New York HVAC License: How to Become an HVAC Contractor in New York
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Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration systems are becoming more technologically advanced all the time. HVACR has really become a high-tech industry that also requires a knowledge of plumbing, electrical, sheet metal/ductwork and the laws and codes regulating all of these areas. It’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure that professionals doing this work are skilled and knowledgeable.
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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports that there are over 380,400 Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Mechanics and Installers in the United States and 22,240 work in New York. That number nationwide is expected to grow 5% from 2020 to 2030 — adding 19,000 of these skilled workers to the ranks. In New York that growth rate is expected to be even higher. The U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website, CareerOneStop, projects the growth rate in New York to be 11% 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. and 53% of firms in New York had unfilled hourly craft positions.
The licensing requirements for HVAC workers and contractors vary from state to state and, in New York, from city to city.
Licensing Requirements for HVAC Professionals in New York
Is a license required for HVAC Professionals in New York?
The state of New York does not license HVAC professionals at the state level. Instead, city and county governments are responsible for oversight and licensing. Where you intend to work will be the determining factor in how rigorous that oversight is.
In New York City, there are three HVAC-related licenses issued. Which one you’ll need depends on the kind of system with which you’ll be working. The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) issues two of them, and the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) tests for and issues a refrigeration license. The building departments for other cities around the state have similar licensing or registration procedures for HVAC technicians or contractors.
Types of HVAC Licenses in New York
What are the different types of HVAC licenses in New York? Because there is no statewide license for HVACR in New York, each city or municipality licenses technicians and/or contractors a little differently. You will absolutely have to check with the city or county office(s) where you will be practicing the trade. Here are a few examples from throughout the state of the types of licenses issued.
The NYC Department of Buildings:
Oil Burning Equipment Installer: Class A requires four years of experience, and Class B requires three years of experience. Must pass a written exam ($525) and practical exam ($350) and pay License Fee of $100. Renewal Fee is $75 every three years.
High Pressure Boiler Operating Engineer: You must meet one of the eight possible experience/education requirements listed online. Pass a written exam ($525) and practical exam ($350) and pay License Fee of $50. Renewal Fee is $45 every three years.
The Fire Department of New York (FDNY):
To meet the experience requirements you must:
Hold either a current High Pressure Boiler Operating Engineer License issued by the New York City Department of Buildings; or a current Marine Engineer certificate issued by the United States Coast Guard; or a current Professional Engineer's License issued by one of the 50 states (USA); or
Take Refrigeration Operating Engineer training course from one of the FDNY-certified
schools or organizations, of at least 200 hours duration, at least 25 of which shall have
been in the field or shop work; or
Have one year of experience with specified systems (detailed in the certificate of qualification link above).
Pass a written exam. Have EPA Universal Technician Certification (more on this below). Application Fee, $60. Practical Fee, $225. Renewal every three years requires seven hours of approved continuing education and $15 fee.
Ithaca requires HVAC Contractors to obtain a certificate of registration.
Buffalo requires you to be a licensed Heating Contractor to perform mechanical work within its city boundaries. You’ll need to apply to the Office of Fuel Devices — Board of Heating Examiners. Buffalo doesn’t have a set number of years of experience or education required for licensing. Instead, applicants must submit a work history and references before being permitted to take the exam.
Check with each municipality where you will be working to be sure to meet any of the licensing or permitting requirements for those jurisdictions.
Steps to Becoming an HVAC Professional in New York
You must be at least 18 years of age to meet employer/apprenticeship requirements.
You need to have earned a high school diploma or GED equivalent.
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.
Enroll in an apprenticeship program either through a union or trade organization or as an entry-level worker through a sponsoring employer.
You will need to get EPA Section 608 Certification by passing the exam before you are permitted to handle refrigerants.
You should check local or city licensing requirements for the area where you will be working. There is no statewide licensing process for HVAC workers, so it’s all about meeting municipal regulations for all HVAC-related trades like gas fitter, warm air ventilation, etc.
You can earn additional certifications to improve your marketability and pay.
If you wish to own your own business in the HVAC field in New York after you’ve accumulated significant experience and are a licensed contractor at the local level, you’ll need a state-issued business license, workers’ compensation insurance, unemployment insurance and either a cash deposit or surety bond. Check with your municipality for further requirements.
Benefits of Becoming an HVAC Technician in New York
There are many benefits to getting licensed in the HVAC field in New York:
Most important, almost every municipality in the state of New York requires licensing to legally perform HVACR work.
You will earn as you learn with a potential for pay increases as you develop new skills.
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 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 Salary for an HVAC Technician in New York?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the annual mean salary for HVAC mechanics and installers nationally as $54,690 and in New York it’s significantly higher at $66,180. The salary for an HVAC Technician increases, as you might expect, as you acquire more experience, according to Indeed.com.
HVAC Installer: The average wage for an HVAC installer is $26.80 per hour in New York and $6,250 overtime per year.
