HVAC License Hawaii: How to Become a HVAC Contractor in Hawaii
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Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration technologies have never been more complex, and these systems continue to evolve. Learning how to design, install and repair them can mean not only job security in Hawaii but a healthy paycheck too. The Aloha State is one of the top-paying states for HVAC mechanics and installers in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency also reports that there are 394,100 Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration mechanics and installers nationwide and only 1,360 work in Hawaii. The national number is expected to grow 5% from 2021 to 2031 — adding more than 20,000 of these skilled workers to the ranks. In Hawaii that growth rate is expected to be slightly higher than that. The U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website, CareerOneStop, projects the growth rate in Hawaii to be 6% for HVAC mechanics and installers, and the Associated General Contractors of America, says contractors are hiring. In the 2020 AGC-Autodesk Workforce Survey, 60% of firms in the U.S. had unfilled hourly craft positions.
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Air conditioning, refrigeration and heating systems in our homes and businesses wear out and break down, so there is always a need for tradespeople who know how to fix them or install new systems. Also, as the push for energy efficiency and reducing pollution grows stronger, there’s a need for mechanical systems to be retrofitted, upgraded or replaced entirely to remain compliant.
The licensing requirements for HVAC workers and HVAC contractors vary from state to state and in some cases from locality to locality. Hawaii has licensing only at the contractor level for HVAC.
Licensing Requirements for HVAC Professionals in Hawaii
Is a license required for HVAC Professionals in Hawaii? The answer depends upon your job description.
Hawaii does not license HVAC technicians as it does journeyman plumbers or electricians. However, it does require a state Specialty Contractor license for contractors doing HVACR work. If you are going to own your own HVAC business or act as the Responsible Managing Employee (RME) for a contractor, you will need to be a licensed specialty contractor in at least one of several specialized categories. The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Professional & Vocational Licensing Division is responsible for 25 professional boards and commissions and 27 licensing programs including for contractors, plumbers and electricians. Even though HVAC technicians don’t need to be licensed through the state, if you handle refrigerants as part of your job you will need Environmental Protection Agency certification under federal law.
Types of HVAC Licenses in Hawaii
What are the different types of HVAC licenses in Hawaii?
While there is no statewide license for HVAC technicians in Hawaii, technicians must work for a licensed contractor. For HVACR-related work, you need to hold a Class C Specialty Contractor License issued by the state board. There are several that relate to heating and cooling systems, so you’ll need one that covers the type of work and the systems you’ll be installing or repairing. The C-52 Ventilating and Air Conditioning Contractor license covers most HVAC work, but if the work you’re performing goes beyond the scope of work permitted under that license, you may need additional licensure.
The C-52 Ventilating and Air Conditioning Contractor license allows the holder to fabricate, assemble, and install:
Warm-air heating and air cooling systems
Heating and cooling solar systems
Complete ventilating systems and complete air conditioning systems including, but not limited to, piping, non-electrical controls, instrumentation, building automation, energy management, and trenching, backfilling, patching, and surface restoration in connection with the installation of the air conditioning systems
Thermal and acoustical insulation necessary to maintain heat, or sound, or both, within the systems
Heat pumps related to the air conditioning system C-4 Boiler, Hot-water Heating, and Steam Fitting Contractor License
Allows the holder to install or repair boiler systems and thermal fluid systems including piping, valves, gauges, pumps, radiators, convectors, fuel oil tanks, fuel oil lines, hazardous waste storage tanks, chimneys, flues, and heat insulation.
C-13 Electrical Contractor License
Allows the holder to install, erect, or connect any electrical wires, fixtures, appliances, apparatus, signs, conduits, poles, raceways, and to do trenching, backfilling, patching, and surface restoration in connection with the installation of conduits and lines which transmit, transform, or utilize electrical energy less than 600 volts phase to phase.
C-40 Refrigeration Contractor License
Allows the holder to install devices, machinery, and units, including temperature insulation units, ducts, blowers, registers, humidity, and thermostatic controls for the control of air temperature below50 degrees Fahrenheit in refrigerators, refrigerator rooms, and insulated refrigerator spaces; and to construct walk-in refrigerator boxes.
