Introduction to HVAC Technicians
Central air professionals assume essential parts introducing, keeping up with, and fixing warming, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration frameworks across business, institutional, and private settings. Any occupation including environment control, air cleaning, or cooling depends on the wide range of abilities air conditioning specialists secure through preparing and experience in the field.
HVAC technicians handle a wide range of critical responsibilities:
- Installing brand new HVAC equipment and all associated components
- Conducting preventative maintenance to keep systems operating efficiently
- Performing emergency repairs on malfunctioning HVAC machinery
- Diagnosing faults through testing and inspection
- Advising clients on optimal equipment selection and replacements
- Ensuring compliance with all mechanical codes and safety standards
- Logging and reporting service records using computerized tracking
Given such an expansive and complex trade, competitive salaries help attract talented candidates to pursue HVAC technician careers. We will explore average pay scales in detail across experience levels, specialty areas, industries and regions.
HVAC Technician Average Salaries
As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, HVAC experts around the nation acquired a normal compensation of $47,610 each year or $22.89 each hour in 2020.
Entry Level Salaries
Those just beginning their HVAC technician careers generally make between $15 and $20 per hour, resulting in average annual salaries ranging from $30,000-$42,000. Apprentice roles focus more on shadowing mentors at jobsites before slowly progressing into solo work on basic tasks. Pay scales slightly based on local costs of living and employer type.
Experienced HVAC Tech Salaries
With 5 or more years of hands-on work in HVAC maintenance, installation and repair, technicians command much higher earnings. On average, experienced wage rates run $20-35 per hour, translating to annual salaries from $42,000 up past $70,000. Veterans diversify across specialties and building industries, qualifying for advanced certifications. Their expertise earns pay rates exceeding entry level by 50% or more.
Highest Paid Sectors
The highest HVAC tech salaries flow from employers with the greatest ability to pay – large commercial operations and specialized technology facilities:
- Commercial building contractors – $55K avg.
- Technical services firm technicians – $64K
- Power plant technicians – $78K
Complex heating and cooling infrastructure relies on seasoned veterans commanding higher salaries.
What Impacts HVAC Technician Salaries
Many overlapping factors influence pay rates for individual HVAC technicians. Cost of living adjustments, specialized skill sets, field experience, certifications, and employer type all impact salaries:
Where one practices the trade geographically shifts pay rates through local costs of living and demand dynamics:
- Major metros with high costs of living also yield higher salaries to offset expenses
- Competitive markets short on HVAC talent drives salaries upward faster through labor scarcity
- Rural areas offer lower nominal wages but potentially increased buying power
So a $75K suburban HVAC job near San Francisco may effectively pay less than a $65K rural Arkansas position when housing costs enter the equation.
Certifications and Specializations
Pursuing advanced technical credentials and niche HVAC specialization also boosts salaries:
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification confirms expertise across disciplines
- HVAC Excellence denotes specialization in distinct aspects like heat pumps or electrical
- Specialized certificates signal proficiencies in green energy systems, building commissioning, facility management, indoor air quality and beyond
Field technicians holding multiple advanced certifications out-earn those lacking credentials by as much as 25%.
Years of Field Experience
As technicians broaden exposure across more HVAC equipment types, facilities and situations through years on the job, pay rates inevitably rise. Veterans with over a decade of experience should reasonably expect to out-earn entry level peers by 50% or more. The complexities and problem-solving abilities honed over thousands of repairs and installs prove extremely valuable.
Type of Employer
Salaries also differ based on which type of employer one works for. In general, in-house facility technicians directly on corporate payrolls earn better wages and benefits than those working for third party mechanical services contractors. The increased profitability and steady HVAC plant workloads for hospitals, data centers, etc. often provides higher and less volatile pay than smaller commercial clients.
Additional Benefits Beyond Salary
HVAC technician total compensation runs higher than just base hourly pay or annual salary when accounting for benefits, incentives, and other perks commonly provided:
Employers nearly always offer comprehensive health insurance plans to attract and retain talent in lieu of inflated salaries. Premium coverage helps justify slightly lower wages.
Many provide 401K plans or similar tax-advantaged retirement savings programs that add thousands per year in future value through employer matching.
Having reliable transportation critical for field work, some HVAC companies either provide technicians with dedicated company-owned/insured pickup trucks or trucks allowances. This perk also equates to thousands in additional effective compensation.
Annual Continuing Education
To incentivize technicians improving expertise in an fast-changing industry, employers often provide paid training opportunities and professional development stipends averaging $500-$1500 annually.
