also to install and repair auto air conditioning systems. Students will be prepared to take the license exam given by the Board of Examiners of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technicians.
- Professional Technical Institution. The Professional Technical Institution offers a refrigeration and air conditioning technician program that also emphasizes PLC and renewable energy. This program prepares the student for entry-level work in this field. Upon completion of this program, students will be trained to take the exams for EPA 608 and 609 certifications as well as the license exam given by the Board of Examiners.
Certification and Licensing for Becoming an HVAC Technician in Puerto Rico
Refrigeration and air conditioning technicians in Puerto Rico are required to be licensed, and there are specific requirements that must be met before applying for licensure. To apply for a refrigeration and air conditioning license you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be a U.S. citizen and live in Puerto Rico for at least a year
- Have a high school diploma
- Pass the license exam provided by the Board of Examiners of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technicians
- Meet the educational requirements
The educational requirements for licensure are as follows:
- Complete a one-year or 800 educational-hour refrigeration and air conditioning course at an accredited institution, or
- Complete a training course provided by the Apprenticeship Council of Puerto Rico, or
- Complete 200 hours of vocational training through the Apprenticeship Division of the Right to Work Administration, one year as an apprentice and one or more training certificates offered by the College of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technicians
You will also be required to have EPA Section 608 and EPA Section 609 certification. Section 608 certification is necessary for all workers who handle refrigerants. There are four subcategories to this certification: Type 1 (small appliances), Type 2 (high pressure appliances), Type 3 (low pressure appliances) or Type 4 (universal). Refrigeration and air conditioning technicians in Puerto Rico must have the universal certification. You must take an exam to get this certification. Section 609 certification is required for anyone who services motor vehicle air conditioning (MVAC) and similar systems. Technicians must take an EPA-approved training program and then pass an exam to get this certification.
Puerto Rico refrigeration and air conditioning technician licenses are good for four years.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
Currently, HVAC jobs are growing nationally at a rate of 15 percent. According to the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP), there were 1,590 refrigeration and air conditioning technicians working in Puerto Rico in 2016. It is predicted that there will be 1,560 refrigeration and air conditioning technicians on the island in 2026, signifying a 1.7 percent decline during that 10-year period. However, this is not discouraging—HVAC systems require upkeep and must be updated and replaced every 10 to 15 years, so the need for workers in this field will remain.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the average hourly wage for refrigeration and air conditioning technicians in Puerto Rico is $11.92 and that the average annual wage is $24,800. However, the actual salary for this profession may be lower than what the BLS reports, due to Puerto Rico being under austerity restrictions resulting in a cut in wages across the island. Minimum wage in Puerto Rico is $7.25 an hour.
Working as an HVAC Technician in Puerto Rico
Most refrigeration and air conditioning technicians (and HVAC technicians) work for contractors, whether small privately-owned companies or larger businesses. The majority of the refrigeration and air conditioning technicians in Puerto Rico can be found working in San Juan.
There are very few careers that are thriving in Puerto Rico right now, but this field is one that continues to grow nationally, so that is good news for those working and considering working in this job field on the island