C-44 Sheet Metal Contractor License
Allows the holder to fabricate, assemble and install ductwork, metal flues, and free-standing fireplaces and chimneys.
The requirements for any of the above licenses are:
Be at least 18 years of age.
Have a good reputation for honesty, truthfulness, financial integrity and fair dealing.
Have four years of supervisory experience within the past 10 years attested to by fellow employees, an employer or other professional with direct knowledge of your work.
Pass a contractor exam in the appropriate classification.
Be employed by a licensed contracting entity.
Since the state doesn’t have any entry-level licensing, the first license requirement you will encounter as a technician is the need for EPA Section 608 Certification under federal law. You will need to pass an examination for certification. We’ll explain more about that a little later.
Steps to Becoming an HVAC Professional in Hawaii
Meet employer expectations by being 18 years old with a high school diploma or GED, a driver’s license and basic math and reading skills.
Enroll in a training program — either a college degree program or an apprenticeship makes you a more attractive job candidate.
Get EPA Certification if you will be handling refrigerant.
Work indefinitely as an HVAC tech for a licensed contractor.
Or get licensed as a specialty contractor after accumulating at least four years of supervisory experience if you would like to own your own business or serve as the RME for another contractor.
Apply for license including at least three certificates of support of supervisory years of work experience and paying application fee.
Receive notice of eligibility to test.
Pay for, take and pass the state mandated exam.
Pay for and receive your Class C Specialty Contractor license.
Maintain continuous liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
Renew your license by Sept. 30 of even-numbered years.
Benefits of Becoming an HVAC Professional in Hawaii
There are many benefits to working in the HVAC field in Hawaii:
HVAC mechanics and installers in Hawaii are paid very well, commanding the third highest annual mean salary in the nation.
You will earn as you learn with a guarantee of pay increases as you develop new skills.
The EPA and other certifications you earn over your years of experience are proof of your knowledge and expertise.
Being a skilled tradesman gives you a competitive advantage 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 Mean Wage for an HVAC Technician in Hawaii?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the annual mean salary for HVAC mechanics and installers in Hawaii as $69,100. That salary, as you might expect, increases as you acquire more experience, according to Indeed.com.
HVAC Installer: The average wage for an HVAC installer is $27.53 per hour in Hawaii and $6,750 overtime per year.
HVAC Technician: The average wage for an HVAC Technician is $27.19 per hour in Hawaii and $6,750 overtime per year.
HVAC Mechanic: The average wage for an HVAC Mechanic is $27.35 per hour in Hawaii.
HVAC Supervisor: The average base salary for an HVAC Supervisor is $129,252 per year in Hawaii.
Pay can vary widely, depending on the city and many other important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years you have spent in your profession.
What Business Owners Need to Know
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Required forms that ensure every job is done right, driving consistency.
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Sales presentations that make conversations with customers easier and drive average ticket.
Mobile payment acceptance, eliminating lost checks and increasing cash flow.
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How to Become an HVAC Professional in Hawaii
The most common path to enter the HVAC field in Hawaii is enrolling in a trade school or apprenticeship program.
EDUCATION/WORK EXPERIENCE: You need job training, typically in a classroom as well as field experience to work in the heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and refrigeration industry in Hawaii. You have basically three options to acquire that training:
Apprenticeship: Apprenticeships are sometimes referred to as “The Other Four-Year Degree,” because it’s like college for the trades. If you get one of the coveted apprentice openings through your local United Association Union of Plumbers, Fitters, Welders, & Service Techs it’s like getting a scholarship to college. Hawaii has 2 UA local chapters. UA Local 657 based in Honolulu offers Plumbing, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, Fire Sprinkler Fitter, and Steam Fitter Welder apprenticeships that are five-year programs consisting of 10,000 work hours plus 10 semesters of related classroom instruction.