HVAC Technician: The average wage for an HVAC Technician is $30.62 per hour in New York and $7,000 overtime per year.
HVAC Mechanic: The average wage for an HVAC Mechanic is $33.39 per hour in New York and $8,925 overtime per year.
HVAC Supervisor: The average base pay for an HVAC Supervisor is $78,425 per year in New York and $9,375 overtime per year.
Pay ranges 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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How to Become an HVAC Professional in New York
To enter the HVAC field in New York you need to learn and gain work experience. New York has common HVAC license requirements at the municipal level and to satisfy employer expectations. Most often you’ll need to acquire some combination of classroom training and hands-on work experience. In New York City, for example, you’ll need a combination of at least five years of education and experience before you can apply to take the mandated exam for the High Pressure Boiler Operating Engineer license. You can achieve that by completing a Department of Labor approved apprenticeship program or a college or trade school program paired with several years of work experience or a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and one year on the job training. Other requirements listed on the NYC website include:
Be at least 18 years old.
Be able to read and write the English language.
Be fit to perform the work authorized by the license.
Have good moral character so as not to adversely affect your fitness to perform the duties and responsibilities of a High Pressure Boiler Operating Engineer.
Because there is no statewide licensing for HVAC, there is no state-mandated minimum age to get started on this career path. Through New York’s Career and Technical Education (BOCES) (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) programs, some high schools offer vocational programs combining the trade education with the high school curriculum. The HVACR program through Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex (WSWHE) BOCES prepares students completing the program to work as entry-level electricians, HVAC technicians, HVAC installers, and plumbers. The program serving the Jefferson-Lewis-Hamilton-Herkimer-Oneida BOCES (often referred to as Jefferson-Lewis BOCES) is also a two-year program for juniors and seniors and gives students the opportunity to earn their EPA 608 certification. More on this federally required certification later.
If you don’t get started in high school, most employers seem to expect job candidates to be at least 18 years old, have earned either a high school diploma or GED, and some post-secondary training in the field.
EDUCATION: One path you can take to become a journeyman HVAC professional in New York is to attend community or technical college to learn what you need to earn the required certifications. For instance, the State University of New York (SUNY) College System has HVAC/R programs at campuses throughout the state that prepare students for HVAC technician work, commercial refrigeration, fuel gas piping, sheet metal and ductwork, welding, and more. At SUNY Delhi you’ll find a two-year Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning. At SUNY Canton there’s an AAS in HVAC Engineering Technology that’s designed for students with an interest in energy and technology. More information on other educational and training programs is explained below.
APPRENTICESHIP: Another way to enter the field is through an 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 full-ride scholarship. New York has 13 UA local chapters that offer plumbing, pipefitting, HVAC and welding apprenticeships. UA Local 112 based in Binghamton, offers apprenticeships for plumbing, pipefitting, Mechanical Equipment Service (HVAC), and Pipe Welding. Apprentices are mentored on the job by journeymen and go to school to learn trade-specific subjects. It is a five-year program registered with the New York State Department of Labor.
WORK EXPERIENCE: If you don’t get one of those sought-after union apprentice openings, you can apply for entry-level work and treat it as an informal apprenticeship to begin getting the practical experience while attending classes at night or on weekends to prepare for the trade-specific certifications and licenses. Employers will often give you the opportunity to earn while you learn as long as they see you are committed to getting licensed.
Some employers will act as a sponsor in a registered apprenticeship through New York’s Office of Apprenticeship 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.
APPLY FOR EXAMINATION/LICENSE: Once you’ve completed the license requirements in terms of the amount of training and education for your locality, you may apply for examination for licensure. In Syracuse, for example, you’ll need to provide all of the documentation listed on this application proving your experience and submit it along with the appropriate fee based on the class of license you are seeking to get permission to take the mechanical license exam. The license is granted by the Board of Mechanical Examiners after achieving at least a 70% on the written exam.
Again, you’ll need to check with your specific local licensing agency for the requirements in the area where you intend to work before you are eligible to sit for an exam and submit your license application.
CONSIDER BECOMING AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR: If you wish to own your own business in the HVAC field in New York after you’ve accumulated significant experience and local licensing and certifications, you’ll need a state-issued business license from the New York Secretary of State’s Office, workers’ compensation insurance, liability insurance and unemployment insurance. You may also be required by your municipality to post a cash deposit or surety bond prior to seeking licensing.
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How Much Does It Cost to Become an HVAC Technician in New York?
