Colorado HVAC License: How to Become an HVAC Contractor in Colorado
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Opportunities for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration professionals are particularly robust in Colorado. There are literally thousands of job postings for HVAC technicians on online job boards for the state.
There are over 376,800 Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 7,610 work in Colorado. That number nationwide is expected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029 — adding more than 15,000 of these skilled workers to the ranks.
In Colorado, though, that growth rate is expected to be much higher. According to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website, HVAC mechanics and installers is one of the fastest-growing careers in Colorado with a projected 38% growth rate — third in the nation. And, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, contractors are hiring. In the 2020 AGC-Autodesk Workforce Survey, 60% of firms in the U.S. and 62% of firms in Colorado had unfilled hourly craft positions on June 30, 2020.
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The need for trained HVAC experts is consistent because air conditioning, refrigeration, and heating systems in our homes and businesses wear out and break down. Also, now with more of an emphasis being placed on energy efficiency and reducing pollution, systems need to be retrofitted, upgraded or replaced entirely to remain compliant.
The licensing requirements for HVAC workers and contractors vary from state to state and in Colorado from locality to locality.
Contractor Licensing Requirements for HVAC in Colorado
Is a license required for HVAC Contractors in Colorado?
The state of Colorado does not license HVAC professionals as they do electricians and plumbers. However, most cities and counties require HVAC workers — either technicians or air conditioning contractors— to be licensed at the local level.
The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) oversees licensing and registration for the state. The Colorado State Plumbing Board and the Colorado Electrical Board both fall under its purview. Because there are intersecting skills between HVAC work, plumbing, and electrical, it’s important to note that if you plan to do any of the electrical or plumbing aspects of HVAC installation or repair, you’ll need to have the appropriate state-level electrical or plumbing license.
However, to get started in the HVAC field in Colorado, you just need to meet employer expectations and eventually become licensed in the local jurisdiction(s) where you will be working. There are federal certification requirements to consider as well. If you want to become an HVAC technician, you’ll need to have a certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to legally be permitted to handle refrigerants.
Steps to Becoming an HVAC Technician in Colorado
Typically be at least 18 years of age to meet employer requirements.
You need to have earned a high school diploma or GED equivalent.
You must have a valid driver’s license.
You must get the proper training. There are two paths:
Attend community or technical college (usually two years) or trade school (usually six to nine months) to prepare for certification exams and be a good candidate for hire.
Become an Apprentice/Entry Level worker for an HVAC company and get on-the-job training. Most employers will place you with a licensed supervisor to learn from on the job and require classroom instruction two nights per week to prepare to take certification exams.
You will need to get EPA Section 608 Certification by passing the exam.
You should check local or city licensing requirements for the area where you will be working. There is no statewide licensing process for HVAC technicians.
You can earn additional certifications to improve your marketability and pay.
If you wish to own your own business in the HVAC field in Colorado after you’ve accumulated significant experience and local licensing and certifications, you’ll need a state-issued business license, worker’s compensation insurance, and unemployment insurance. Check with your municipality for further requirements. Cities or counties within the state may have further regulations, so it’s always recommended to check with local authorities before going to work.
Benefits of Becoming an HVAC Technician in Colorado
There are many benefits you’ll see from getting into the HVAC field in Colorado:
You will earn as you learn with a guarantee of pay increases as you develop new skills.
Though there is no state-issued license in Colorado, the certifications and local licenses you earn are proof of your knowledge, experience, and expertise.
You will receive industry-recognized credentials that can go with you anywhere.
Being a skilled tradesman gives you a competitive advantage in the job market and job security.
You will be embarking on a career, not just doing a job.
You can eventually own your own business and be your own boss.
What Is the Median Salary for an HVAC Technician in Colorado?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the annual mean wage for HVAC mechanics and installers nationally as $51,420 and in Colorado a little higher at $54,920. The salary for an HVAC Technician increases, as you might expect, as you acquire more experience according to Indeed.com.
HVAC Installer: The average salary for an HVAC installer is $24.21 per hour in Colorado and $6,094 overtime per year.
HVAC Technician: The average salary for an HVAC Technician is $26.44 per hour in Colorado and $7,500 overtime per year.
HVAC Mechanic: The average salary for an HVAC Mechanic is $28.30 per hour in Colorado and $8,750 overtime per year.
HVAC Supervisor: The average base salary for an HVAC Supervisor is $64,460 per year in Colorado and $11,250 overtime per year.
Salary can vary widely depending on the city where you work and other factors like education, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years you have spent in your profession.
How to Become an HVAC Professional in Colorado
EMPLOYER EXPECTATIONS: Because there is no statewide licensing for HVAC, there is no state-mandated minimum age to get started on your HVAC career path. Some high schools offer vocational programs for seniors, making it possible to begin preliminary training at 17. However, most employers seem to expect job candidates to be at least 18 years old and have earned either a high school diploma or GED.
DRIVER’S LICENSE: A valid driver’s license is a must. A clean driving record is important for a job in HVAC because you’ll be driving to the customers. Many job listings in the HVAC field specify no major or frequent traffic violations or DUI in the previous 5 years.
