How much do licensed HVAC techs make in your state? A database of HVAC salaries by state, shared with ServiceTitan by Payfactors.com, has the answer.
Here is what the data show about the average HVAC tech salary based on state and experience:
ENTRY (<2 years)
INTERMEDIATE (2-4 years)
SENIOR (4-7 years)
SUPERVISOR (>7 years)
But Ron Lutwiller, former chief operating officer at The Roby Companies in Charlotte, N.C., doesn’t need a database to tell him a career in the trades can be lucrative for many people.
Lutwiller said parents should do more to encourage children not interested in college to consider careers in the trades. That’s what Lutwiller says he’d tell his kids.
“If I saw that, college just might not be the right path,” he said. “And to not waste $80,000 of my money, I’m sending them to a trade school.”
Not wanting to go to college and wanting to get into the job market in the trades are not the same thing, though. That, Lutwiller says, is an attitude that needs to be changed. Why? Because the average salary for a plumber in Charlotte, for instance, is disproportionately high, he said.
“That tells you one thing—that no one young wants to be a plumber,” Lutwiller says.
“The average salary for a plumber with two years’ experience is high $50s. Electrician, about the same thing. You could go to (a community college), come out with virtually no debt and make upper $50s, at least.
“There are HVAC technicians in Charlotte making over $100,000 per year. It’s there. It’s possible.”
And Payfactors.com data show that the average salary for a licensed electrician, at every experience level, is higher than those for either plumbers or HVAC technicians. The data do not include benefit costs such as healthcare.
The industry is expected to grow by 13 percent between 2018 and 2028, much faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so the jobs will be there. And, if only for financial reasons, any aversion to becoming an electrician—or joining the trades in general—doesn’t make sense, Lutwiller says.
Payfactors.com database shows HVAC technicians’ salary range
Lutwiller’s numbers are borne out, for much of the nation, by the database from Payfactors.com, which works with human resources and compensation specialists in an effort to modernize compensation and salary benchmarking through technology.
Developed based on more than 2,000 commercially available, reputable compensation surveys, each of which complies with generally accepted principles and practices of WorldatWork and U.S. Department of Justice compensation survey standards, the database covers all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The data include figures for the 10th, 50th and 90th percentiles for full-time, licensed HVAC techs of various experience levels, providing a range for HVAC technician salaries that informs hiring managers and job seekers alike. The 90th percentile figure is the HVAC pay rate at which 90 percent of similar employees make less, and 10 percent make more.
Each survey's average HVAC technician salary data is aged to June 1, 2020, using aging factors specific to the combination of the job's function, level, and geographic location. The figures include base salary only, so benefits, commissions, bonuses, spiffs and similar enhancements are not included.
The data are broken down for HVAC technician salaries by state, region and for selected cities.
Among the findings from the HVAC average salary data:
The 50th percentile salary for an entry-level HVAC technician (0-2 years experience) nationwide is $47,100. For intermediate experience (2-4 years), it’s $56,700, and for experienced HVAC technicians (4-6 years), it’s $63,800.
HVAC supervisors (7-plus years of experience), at the median, make $85,100.
The HVAC technician salaries in the data fall in a wide range even in the same state, based on location and other factors. In California, for example, intermediate HVAC technicians in the 10th percentile make $47,400. In the 90th percentile, it’s $74,200. In Ohio, those numbers are $44,200 and $64,800.
The 50th percentile is higher than the national figure for starting HVAC technicians in 10 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Alaska has the highest median salary for entry-level and senior HVAC technicians, but wages in Massachusetts and New York grew faster, creating the highest-paid intermediate HVAC technicians.
Entry-level HVAC technicians have the highest median pay in two of the nation’s biggest cities, with San Francisco ($55,600, $26.73 per hour) and New York City ($54,100, $26.01) topping the list. Next up are Fairbanks, Alaska, and Danbury, Conn., tied at $52,100, or $25.02 per hour.
Cost of living is an important factor to consider in heating and air conditioning salaries. San Francisco has the highest salary for entry-level HVAC technicians, $55,600 at the 50th percentile, but is last—with a bullet—when cost of living is factored in. Compared with San Francisco, the $46,100 entry-level HVAC technician salary at the 50th percentile in Burlington, Vt., delivers twice the standard of living. Every city in the data offers at least a 25 percent cost-of-living bonus vs. San Francisco at the entry level.
Arkansas ($40,100) and West Virginia ($40,400) have the lowest median salary for entry-level HVAC technicians; California ($50,000) and Alaska ($51,200) have the highest.
There are lots of regional variations in salary, too.
The median base pay for HVAC technicians, regardless of experience level, is lower than the national average HVAC salaries in every state in the South and Midwest.
In the Northeast, West Virginia, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland have median HVAC technicians salaries above the national average.
The more rural Western states and Hawaii are below the national median; California, Washington and Alaska are above.