Apprentices are mentored on the job by experienced technicians and go to school to learn trade-specific subjects. These apprenticeships are very competitive, so you will need to distinguish yourself if this is the path you want to take. You can do that by starting on one of the other paths to licensure.
College/Trade School: Another way to begin the process of becoming an HVAC tech in Hawaii is to get a certificate or degree in the field. Many employers express a desire for job applicants to have formal education in the trade and EPA certification before being hired. There are many programs from which to choose. An associate of applied science degree will take about two years, and certificate programs can take six months to a year. This can distinguish you from other candidates for one of those union apprentice openings or make you a more desirable candidate for an entry-level job with an HVAC employer.
Entry-level Employment: The other way to begin is to simply look for an entry-level job opening and work for a licensed mechanical contractor. Again, though, most employers state in job postings that HVAC training is preferred. Some employers will act as a sponsor in a registered apprenticeship through Hawaii’s Workforce Development Division, which maintains a list of registered apprenticeships that meet national standards for registration with the U.S. Department of Labor. Apprenticeships through the Department of Labor are recognized nationwide, so your credentials will move with you. You will be required to attend classes at night or on weekends to get the requisite theoretical training, but you’ll be getting your academic instruction in tandem with your practical experience, and you probably won’t be paying for all of it.
You may work indefinitely as an HVAC technician in Hawaii without pursuing a state level specialty contractor license. As you learn the trade, however, you will need to get EPA Section 608 Certification, which is a standard federal requirement for anyone testing refrigerant line pressure, adding refrigerant to existing AC systems or handling controlled refrigerants. We’ll outline that process in detail below.
LICENSING/EXAMINATION: Once you’ve accrued the four years of supervisory experience required to become licensed as a specialty contractor, you can apply for the category that aligns with the work you perform. The forms can be found on the state website. As noted above, the requirements for a license are:
Be at least 18 years of age.
Have a good reputation for honesty, truthfulness, financial integrity and fair dealings.
Have four years of supervisory experience within the past 10 years.
Pass an examination in the appropriate classification.
Have liability and workers' compensation insurance.
When you apply you must include at least three certificates of support of supervisory experience and have each person attesting to that experience sign off on the Chronological History of Projects Form.
CONSIDER BECOMING AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR: Once you've been awarded your HVAC contractor license you may work for a contracting business and serve as the Responsible Managing Employee or if you wish to own your own business in the HVAC field in Hawaii, you will need to register your business with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Business Registration Division. You'll also need a surety bond, liability and property damage insurance.
RENEW: You will need to maintain your licenses as well. To keep your contractor license current, you’ll need to maintain liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance if you have any employees and renew it every two years by Sept. 30 of even-numbered years.
How Much Does It Cost to Become an HVAC Technician in Hawaii?
How you get started will determine your upfront costs. If you start by getting some kind of college degree or certificate you’ll have tuition expenses. The cost to take the EPA Section 608 Certification Examination can be as low as $20 for the Type I exam and upwards of $150 for the Universal Exam, but if you start with a program that may be included. You can then work as a technician, without any licensing or testing fees. If you choose to get your specialty contractor license so you can act as the Responsible Managing Employee (RME) for a business or for your own contracting business, there is a non-refundable $50 application fee. You’ll also need to pay for the state-mandated exam for contractors, which costs $75. If you choose to own your own business you’ll have additional registration and insurance expenses too.
How Long Does it Take to Become an HVAC Tech in Hawaii?
Because there is no entry-level state licensing for HVAC technicians, it will take as much time as it takes to meet employer expectations. Most employers prefer some kind of post-secondary training. Certificate programs vary in length. Some are only six months. Most Associate of Applied Science degree programs will take about two years. Apprenticeships are typically five years long. Beyond that, each of the categories of Specialty Contractor licenses take a minimum of four years of supervisory experience in the discipline for which you are applying.
Hawaii HVAC Training programs and schools
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). Currently, neither has accredited any programs in Hawaii. However, there are many programs to get the training you need to become an HVAC technician there.