EDUCATION/WORK EXPERIENCE: Either attend community college and earn an Associate Degree in Applied Science or complete a shorter certificate program at a technical college to get the foundational knowledge you need to get started. Employers often state a preference for HVAC technicians who have graduated from a relevant trade school or technical college because they have been educated in key skills needed for the job. Alternately, you can opt for on-the-job training to prepare for the EPA and other certifications. You would need to become an Apprentice/Entry Level worker for an HVAC company to begin learning on the job and complete the requisite classroom instruction your employer prefers. Certification tests are rigorous and thorough so some kind of formal education at a college or trade school may be a more helpful first step in your training to be an HVAC technician.
GET CERTIFIED/LICENSED: Prepare for and pass the EPA Section 608 certification exam. Acquire other certifications from professional HVAC organizations. Check local or city licensing requirements for the area where you will be working. Though there is no statewide licensing for HVAC technicians in Colorado, there are local license requirements throughout the state that require a minimum amount of education and experience, passing a technical exam, completing applications, and paying fees. Contact the local building department (city or county) to determine if the local jurisdiction has licensing authority and what you need to do to meet those specific rules and regulations.
For instance, Denver Community Planning and Development and Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, which includes Colorado Springs, both require HVAC technicians and contractors to be licensed in those jurisdictions. Each of these government agencies requires a minimum amount of educational instruction and passing a technical exam before becoming licensed. Denver offers four HVAC licenses:
Heating and Ventilating Journeyman
Heating and Ventilating Class A Supervisor
Heating and Ventilating Class B Supervisor
Heating and Ventilating, A/C – Residential Only
Each level requires ICC Testing and documentation proving a minimum number of years of work experience.
Pikes Peak Regional lists four levels of mechanical contractor licenses and a technician license:
Mechanical Contractor A (Commercial)
Mechanical Contractor B (Residential)
Mechanical Contractor C (Specialty)
Heating Mechanic IV (HVAC Service Technician)
Again, each level requires ICC Testing and documentation of specific certifications to qualify for the license.
Some of these licenses waive testing if you hold a state-level plumbers license or electricians license.
The State of Colorado issues three levels of plumbing license:
Residential Plumber: You must verify two years (3,400 hours) of practical experience.
Journeyman Plumber: The maximum experience the board requires for an applicant to qualify to receive a journeyman plumber's license is four years (6,800 hours) of practical experience.
Master Plumber: An applicant for a master plumber's license must furnish evidence of having obtained five full-time years (8,500 hours) of practical experience.
One month of full-time experience is equivalent to 163 hours.
Colorado issues three levels of electrical license:
Experience Requirements: 4,000 hours of residential-only experience earned in no less than 2 years
Experience Requirements: 8,000 hours of experience earned in no less than 4 years, 4,000 hours of which must be in commercial/industrial work
Education Requirements: 288 hours of classroom education required for applicants registered as an apprentice on or after 1/1/2011, Must be documented with a transcript or similar statement
Experience Requirements (CHOOSE ONE)
Graduate electrical engineer of an accredited college or university AND 2,000 hours of construction experience earned in no less than 1 year, OR
Graduate of an electrical trade school or community college AND 8,000 hours of experience earned in no less than 4 years, OR
2,000 hours of experience earned in no less than 1 year in addition to the JW requirements listed above — Some hours of which must be in planning and layout, Some hours of which must be supervision* while in possession of a Journeyman Electrician license
All require an affidavit of experience form to document your work history, proof of workers compensation insurance and unemployment insurance, and disclosure of any felony convictions.
Homeowners may install electrical and plumbing work in their own place of residence that’s not for rent or for sale as long as a permit is pulled and an inspection takes place.
How Much Does It Cost to Become an HVAC Technician in Colorado?
It costs $24.95 to take the EPA Section 608 Certification Examination and $5.95 for each additional attempt. The cost associated with the schooling to train to be an HVAC technician varies widely—from a couple of thousand dollars at some trade schools to $15,000 for longer, more comprehensive programs. There will also likely be a licensing fee from your locality and fees associated with taking certification exams.
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How Long Does it Take to Become an HVAC Tech in Colorado?
The education and experience requirements for licensing vary from one municipality to another. It will take about two years of schooling/work experience to learn what you need to know for the EPA Section 608 Certification Exam. However, you can be working as a technician under a seasoned professional—and earning money—the whole time. Full training through an apprenticeship takes about five years. The longer you work in the business, the more skilled and valued you will become as an employee and the more earning potential you will enjoy.
Colorado HVAC Training Programs and Schools
There are many programs to get the training you need to become an HVAC professional in Colorado and they are located all over the state, in major cities and smaller communities. There are also many more options for online training. The US Department of Labor’s careeronestop.org website lists 950 training programs for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Engineering Technology Technicians in Colorado.
Most HVAC technicians hold some kind of post-secondary degree or certificate. There are currently two main organizations that approve HVAC programs and schools nationwide: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).
HVAC Excellence has accredited one program in Colorado: Pikes Peak Community College, Colorado Springs, CO
PAHRA has also accredited one college in Colorado: Front Range Community College, Fort Collins, CO
HVACClasses.org breaks down the credit hour requirements for the different programs at each of the above schools and several others.