Hot weather states such as Florida, South Carolina and Texas, especially in big cities such as Houston, can drive demand for HVAC technicians and make jobs more plentiful. Cold-weather states such as Colorado, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan can drive demand for heating specialists.
There can be pockets where higher salaries are commanded, too. New Jersey isn't among the top five states in HVAC salaries, but Trenton, N.J., is one of the top five cities.
HVAC technician salaries impacted by need for qualified candidates
Like with all jobs, HVAC technician salaries are tied to supply and demand.
HVAC business owners, like others in the skilled trades, struggle to find qualified employees in a highly competitive climate. They also worry about investing time and money in training, only to see those HVAC technicians go off on their own or to work for another company.
Tommy Mello, a trade company owner and investor and host of a weekly podcast, The Home Service Expert, combats that by building a strong company foundation through extensive training and high expectations for every employee, and performance pay as an incentive for helping employees grow. He also offers a $1,500 bonus to employees for referring a new hire.
“Some people say ‘always be closing,’” Mello said. “I say, ‘always be recruiting.’”
The scarcity has HVAC business owners on the lookout, but also wary.
“Qualified, good tradespeople are incredibly difficult to find,” Mello said. “Everybody and their brother wants electricians, they want plumbers.”
What brings those candidates in the door? If it’s just money, Lutwiller is not interested.
“Technicians, they just seem to always be looking,” he said. “I tell them, if you’re that guy who is constantly looking for a dollar more an hour, this is probably not the best place for you to work. And I think sometimes that honesty brings them in in a different kind of way.
“They’re either looking for more money or they’re looking for a home.”
Those who find a home keep technician turnover from being high.
“In this business, they bounce,” Lutwiller said. “They bounce a lot.
“Outside the discussion at Pantheon on the ServiceTitan system itself, everyone talks about the same thing, and that’s about being able to acquire adequate employees, adequate from a standpoint of being able to follow instruction and learn a system like ServiceTitan.”
Know your worth, but don’t overestimate it
Sometimes, inexperienced technicians can overestimate their worth without having the knowledge or sales experience to back it up. Sara Orozco, a customer service manager at Red Apple Air in Los Angeles, said she sees that a lot.
“A lot of the applicants think once they get their certification and they come in … they're going to get all of this money, whether they have experience or not, just because they went to school,” she said. “That's not the case. You need to work your way from the bottom up.
“A lot of what I hear and see is, ‘Oh well, I have the certification. I've had at least one year of experience. You should pay me what he's making.’ But you're not bringing in the revenue that he would bring in, or the knowledge.”
A selfish mindset can be a problem, too. Red Apple Air owner Fermin Rivera says, with employees thinking, “What's the least I can do to gain the most amount of money?” And “I want what he has.”
“Instead of working together, they become competitive, or they're stealing from each other,” Rivera says. “Or they’re always thinking they’re going to be taken advantage of by a boss.”
By working together and doing the best possible job, he said, everyone can earn more.
“If we can trigger a different mindset,” he says, “I think the industry will make better use of the people they have, and also be able to recruit much easier.”
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“Find a company willing to train (you) step-by-step,” Red Apple Air co-owner Faith Rivera says. “I've talked to a lot of the technician applicants who come in. We put together a test … basic things they need to know out in the field. It's everything they need to know based on day-to-day servicing and installing.
“The applicants come in after graduating from these trade schools, and they don't know a single thing on the test.”
That kind of test keeps trade companies from “settling” for employees, which is counterproductive. Roby put a two-hour, in-house skills assessment in the warehouse in place as a safeguard against unqualified employees.
“(The test is) you actually demonstrating that you can do what you’re telling us you can do,” Lutwiller said.
The process can also keep a company from hiring someone else’s problem. If an experienced job candidate walks in your door, it might not be what you think.
“I came from the dock and door industry, the commercial door industry and the commercial and residential garage doors,” Lutwiller says. “You might go a year and a half before an experienced individual walks through your door. And if he does, you’re really questioning whether he was the riff-raff of one of your competitors that they didn’t want.”
But that doesn’t mean the hiring manager is not excited, even if just for a moment.
“We’re constantly, it seems like, on pins and needles,” Lutwiller says, “waiting for that right opportunity to walk through the door.”
HVAC technicians with an aptitude for sales can earn more
Troubleshooting a problem and performing repairs or being part of an install crew requires technical skill but not sales ability. Recognizing, and capitalizing on, opportunity increases revenue for companies and earning potential for technicians.
Lyvers searches for a service technician with an attitude that’s a little outgoing and a little persuasive, but not necessarily someone who’s just really friendly and personable, because that type can spend all their time talking to customers without selling anything, Lyvers said.
“You can train a lot of the technical,” he said. “Training sales is definitely harder.”
Weldon Long, a former HVAC company owner who is now a New York Times best-selling author and highly sought speaker, trainer and consultant, agrees. There’s an understanding in the industry, he said, that techs need to be trained, but sales skills are sometimes looked down upon.
