California Occupational Guides

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Summary Guide for

   Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers in California

May also be called: Furnace Converters; Gas Furnace Installers; Heating and Air Conditioning Technicians and Installers; Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Technicians; Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVACR) Technicians; Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers; Retrofitting Specialists

What Would I Do?

Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers,* more commonly known as "HVACR Technicians," maintain and repair heating, cooling, and refrigeration equipment in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. They often specialize in either installation or maintenance and repair, although they are trained to do both.

These Technicians look to blueprints, design specifications, and manufacturer instructions to install compressors, motors, condensers, thermostats, fans, ducts, pipes, and other electrical and electronic components. They use hand tools such as wrenches, electric drills, pipe cutters and benders, acetylene torches, and hammers to connect parts to duct work, gas and refrigerant lines, and other piping.

Green Economy: The HVACR Technicians is expected to play an important role in the emerging Green Economy. They will assist with the distribution, installation, and maintenance of energy efficient products.

Technicians work wherever the equipment to be installed or repaired is located. Technicians working outdoors are exposed to all types of weather. The majority of Technicians work at least a 40-hour week. During peak seasons they often work overtime or irregular hours including evenings and weekends.

*This product was partially funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration. The information contained in this product was created by a grantee organization and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. All references to non-governmental companies or organizations, their services, products, or resources are offered for informational purposes and should not be construed as an endorsement by the Department of Labor. This product is copyrighted by the institution that created it and is intended for individual organizational, non-commercial use only.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of HVACR Technicians will appeal to those who enjoy activities that involve practical, hands-on problems and solutions.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

The wages for Technicians in California differ widely depending on job duties and responsibilities, work experience, type of industry, and location of work. Workers in large cities or urban areas usually earn higher wages than those who work in smaller towns and rural areas.

The median wage in 2016 for Heating/Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Workers in California is $51,700 annually, or $24.86 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
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Technicians may receive benefits that include health and dental insurance, vacation, and retirement plans. For union members, the benefit packages are negotiated in contracts between employers and unions. Self-employed contractors must pay for their own insurance and retirement plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

As the population and number of buildings increase, so does the demand for residential, commercial, and industrial climate-control systems. The complexity of today’s climate control systems increases the possibility that equipment may malfunction, creating more employment opportunities for Technicians. Technicians who specialize in installation work may experience periods of unemployment when new construction activity declines, but maintenance and repair work usually remains relatively stable. People and businesses depend on climate-control systems and must keep them in good working order, regardless of economic conditions.

Concern for the environment has prompted the development of new energy-saving heating and air-conditioning systems. An emphasis on better energy management should lead to the replacement of older systems and the installation of newer, more efficient systems in existing homes and buildings. Regulations prohibiting the discharge and production of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydro-chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants should continue to result in the need to replace many existing air-conditioning systems or modify them to use new environmentally safe refrigerants.

How Do I Qualify?

Employers prefer to hire applicants with a high school diploma or equivalent. Completion of a formal apprenticeship or vocational college program is the usual method of entry into this occupation.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Many schools operate placement centers for their students. Newspaper classified ads and Internet job listings also provide helpful local job leads. Jobs may also be found through trade publications. Union members search for work by registering with their local hiring hall. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Learn More About Heating/Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Workers