One option is Honolulu Community College which offers both a certificate and Associate of Applied Science degree in Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Technology. The tuition is $131 per credit for residents and $345 for non-residents. There is also an Apprenticeship and Journey Worker Training program offered through Honolulu Community College, which provides related instruction to those on Oahu who are apprenticing in various construction and mechanical trades. Courses are offered during weekday evenings and Saturday mornings in several occupational areas including: Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Fitter, Boilermaker, Plumber and Sheet Metal Worker. Upon completion of an approved apprenticeship program, hours from this program may be applied toward an associate degree.
Apprenticeship: The alternative to beginning your HVACR training with a college education certificate or degree program is to look for an HVAC apprenticeship. You can look for a union or non-union apprenticeship. UA Local 675 is based in Honolulu. The Plumbing, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, Fire Sprinkler Fitter, or Steam Fitter Welder apprenticeships through this union branch combine 10,000 work hours and 10 semesters of related instruction.
The State of Hawaii Workforce Development Division website offers apprenticeship information to job seekers as well as employers to help apprentices find openings and help employers find apprentices. The site includes a list of current registered apprenticeship programs. Many employers will also sponsor you in an apprenticeship. You can seek them out through job boards like Indeed and Zip Recruiter.
Tuition: Apprenticeships usually have some up-front costs for books or tools, 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 can range from a few thousand dollars for an online program or at a community college to $50,000 per year at a state or private school.
Program Prerequisites: You must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED and demonstrate mastery of basic high school level math. You may also need a driver’s license, a clean bill of health, and to pass a drug test.
On-the-Job Experience: While on the job you will need 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.
Hawaii Licensing Exam Details
The state of Hawaii has contracted with Prometric, a third-party testing service, to conduct all of its licensing examinations. Each of the contractor license exams costs $75. Every applicant for a contractor’s license must pass both a Business and Law (Part I) exam and a Trade-Specific (Part II) exam. A score of 75% or higher is needed to pass.
The Business and Law Exam is closed-book and made up of 80 questions with a time limit of three hours. It covers the following topics:
Estimating and Bidding
Public Works Laws
The C-52 Ventilating and Air Conditioning Contractor exam is also closed-book and made up of 80 questions with a time limit of three hours. It covers the following topics:
Warm Air Systems
Air Conditioning Systems
Gas and Refrigerant Piping
Before you can take the exam you must apply and be approved by the board. Once the board approves your application, you will be sent an exam registration form and two approval letters. Submit your exam registration form, one approval letter and the ($75) exam fee to Prometric by the deadline date. In return, you will receive an admission letter and exam appointment. Prepare for your exam using the Candidate Information Bulletin and other materials listed in it. There’s a breakdown of each type of trade exam online. Present your admission letter and required identification, then take the exam. If you pass, the board will mail you licensing information.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Certification
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.
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.
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)Recovery techniques
Who Issues HVAC Licenses in Hawaii?
The licenses that are required for contractors offering HVACR services in Hawaii are called Specialty Contractor Licenses, and they are issued by the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Professional & Vocational Licensing Division.
Does My Hawaii HVACR Related License Allow Me to Work in Any Other State?
Every state has different licensing requirements. Minimum work experience thresholds will vary, 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 Hawaii.
Your EPA Certification and other certifications will stand, and if you’ve completed a registered apprenticeship through the U.S. Department of Labor, your credentials will transfer from state to state even if there is not reciprocity. You may still need to take an examination and apply for a license in your new home state.
Hawaii does not reciprocate with any other state for its contractor licenses, so each application is evaluated individually. You may use experience gained in other states toward the four years of supervisory experience within the past 10 years as long as that work experience is attested to by fellow employees, an employer or other professional with direct knowledge of your work signing off on the Chronological History of Projects Form.
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.
There is no continuing education requirement in Hawaii, but you will need to maintain your license through renewal. To keep your contractor license current, you’ll need to maintain liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance if you have any employees and renew it every two years by Sept. 30 of even-numbered years.
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 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:
Read about the latest industry trends.
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