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 associated with the schooling to train to be an HVAC technician varies widely—from a couple of thousand dollars at some trade schools to upwards of $30,000 for longer, more comprehensive programs. You can expect to pay less at a SUNY school as a New York resident than students from out of state, but it can still be pricey. At SUNY Delhi or SUNY Canton for example, tuition for full-time in-state students is just over $7,000. At Jamestown Community College in Western New York, in-state students can expect to pay $5,200 in tuition; at Dutchess Community College north of NYC, tuition is $2,225 per semester. The cost to take the EPA Section 608 Certification Examination, which is required under federal law for anyone handling refrigerants, can be as low as $20 for the Type I exam and upwards of $150 for the Universal Exam. If you start with a program, that may be included. There will also likely be a license fee from your locality and an exam fee or fees associated with taking other national certification exams.
How Long Does it Take to Become an HVAC Tech in New York?
The education and experience requirements for licensing varies from one municipality to another. It will take about four to five years of schooling/work experience to complete most apprenticeships. It takes about two years to earn an associate degree. Typically you are sufficiently prepared for the EPA Section 608 Certification examination after about two years of either schooling or working under a licensed professional. 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.
New York HVAC Training programs and schools
There are many programs to get the training you need to become an HVAC professional in New York, 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 5,710 training programs for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Engineering Technology Technicians in New York.
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).
PAHRAH has accredited one school in New York:
Isaac Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. in Rochester
HVAC Excellence has accredited one school in New York too:
WSWHE BOCES /Myers Education Center in Saratoga Springs
SUNY schools and community colleges throughout the state offer associate degree programs and shorter certificate or diploma programs. Also, the BOCES programs throughout New York aren’t just for high school students. Many of the training centers offer adult education in the evening. Nassau BOCES, for example, offers a Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Certified Technician Program for adults. To take all nine classes in that program will cost $7,355 and prepare you for all the needed certifications.
HVACClasses.org breaks down the credit-hour requirements for several programs in New York including the two accredited programs above.
Here are three great lists to the best HVAC schools in New York:
You’ll see that many of the same colleges or programs appear on all these lists.
Apprenticeship: As mentioned earlier, the alternative to a college education program is to look for an apprenticeship. There are several formal apprenticeship opportunities to get the training you need in New York. Several are through local United Association unions like Local 22 just outside of Buffalo. The apprenticeship there is five years long and includes 1,230 hours of classroom instruction and 10,000 hours of on-the-job training.
Have a High School Diploma or equivalent.
Be at least 18 years of age.
Must have a valid NYS driver’s license to operate any company vehicle and have reliable transportation to/from worksites and school.
Attest that he/she can physically perform the work.
Pass WorkKeys® achievement tests in Applied Math, Workplace Documents & Graphic Literacy (must obtain a minimum score of 4 out of 7 in each category to be selected for interview).
Be a resident of the jurisdiction of Local 22 (specified on the website).
Pass a drug screen test (at the expense of Local 22) after selection.
Trade organizations like the Mechanical Contractors Association of America or Plumbing Heating & Cooling Contractors Association have local chapters that offer scholarships or tuition reimbursement to employees of member contractors.
Many employers hiring entry-level HVAC technicians follow an apprentice model — pairing new employees with others who are licensed in the jurisdiction to begin hands-on training while requiring the beginner to attend HVAC classes. You can simply look for an entry-level position on Indeed or Zip Recruiter or another job board and work for a licensed contractor. Employers will often pay for the instruction if you maintain a certain grade point average, or will reimburse you after a certain amount of time on the job.
Tuition: Apprenticeships usually have some up-front costs for books or tools, but the apprentice will be paid a percentage of the journeyman wage 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 a certificate program at a community college to $50,000 at a state or private school for a 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 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.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Certification
Everywhere throughout the country, including New York, 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.
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 New York?
Each city or county throughout the state has slightly different licensing requirements and application processes. In New York City and in Ithaca, licensing is through the city Building Department. In Syracuse, it’s done through the Division of Code Enforcement, and in Buffalo there’s a Board of Heating Examiners. Each has its own prerequisites and processes. Be sure to check with the local governments to know what is required in the area you intend to work.
Does My New York HVAC Experience Allow Me to Work in Any Other State?
New York State does not have reciprocity with 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 New York and vice versa. Your EPA Certification and other Certifications may not be enough to legally perform HVAC work. However, if you’ve completed a registered apprenticeship through the U.S. Department of Labor, your credentials transfer from state to state. You may still need to take an examination and apply for a license in your new home state, so always check first. Local governments within the state of New York may reciprocate with one another, so again check before getting started.
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.
Continuing Education/ Renewal
Although New York does not require continuing education at the state level for HVAC, some municipalities do. 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.
Renewal of your license is pretty universal. Some municipalities renew mechanical or HVACR contractor licenses every year. Others do it every two or three years. In New York City, for instance, Oil Burner Equipment Installers must renew their licenses online every three years. In some localities you may need some continuing education to be allowed to renew. Again using NYC as the example, the FDNY requires seven hours of continuing education for Refrigeration Operating Engineers to renew. Be sure to check with your local government authority to meet its requirements.
You can stay up to date on all HVAC industry news several ways:
Read about the latest industry trends.
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