“You would never grab your accountant and say, ‘Hey, can you run some service calls for me today?’” Long says. “We understand that a service technician has to be trained, experienced, skilled, all those things.”
Same with sales, he said.
“When it comes to sales, we'll grab somebody with a pulse and a heartbeat and say, ‘Hey you’re the sales guy.’ No skills, no training, no aptitude for it,” Long said. “We have to elevate the sales function and the lead management function.
“I'm not saying it's more important than service techs and quality installations—but man, it’s equally important.”
It’s important for the electrician’s income, too.
HVAC technician salaries: Frequently asked questions
How much does an HVAC technician make per hour?
The median HVAC hourly rate for a senior HVAC technician in the United States is $30.67 per hour, or $63,800 per year.
An entry-level HVAC technician in the 50th percentile nationally makes an average of $47,100, or $22.64 per hour.
In the 10th percentile (where 90 percent of HVAC technicians make more, and 10 percent less), a senior HVAC technician nationally makes $25.14 per hour, or $52,300. In the 90th percentile, the numbers are $37.45 per hour, or $77.900.
How much does a master HVAC technician make?
More experience and better credentials draw higher salaries. Nationally, a master HVAC technician salary with seven-plus years of experience, at the median, is $85,100, the data show.
The range of master HVAC technician salaries can be wide. In Arizona, a senior HVAC technician in the 10th percentile earns $49,600 per year, while one in the 90th percentile makes $74,000. In Arkansas, that range is $44.500 to $66,600.
A senior HVAC technician in New York City makes, at the 50th percentile, $73,200. In Atlanta, an HVAC technician in the same situation makes $63,900.
Do HVAC technicians make good money?
HVAC technicians have high earning potential for those who don’t want to go to college. Requiring only a high school diploma or the equivalent, the median salary nationally for an entry-level HVAC technician is $47,100, and for senior level HVAC technicians the median figure rises to $63,800.
But there are other factors to consider when answering the question, “how much do HVAC technicians make?”
Whether an HVAC technician makes good money depends on more than just the raw dollar figure.
If loans are necessary to attend college, that debt must be taken into consideration. HVAC technicians often attend trade school and avoid most if not all that debt.
Cost of living is another factor. Larger, urban areas generally have higher salaries, but the dollars don’t go as far in those locations.
What cities have the highest HVAC technician salaries?
In the payfactors.com data, the top five cities in the survey for entry-level HVAC technician salaries are San Francisco, New York City, Fairbanks, Alaska, Danbury, Conn., and Trenton, N.J.
Bigger cities tend to have higher salaries for HVAC technicians. San Francisco has the highest median entry-level HVAC tech salary at $55,600, or $26.73 per hour. But it also has the highest cost of living of any city in the data.
When adjusted for cost of living, the highest HVAC technician salary among the cities in the data is in Cleveland, Ohio, where the 50th percentile entry-level salary of $45,700 would be equivalent to more than $180,607 in San Francisco.
The average salary for an experienced HVAC technician at the senior level in New York City is $73,200.
How do HVAC technician salaries compare with those in other trades?
HVAC technician vs. plumber salary: Nationally, the 50th percentile annual salary for an entry-level HVAC technician ($47,100) is higher than the 50th percentile salary for an entry-level plumber ($46,400).
HVAC technician vs. electrician salary: Nationally, entry level HVAC technicians ($47,100) make less than entry-level electricians ($47,900), at the median.
The margin is small—generally less than a dollar an hour—but the 50th percentile for entry-level HVAC technician salaries ($47,100 median nationally) is similar to those for both plumbers ($46,400) and electricians ($47,900) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Salaries for all three trades increase most rapidly—generally by about 25 percent, although there are outliers—by the time the technician reaches the intermediate level (2-4 years). HVAC tech salary increases slow afterward, the data shows.
HVAC technician salaries: Other factors to consider
Salaries can vary by job title and description. Sales techs typically make more than installers and service techs, for instance.
Cost of living is also a factor not addressed in the database. For example, the median base pay for an entry-level HVAC technician in Charleston, W.Va., is $43,600. According to the cost of living calculator at bestplaces.net, to have the same standard of living in Danbury, Conn., you’d need to make $63,256—and the median pay for an entry-level HVAC technician there is $52,100. The database does not allow for the cost of living differences between high-paying states such as Connecticut, California and Alaska and lower-paying states such as Arkansas, Mississippi, West Virginia and Idaho.
Licensing requirements vary slightly by state. Some states require lengthy apprentice periods. An HVAC apprentice salary could be less than licensed, entry-level HVAC technicians. North Carolina requires 1,500 hours as a trainee to become licensed, for example. Check the requirements for your state.
HVAC technician unions and more: Other factors could be in play as well, such experience level, skillset, whether the HVAC technician is covered by a union, and more.
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