If you are in the Denver area, the Emily Griffith Technical College offers an eight-month certificate program in HVAC that costs about $9,300 and boasts 93 percent job placement. IntelliTec College in Colorado Springs and Grand Junction offers an Associate Degree program in HVAC-R that’s 19.5 months long and prepares graduates to sit for the local Pikes Peak Regional Building Department Mechanic IV Licensing, EPA Certification, and additional certifications.
Here are three great lists of the best HVAC schools in Colorado:
You’ll see that many of the same colleges or programs appear on all these lists.
Apprenticeship: The alternative to a formal education program is to look for an apprenticeship. As stated earlier, many employers hiring entry-level HVAC technicians follow an apprentice model — pairing new employees with others who are licensed in the local jurisdiction to begin hands-on training while requiring the beginner to attend HVAC classes. Employers will often pay for the instruction if you maintain a certain grade point average.
There are also apprenticeships offered through unions or local trade associations. Local 58 of the Plumbers, Pipefitters & Service Journeyman Union of Southeastern Colorado serves the area of Colorado Springs and Pueblo. 58’s JATC Training Apprenticeship program consists of five years of on-the-job training and attending classes at the JATC training center.
Applicants are required to submit:
High School Diploma or GED with scores
Original transcript of courses and grades
Birth Certificate or other acceptable proof of age
Records of previous work experience, if any (Resume)
Must have a valid driver’s license
Social Security Card
Must be insurable at standard rates
Tuition: Apprenticeships usually have some up-front costs of tuition and book fees, but the apprentice will be paid a percentage of the journeyman wage rate and will receive periodic wage increases as they meet program requirements. The cost of tuition at a vocational school or college depends on the program you choose but can range from $2,000 at a community college to $40,000 at a state or private school for an associate degree or bachelor degree in engineering.
Program Prerequisites: You must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED.
On-the-Job Experience: While on the job, you will need to have good customer service skills, be detail-oriented, have some mechanical capability, and be physically fit because the job can include some heavy lifting and hours of walking, standing, and working in tight spaces.
Everywhere throughout the country, including Colorado, federal-level EPA regulations under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act require that technicians who maintain, service, repair, or dispose of equipment that could release refrigerants into the atmosphere must be certified. EPA section 608 HVAC Certification is required for any professional who conducts refrigerant line-pressure tests or handles or adds refrigerant to existing air conditioning systems.
Most training programs can direct you to how and where to get that certification and many even make it part of the curriculum, or your employer will require you to get it before handling refrigerant. You can also go to EPA.gov and key in 608 Certification in the search bar to find out which institutions in your state offer certification programs.
Certification Exam: You must acquire your EPA Certification from an approved organization. A list of these organizations can be found on the EPA’s website. There are four types of EPA Certifications for Refrigerant. They allow for different levels of certification for different scopes of work.
Type I – for servicing small appliances containing five pounds of refrigerant or less.
Type II – for servicing high-pressure units that contain five pounds or more of refrigerant (including most small commercial and residential systems).
Type III – for servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances.
Universal – for servicing all systems and appliances covered under Types I, II, and III. Generally more useful than targeting any one specific certification.
Core Exam: For all certifications, you must pass the “Core Section” of the EPA certification exam. It covers the following topics:
Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol
Section 608 regulations
Substitute refrigerants and oils
The Three R’s (Recover, Recycle, Reclaim)
Who Issues HVAC Licenses in Colorado?
There are no licenses issued at the state level for HVAC contractors/technicians in Colorado. However, there are many municipalities that have licensing requirements. Be sure to check with local governments to know what is required in the area you intend to work before submitting your contractor license application. If you own your own business in the HVAC field in Colorado, you’ll need a state-issued business license from the Secretary of State’s Office and worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance.
Does My Colorado HVAC Experience Allow Me to Work in Any Other State?
Every state has different licensing requirements. Some will have minimum work experience thresholds and many will require that you document that experience and pass a licensing exam. Be sure to check those mandates before beginning work as an HVAC professional in another state, even if you’ve been doing HVAC work in Colorado. Your EPA Certification and other Certifications may not be enough to legally perform HVAC work in another state.
National HVAC Certifications
Other certifications can help you demonstrate your proficiency to potential employers and clients. North American Technical Excellence (NATE) certification, ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) certification, and other professional certifications are not required but can add to your marketability as a service provider and therefore increase your opportunity to make more money.
Though Colorado does not require continuing education at the state level for HVAC, some municipalities do so you’ll want to check in the area where you will be practicing to be sure to keep your license current. Also, you will want to stay informed about emerging technology in the HVAC industry. There are many ways to keep yourself current in regard to the technology put to use in HVAC systems and appliances. Distributors want you to know about their company’s latest offerings and will often hold training sessions about new and changing equipment and parts.
HVAC manufacturers offer training too, including online. For example, according to HVACSchool.org, Carrier has something they call Carrier University, an elaborate training system that includes classroom and online courses and symposiums and seminars covering all aspects of the HVACR industry and all of the people involved in it.
You can stay up to date on all HVAC industry news several ways: