Indiana HVAC License: How to Become an HVAC Contractor in Indiana
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It takes a lot of know-how to design, install, maintain, and repair heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems. The people who know how to do it are essential workers in our society. If you’re thinking about joining this profession, you’ll need to learn about the advancing technology employed in today’s systems as well as the licensing requirements that govern the job.
The U.S. Board of Labor and Statistics reports that there are over 376,000 Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers nationwide and 7,180 work in Indiana. The Bureau projects those ranks to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029 — adding more than 15,000 of these skilled workers across the country.
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Because the job requires so much knowledge, most states have licensing requirements for HVAC workers and contractors. Those regulations vary from state to state and from locality to locality. Unlike plumbers in Indiana, there is no statewide license for electrical contractors or HVAC contractors. Rather, the state defers to the ordinances and licensing boards in place in its cities, counties, and towns. Several other states follow this model, such as New York, Maine, and Colorado.
Licensing Requirements for HVAC Technicians in Indiana
Is a license required to perform HVAC work in Indiana? The answer isn’t as simple as yes or no.
It is not a uniform answer statewide the way it is for plumbing contractors. While there is no licensure on the state level, many if not all localities throughout the state have license or certification requirements for HVACR work. So, you’ll need to know how large your service area will be and make sure you satisfy the requirements of each municipality where you plan to engage in work or where there may be exemptions.
When you’re first getting started as a technician or installer, you will not need a license in many areas throughout the state as long as you are working for a licensed contractor. This allows you to get the experience you need to become licensed yourself.
Types of HVAC Licenses in Indiana
What are the different types of HVAC licenses in Indiana?
For both Electrical Contractors and HVACR Contractors, the licensing is at the discretion of the local municipality. The process and fees will vary from county to county. The licenses issued throughout the state tend to follow the apprentice, journeyman, master level licensing hierarchy. Most jurisdictions don’t require an apprentice in the field to be licensed but do require they be supervised by a licensed journeyman or master level HVAC professional and to acquire an HVAC contractor’s license, they must demonstrate master-level capabilities and a minimum number of years of experience. Likewise, general construction contractors are regulated at the local level.
Steps to Get an HVACR Contractor License in Indiana
So, how should you get started in the HVAC business in Indiana? There is not one correct way to go about this since the regulation of licensing varies throughout the state, but there seems to be a familiar pattern. The most common path begins with either attending a community college or vocational school program in HVAC or by becoming an apprentice or an entry-level worker for either a union or non-union sponsor. The prevailing requirements to qualify for licensure are:
You must be at least 18 years of age (Although some high school students can get started younger through their school program).
You must have a high school diploma or GED.
Enroll in an HVAC program or work as an entry-level employee/apprentice for a licensed contractor.
You must meet any practical experience requirements for the municipalities or jurisdictions where you plan to engage in work before applying for licensing or certification.
You must pass any applicable mandated exam(s).
You must submit an application for licensure in any and all areas where you plan to do work.
Often a criminal background check is required.
To advertise your business or bid on projects you will most likely need a contractor license not just a journeyman or master license.
To own your own HVAC Contractor business, you will also need to get a business license.
To satisfy most HVAC Contractor or General Contractor license requirements, you must also carry a minimum amount of general liability and worker’s compensation insurance as well as a surety bond.
Examples of HVAC Licensing in Top 3 Largest Cities in Indiana
Every licensing agency in the state seems to follow some loose interpretation of the steps listed above. Though they vary in required years of experience, testing, and financial prerequisites for licensing.
Indianapolis/Marion County: The Board of Heating and Cooling Examiners of Indianapolis issues the following types of HVAC/R licenses.
Air Conditioning “A” – Unrestricted
Air Conditioning “B” – 25 tons cooling/500,000 BTUs heating, boiler pressures not exceeding 15 psig steam and 30 psig water
Air Conditioning “D” – 5 tons cooling/ 300,000 BTUs heating
High Pressure Steam
The following are the minimum application requirements to go before the Board of Heating and Cooling Examiners:
Heating and Cooling exam application. The exam is administered through Prometric.
Resume with work experience.
Verification of employment documenting at least five years of experience for a person in the HVACR trade by current and former employers. It must be verified on original letterhead stationery, including dates of employment (start and end dates), and a description of job responsibilities. The five years of experience can also be met with a combination of industry-related education and practical work experience.
At least three signed reference letters from individuals in the HVACR industry on company letterhead; for example, employers, wholesalers, suppliers, etc.
Photocopy of driver’s license.
If applicable, copies of current licenses, certificates, and diplomas relating to the heating and cooling industry.
Once these minimum requirements are met and submitted, the Board determines if you qualify to take the exam. After passing the exam with a 70% or higher, proof of surety bond, general liability insurance, and workmen’s compensation coverage must be submitted with proper fees and applications for the license.
Fort Wayne/Allen County: The Allen County Building Department issues HVAC licenses in Fort Wayne and Allen County similar to those in Indianapolis. To work as an HVAC contractor and own your own business, this county requires you to hold a heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and duct system supervisor’s license issued by the building department after at least four years of work experience and passing an exam offered by Prometric.
Evansville and Vanderburgh County: The Evansville and Vanderburgh County Building Commission grants Apprentice, Journeyman and Master HVAC licenses. Each license class has a different application fee. Apprentices must be in an approved apprentice training program, Journeymen must be supervised by Masters, and individuals who want to start their own business must hold a Master license. Like Fort Wayne, you are required to have at least four years of experience as a journeyman to obtain a Master’s HVAC license in Evansville. You must also provide proof of the required insurance and surety bond.
Benefits of Getting an HVAC License in Indiana
There are many benefits you’ll see from getting an HVAC license in Indiana.
Most importantly, it is required by law throughout much of the state to legally contract HVAC work. Be sure you know the local rules and regulations before getting started or you can face serious legal repercussions.
Being licensed makes you a more attractive candidate to prospective employers.
A trade license is proof of your experience and skill.
Only licensed HVAC contractors can: operate a business and advertise services, obtain commercial insurance, pull building permits and pass inspections, bid on public and government projects.
Having a license protects your company and customers.
It also increases your earning potential.
What Is the Median Salary for an HVAC Technician in Indiana?
The annual mean wage for HVAC mechanics and installers in Indiana is $54,540, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s just a tad higher than the national average of $53,410. The salary for an HVAC worker in Indiana increases as you acquire more experience, according to indeed.com.
HVAC Technician: The average salary for an HVAC Technician is $21.22 per hour in Indiana and $5,938 overtime per year.
HVAC Installer: The average salary for an HVAC installer is $21.57 per hour in Indiana and $6,094 overtime per year.
HVAC Mechanic: The average salary for an HVAC Mechanic is $25.09 per hour in Indiana and $8,750 overtime per year.
HVAC Supervisor: The average base salary for an HVAC Supervisor is $62,057 per year in Indiana 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 Much Does It Cost to Get an HVAC License in Indiana?
There are different fees associated with each license class in each city or county in Indiana. You will need to know the geographic area you plan to cover and register or be licensed in any of those jurisdictions — paying the appropriate fee for the license application and, in many cases, an exam fee as well. You will also need to take the EPA 608 Certification Exam, which costs $25, but is often included in any HVAC vocational programs. There is also usually a renewal fee to be paid yearly or every two years.
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How to Get an HVAC License in Indiana
HVAC technicians in Indiana begin as either an entry-level worker, an apprentice or a student and must work toward a journeyman’s license. You must be at least 18 years old with a high school diploma or GED equivalency. Then you will likely acquire some combination of formal education and practical experience. Even if you begin as an entry-level worker, many employers will require you to take applicable classes at a community college or vocational school, or they may provide that classroom instruction themselves.
EDUCATION/ WORK EXPERIENCE: Each of the building commissions or professional licensing agencies within the state have their own unique requirements to obtain a license in their jurisdiction. Most require a minimum amount of training either in a school setting or on the job before they will even consider issuing a license. You may also encounter a number of employers who specify they are only interested in job candidates who have already taken some HVAC schooling.
APPLY TO TAKE EXAMINATION: Many city or county offices will require you to take an exam on your HVAC/R knowledge and often a business and law exam as well before issuing a license.
GET EPA CERTIFIED: If you will be dealing with refrigerants, it is required by federal law to earn your EPA 608 Certification. This certification is often included in diploma and certificate programs and also as part of any formal apprenticeship. Many employers will also help facilitate this requirement.
INSURANCE COVERAGE: If you choose to strike out on your own as an HVAC Contractor, you will need to acquire a minimum amount of general liability, worker’s compensation insurance, and surety bond to satisfy local laws to protect your employees and clients.
How Long Does it Take to Get an HVAC License in Indiana?
Most apprenticeships will take a minimum of four to five years to qualify to take a Journey Level licensing exam. Most municipalities have a similar requirement to get the work experience you’ll need to be qualified to work unsupervised. However, even if part of that time is dedicated to classes, you will be working and earning money from Day 1.
Indiana HVAC Training Programs and Schools
Since there are no statewide requirements for licensing in HVAC in Indiana, the educational requirements are entirely about satisfying prospective employers' preferences. Many will simply state that they prefer a candidate with an Applied Associates Degree in Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning or at least a candidate who has completed a certificate program. Others are happy to offer the training themselves through hands-on work in the field with a journeyman level installer or mechanic and supplemented with classes offered through the company or a local community college. Many believe an apprenticeship offers the best path because it creates the verifiable paper trail needed to demonstrate the required years of experience needed to attain a license.
If you choose to pursue the more traditional formal education, Indiana has some exceptional HVAC Programs located throughout the state.
Nationwide, the trade has two main organizations that approve HVAC programs and schools: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).
HVAC Excellence has accredited seven programs at Ivy Tech Community College Campuses throughout Indiana.
Ivy Tech Community College — Kokomo
Ivy Tech Community College — South Bend
Ivy Tech Community College — Evansville
Ivy Tech Community College — Bloomington
Ivy Tech Community College — Muncie
Ivy Tech Community College — Terre Haute
Ivy Tech Community College — Lafayette
There are currently no PAHRA accredited programs in Indiana.
In addition to the associate of applied science degrees in HVAC offered at Ivy Tech, there is an HVAC program at Southern Indiana Career & Technical Center in Evansville. There are also many more options for online training like Fortis or Penn Foster. Most, if not all, of these programs will provide you with the opportunity to earn your EPA federally mandated certification. Fortis has a campus in Indianapolis, too.
Here are three great lists of the best HVAC schools in Indiana:
Niche: 2021 Best Colleges with HVAC and Refrigeration Engineering Technician Degrees in Indiana
Tuition: The cost of tuition depends on the program you choose. According to Education Cost Helper, an HVAC certificate can cost as little as $1,200. Tuition for an associate’s degree can cost from a few thousand to $15,000.
Apprenticeship: If you choose to forego a more traditional degree, a formal apprenticeship can give you the hands-on and classroom instruction you need. Apprenticeships are also often free or the cost is relatively low. They will also likely require you to earn your EPA certification to handle refrigerants. There are a few apprentice positions offered through local unions, but most are offered by individual employers. UA Local 440 in Central Indiana offers apprenticeships for Plumbers, Pipefitters and HVAC Service Technicians. Indiana Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association PHCC offers HVAC apprentice positions in Fort Wayne and Evansville and there are many more that can be found on indeed.com. You can also visit the Department of Labor website to search for apprenticeship positions there.
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.
Indiana HVAC Licensing Exam Details
Many cities and counties in Indiana require you to take an exam to qualify for an HVAC/R license. The exams often cover the details of the trade like:
Systems & Sizing
Plan Reading, Estimating & Math
These are all the specifics of the trade you will learn on the job or through practical lab training in a formal HVAC education.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Certification
The other test you will be required to take no matter where you work in the country is the EPA Certification Exam. Everywhere throughout the country, including Indiana, 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/apprenticeship 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 Indiana?
There is no statewide agency in the state of Indiana that issues licenses to HVAC contractors. Rather, the state defers to local jurisdictions to handle the licensing to ensure the safety of the public.
Does My Indiana HVAC License Work in Any Other State?
Because there is no statewide licensing for HVAC professionals in Indiana, there are no reciprocity agreements with other states, even in neighboring Kentucky where there is a statewide license requirement. You may find, however, that some counties have reciprocal agreements with other counties. You’ll need to be diligent in checking what the local jurisdictions require to practice your craft legally.
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.
Other Requirements Unique to Indiana
To keep your locally issued license current, many cities and counties require you to renew it yearly or every two years. Often there is a fee associated with renewing your license.
Many jurisdictions require some amount of continuing education to renew a license. Check with your local government agency to ensure you know what requirements you must satisfy to renew your license.
You can stay up to date on all HVAC industry news in several ways: