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Heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers—often referred to as HVAC technicians—work on heating, ventilation, cooling, and refrigeration systems that control the air quality in many types of buildings. They mostly work in residential homes, schools, hospitals, office buildings, or factories. Their worksites may be very hot or cold because the heating and cooling system they must repair is broken. Working in cramped spaces is common.
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HVAC technicians typically do the following:
Heating and air conditioning systems control the temperature, humidity, and overall air quality in homes, businesses, and other buildings. By providing a climate controlled environment, refrigeration systems make it possible to store and transport food, medicine, and other perishable items. Although trained to do all three, HVAC technicians sometimes work strictly with heating, air conditioning, or refrigeration systems. They also may specialize in certain types of HVAC equipment, such as water-based heating systems, solar panels, or commercial refrigeration.
Depending on the task, HVAC technicians use many different tools. For example, they often use screwdrivers, wrenches, pipe cutters and other basic handtools when installing systems. To test or install complex system components, technicians may use more sophisticated tools, such as carbon monoxide testers, voltmeters, combustion analyzers, and acetylene torches. When working on air conditioning and refrigeration systems, technicians must follow government regulations regarding the conservation, recovery, and recycling of refrigerants. This often entails proper handling and disposal of fluids.
Some HVAC technicians sell service contracts to their clients, providing regular maintenance of heating and cooling systems. Other craft workers sometimes help install or repair cooling and heating systems. For example, on a large air conditioning installation job, especially one in which workers are covered by union contracts, ductwork might be done by sheet metal workers and duct installers, or electrical work by electricians. In addition, home appliance repairers usually service window air conditioners and household refrigerators.
HVAC technicians mostly work in residential homes, schools, stores, hospitals, office buildings, or factories. Some technicians are assigned to specific job sites at the beginning of each day. Others travel to several different locations making service calls.
Technicians generally work indoors, but some may have to work on outdoor heat pumps, for example, even in bad weather. They often work in awkward or cramped spaces, and some work in buildings that are uncomfortable because the air conditioning or heating system is broken.