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Put These 8 Essential HVAC Technician Skills to Work

On a roof, a man and woman wear yellow safety jackets while kneeling over several metallic pipes. On the left, the man wears a white hardhat and faces the kneeling woman wearing an orange hardhat on the right. Aerotek can help you find the right HVAC technician job.

What makes a good HVAC technician and what are quality HVAC technician skills? There are many to consider since the professional spans over several industries. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) installations and technicians help us out every day by keeping our homes, buildings and workspaces at comfortable temperatures. But it can be a demanding job and requires some essential skills in order to do correctly. We’ve found there are eight essential HVAC technician skills you can use to improve your career. 


What Makes a Good HVAC Technician? Core Skills.

Troubleshooting Skills

HVAC systems can fail. Anyone who’s ever been stuck in a freezing office or had to install desk and floor fans because their air conditioning is out, can attest to this. HVAC systems involve lots of intricate parts, including sensors, compressors, venting ducts, and heating elements; having good troubleshooting skills to help you diagnose and get to the root of the problem will go a long way to advancing your career, and pleasing your client. Finding and diagnosing the problem is only half the battle though. Remember that an HVAC technician's skills list can include making repairs, ordering parts, and fixing the problem! Competency with required tools and schematics are essential for the job too.

Time Management Skills

Time management is one that’s learned throughout life. We all have the same 24 hours, but there’s a lot to be done. This is especially relevant in the HVAC career path as you become more senior and might take on management/administrative roles. Still, being effective with your time — taking on clients you’re familiar with, blocking out certain times to send emails or answer calls, and eating on the go — can help you accomplish more, and lead to more effectiveness and productivity in your career. 

Blueprint Reading

Blueprints might sound cliché, but they’re the backbone of construction, including HVAC installations. While some companies and contractors might not use actual paper blueprints in favor of computerized renderings, the skill of reading, interpreting, and using blueprints/schematics to install and repair HVAC systems is a must.

Mechanical Skills

HVAC systems are technical and mechanical and require skills to install. HVAC technicians must have a solid understanding of the physics and mechanics that let HVAC systems function the way they do, including temperature, air pressure, electrical circuits, and more. These will be taught in the HVAC curriculum, and it’s important not to forget these lessons as you progress through the HVAC career path.  Fundamental mechanical skills will help you better diagnose and troubleshoot problems, help with preventative maintenance, and master electricity.

Preventative Maintenance

Prevention is more important than it’s given credit for. Eating healthy is cheaper than visiting the doctor, getting your car regularly serviced is cheaper than paying for repairs, just to name a few examples. HVAC systems are no exception. They’re often installed when the building is first constructed and expected to function for the life of the building. 
Checking in and running inspections, maintenance repairs and checks, and discussing protocols with your client are all part of preventative maintenance. It can be a nightmare and affect the whole building if the entire HVAC system needs to be replaced, so being proactive and having the client onboard with prevention can benefit everyone.

Hand and Power Tool Experience

HVAC is a trade, after all. It requires the use of your hands and tools just as much as a plumber, mason, or carpenter. Some examples include, but are not limited to, cutting and filing down HVAC ducts to the proper size, bolting and securing them in place to ceilings, walls, and each other, using voltage and air sensors, and more. Again, you’ll learn the basics of this in trade school, and on the job as well.

Understanding Safety Standards

HVAC systems require the use of a lot of electricity, steam, and sometimes flammable gasses to function. While they might not be the first safety hazard that comes to mind, they certainly can be problematic if used unsafely or not cared for. It’s important for both HVAC technicians and the building/client to understand the safety standards, so they’re installed and maintained properly. Technicians should be up to date with the latest safety standards and make sure the client is aware and informed as well. If not, both parties can be fined, and worse, the HVAC system could malfunction.

Master of Electricity

While you don’t need to be fluent in electricity and its physics like an electrician should be, HVAC technicians should still understand electricity as it relates to the HVAC systems they’re working with. After all, a lot of HVAC systems are driven by and connected to electricity, and problems or troubleshooting with HVAC might be electrical. Again, the necessary electrical knowledge should be taught while you’re in trade school, but make sure that you’re familiar with the basics. 

Beyond Core Skills: Expanding Expertise

Communication and Teamwork Skills

Communication is important to developing your HVAC technician skills because there’s a lot of collaboration. Multiple HVAC technicians might work on the same project, sometimes alongside a team of electricians or other tradespeople. The client/building owner must be kept in the loop too, as well as the project manager. Communication is key!

Knowledge of HVAC Systems and Components, and Adaptability

We know we sound like a broken record, but you’ll learn about the core components and knowledge of HVAC systems in school. However, new technology and systems emerge yearly, so it’s on you to stay updated and informed of the newest innovations and incorporate them into your practice.

Environmental and Energy Efficiency Awareness

HVAC systems can consume a lot of energy. They’re often the greatest usage of energy by many buildings, especially older ones that may not operate as efficiently. Be mindful of this and be a part of the change and push to make HVAC systems more environmentally friendly.