Growth Trajectory for an HVAC Career
While entry level HVAC technicians may feel underpaid at jobs paying only $15 per hour, ample room for long term wage growth exists by gaining field experience. Typical earnings trajectories include:
Increased Pay Over Time
As discussed regarding average salaries, veteran technicians with years of well-rounded experience commonly make 50% or more than entry level peers. Sticking within the career leads to steadily increasing wages – especially for those pursuing ongoing certifications and training.
Promotion to Supervisor or Trainer Roles
Some experienced technicians advance by stepping into junior management positions as team leaders, site supervisors or dedicated equipment trainers for an employer or equipment distributor. These roles and responsibilities beyond individual contributor work but usually pay 20% or more better.
Shift to Sales, Estimating or Product Development
Other seasoned veterans leverage their customer interface skills and technical knowledge to transition into HVAC sales, estimating, or field engineering roles. Helping clients select equipment, projecting job costs/hours for contract bids, or assisting manufacturers in product development offer higher income potential than field tech work alone.
HVAC Markets with Greatest Job Growth
As HVAC technician demand outpaces supply over this decade due to several market trends, salaries follow suit rising faster than inflation:
Increasing Senior Population
As the vast Baby Boomer generation ages into retirement, the senior population explodes over the coming decade. Their healthcare needs drive hospital and assisted living HVAC equipment upgrades. Home modifications for accessibility and comfort also employ contractors.
More Medical HVAC Needs
Life-saving medical technologies rely on properly operating HVAC machinery for precise temperature and humidity control. Hospitals and pharmaceutical facilities continue expanding. Each addition depends on HVAC techs for smooth facility commissioning.
Data Center Expansion
Cloud computing and network technology firms building more energy-intensive data centers fuel strong ongoing demand for specialized mission critical cooling technicians. Precision environmental control becomes ever-more crucial.
Smart Building Management Systems
Integrating HVAC machinery into building-wide automation systems and enterprise software networks requires installing network-capable components. This increasing connectivity leverages technicians fluent in digital controls.
Changing Industry Incentivizing Ongoing Training
Technology progression within the HVAC industry introduces new training demands and opportunities adding salary upside:
Transition from Mechanical to Digital Skills
With computerized environmental controls, variable-capacity systems and building automation networks managing multi-zone equipment, HVAC systems grow more complex each year. Field techs increasingly interact with sophisticated electronic equipment. Mechanical aptitude alone no longer suffices as digital fluency rises in necessity to service new installations. Certifications and licensing in electronics, networking and programming supplement traditional HVAC credentials – increasing pay rates.
Stay Updated on New Regulations
Governments continue introducing stricter energy efficiency requirements on HVAC gear along with refrigerant phase outs and combustion emission rules that technician obey. Keeping current on legal compliance via continuing education translates to wage growth.
Emerging Refrigerants Require Re-Training
As the industry transitions to alternative lower Global Warming Potential refrigerants to replace legacy R410a and R134a, entirely new handling rules, containment equipment, diagnostics methods and repair procedures train. Technicians undertaking updated training on modern systems command better compensation.
Top Paying States for HVAC Technicians
We’ve established geographic location as a key driver of HVAC tech salary differences on regional costs of living and local demand conditions. Here are current top paying states for HVAC technicians and average annual earnings:
Hawaii – $69,400 avg. salary
High costs of living and pleasant climate drives pay over 30% above national rates. Travel costs also factor for an island state.
Alaska – $63,900
Frigid winters and remote regions with extensive HVAC infrastructure combined with higher costs from isolation.
California – $64,100
Strong competition for talent state-wide in the booming, talent-hungry state plus elevated living expenses.
Washington – $59,100
Robust commercial expansion in Seattle/Tacoma where cost of living skyrockets plus cold eastern WA climates.
New Jersey – $58,900
Densely populated region with many commercial buildings and high costs bears higher salaries.
Conclusion and Key Takeaways
In summary, competitive HVAC technician salaries range from around $30,000 for entry level up to over $70,000 for seasoned professionals with in-demand skills. Geographic factors, Credentials, experience levels and employer types all impact pay. When factoring retirement plans, health insurance, work vehicles and ongoing education perks, total compensation potentially reaches six figures for top performers. With so many mission critical facilities and homes relying on HVAC systems functioning smoothly, skilled technicians should continue seeing excellent pay growth and career trajectories over the long term.