Customer Service Excellence and Soft Skills

It doesn’t matter how good of an HVAC technician you are, if you’re a jerk to your customers. They will not want to work with you, they won’t recommend you for other projects, or call you back for maintenance. Treat people like people and be patient with potential questions they may have. They’ll be thankful for it and are more likely to work with or recommend you in the future. Communicate properly, listen to their concerns and questions, and treat people the way you like to be treated.

Problem-Solving and Flexibility

We mentioned earlier that some HVAC technicians' skills are being able to diagnose and troubleshoot. Having good problem-solving skills — being able to approach a problem with the mindset of understanding it and then finding the appropriate solution — is priceless in these situations. So is having flexibility. Being able to adapt on the fly and staying open-minded to solutions you didn’t anticipate is a valuable addition to your HVAC technician skills list.

Stress Management in High-Pressure Situations

HVAC projects can occasionally get stressful. Problems arise, and clients may be demanding about getting them fixed. Deadlines for construction projects might be coming close. Regardless of the problem, it’s important to be able to work diligently under pressure, and not let the stress of the situation affect your work.

Leadership Potential and Supervisory Skills

We mentioned this briefly a little earlier. As you advance through the HVAC technician career path, you might take on more leadership and supervisor roles. You might do administrative work, train apprentices, oversee projects, and more. Often, you’ll slowly ease into this, so you have time to refine leadership, people, and time management skills.

Training and Education in the HVAC Field

Formal Education vs. On the Job Training

HVAC technicians are required to attend a year of trade school in an HVAC curriculum. Then, they might follow established HVAC technicians as an apprentice (this is often paid) where they learn to apply what they learned under the direction of their mentor in the field. Don’t leave what you learned in the classroom — the knowledge of electrical systems and tool skills you learn there will be very useful in the field.

Certifications and Licenses

Each HVAC technician must obtain their HVAC certification in order to work. EPA 608 certification is also required as part of the Clean Air Act. Having a NATE and HVAC Excellence certification are further certs that help HVAC technicians stand out from the crowd, giving you a leg up on the competition.

Continuing Education and Professional Development Opportunities

Technology is always changing, as are construction and HVAC developments. Manufacturers will always be working on something new, so make sure to stay up to date and network and attend seminars or conferences when possible. This part is on you, as the classroom education only takes you so far.

Cultivating a Successful HVAC Technician Career Path

Balancing Technical Expertise with Continuous Learning

It’s important to acknowledge that as an HVAC technician, you’ll always be a student to a degree. While you might be a master of what you’ve learned in school, and the hand tools you’ve trained on, understand that there will always be something new on the horizon for you to master on your HVAC technician career path. 

Personal Strategies for Skill Enhancement and Professional Development

We recommend always being ready to learn, because you’ll be doing lots of it. Subscribe to the latest news in the HVAC field and sign up for networking events or education opportunities. Learning new things will always help, so get into a learning mindset and absorb whatever you can!

Changes in Technology and Industry Standards

The big changes to look out for in the HVAC field are energy efficiency. Engineers are working hard to make heating and cooling technology more accessible, cheaper, and easier on the environment, as HVAC is notoriously greedy with energy. Be prepared for green energy, energy-friendly building designs, and low-energy HVAC systems to crop up more and more in the future.

Future Demand

HVAC technicians and installers are slated to grow 6% annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is understandable, given the housing shortage and surge in construction. Those buildings, whether residential or commercial, will surely require heating and cooling, so you can bet HVAC technicians will be needed.

Advancement Opportunities and Career Growth

HVAC technicians, like all trades, have ample room for growth. They can eventually take on more senior roles as they gain experience, leading a team or project. They can eventually shift to more administrative roles too, such as being an instructor, or administrator for the company. 

Adaptation Strategies for Staying Relevant

Be a learning machine, plain and simple. Keep learning, because that’s how you embrace and employ new technology and innovations in the field. And that’s essentially how you stay relevant. Never forget the fundamental HVAC technician skills you learned in the classroom and the field, because you’ll keep building off them too.

Where to Go Next for a Rewarding Career as an HVAC Technician

Wherever there’s construction, often there are HVAC technicians. This can include warehouses, residential homes, commercial real estate and big skyscrapers – you name it. Construction is booming throughout the country, so rewarding careers are abundant for up-and-coming HVAC technicians career paths. 

Recap of the Multidimensional Skill Set for HVAC Technicians

HVAC technicians are highly skilled professionals–they must be, because their job is important and impacts others. A fundamental understanding of mechanics, electricity, the tools they work with, and the blueprints and schematics they use is key to doing the job properly. They must also be effective communicators and abide by safety protocol and be lifelong learners. 

Encouragement for Aspiring and Current Technicians to Embrace Skill Development

We covered a lot of HVAC technician skills in this article, from technical ones that you can learn in the classroom, to people skills you’ll learn in the field. They’re all important, and while they may seem like a lot, being eager to learn and apply will help make it easy. Never stop learning, always look to improve, and you’ll keep getting better at your job as an HVAC technician. 

When you’re ready to explore the latest HVAC technician job openings, search our job board.