Ohio HVAC License: How to Become an HVAC Contractor in Ohio
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A large part of what HVAC contractors and technicians do is replace and repair existing systems. As more of an emphasis is placed on energy efficiency and reducing pollution, the demand for HVAC workers is likely to grow as residential, commercial, and industrial systems are retrofitted, upgraded or replaced entirely.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029 — adding more than 15,000 of these skilled workers to the ranks. Ohio employs 12,100 HVAC professionals, ranking 6th highest in the United States.
And, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, contractors in Ohio are hiring. In fact, the AGC says 62% of contracting firms in Ohio had unfilled hourly craft positions in June of 2020. Now more than ever, we need skilled HVAC technicians, mechanics, installers, and contractors to meet this growing need.
Licensing requirements for HVAC contractors vary from state to state and in some cases from locality to locality, but Ohio’s state licensing process is fairly straightforward.
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Licensing Requirements for HVAC Contractors in Ohio
Is a license required to work as an HVAC professional in Ohio? Yes, but not right away.
To legally perform heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration work in the state of Ohio, you must be a licensed contractor or a technician apprentice working under a licensed contractor.
The Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board (OCILB) issues state licenses to HVAC contractors who perform commercial work. After years of work experience, HVAC technicians in the state of Ohio can become a contractor and build their own businesses. Many cities like Cleveland, Columbus, and Toledo as well as other local jurisdictions have additional licensing or registration requirements of their own, so be sure to check where you plan to work.
Types of HVAC Licenses in Ohio
What are the different types of HVAC licenses in Ohio?
There is only one kind of HVAC license in Ohio. It is a state-level Commercial Contractor license for HVAC. HVAC tradespeople can learn the craft and work in the trade without a license under the supervision of a licensed contractor.
The OCILB issues state licenses to Electrical, HVAC, Refrigeration, Plumbing and Hydronics Contractors who perform commercial work.
Steps to Get an HVAC License in Ohio
Be at least 18 years of age.
Be a United States citizen or a legal alien-must provide proof of being a legal alien.
Either have been a tradesperson in the type of licensed trade for which the application is filed for not less than five (5) years immediately prior to the date the application is filed, currently be a registered engineer in this state with three (3) years of business experience in the construction industry in the trade for which the engineer is applying to take the examination, or have other experience acceptable to the appropriate section of the board.
Never have been convicted of a disqualifying offense.
Once approved by the Board, you are required to complete a State and Federal Background Check prior to sitting for the examination.
Pass the examination in the trade.
Carry a minimum of $500,000 in contractor liability coverage.
Pay the applicable fees.
Benefits of Getting an HVAC License in Ohio
There are many benefits you’ll see from getting your Ohio HVAC Contractor license:
Most importantly, it is required by law in Ohio to be licensed through the state to contract to perform A/C and Refrigeration work.
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.
A license gives you a competitive advantage in the job market.
It also increases your earning potential.
What Is the Median Salary for an HVAC Professional in Ohio?
The annual mean wage for HVAC mechanics and installers in Ohio is $48,350, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s just slightly lower than the Bureau says the national annual mean wage of $51,420 is for HVAC mechanics and installers.
According to indeed.com, the average salaries for HVAC professionals in Ohio increase with experience and training and are as follows:
HVAC Installer: The average salary for an HVAC installer is $21.51 per hour in Ohio and $5,625 overtime per year.
HVAC Technician: The average salary for an HVAC Technician is $23.29 per hour in Ohio and $7,688 overtime per year.
HVAC Mechanic: The average salary for an HVAC Mechanic is $25.99 per hour in Ohio and $8,750 overtime per year.
HVAC Supervisor: The average salary for an HVAC Supervisor is $54,911 per year in Ohio and $11,250 overtime per year.
The median income for an HVAC Mechanic in Ohio is $41,597, according to salary.com as of November 25, 2020, but the range typically falls between $35,314 and $52,885. Salary 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.
How Much Does It Cost to Get an HVAC Contractor License in Ohio?
If you want to get started in the field, you will most likely want to attend a vocational school or technical college. You will have that expense up front, but you will also be working as an apprentice and earning income.
The cost to take the test for the license is $69 for each of the two sections—the business and law exam and the trade portion of the exam, so $138 combined. The license application fee is $25 and is paid to the state treasurer when you apply for your license after you pass both parts of the exam.
How to Get an HVAC License in Ohio
If you want to apply for your Ohio Commercial Contractor HVAC license, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or provide proof of being legally allowed to work in the U.S.
WORK EXPERIENCE: Ohio requires anyone applying to take the licensing exam to be a Commercial HVAC Contractor to demonstrate five years of experience working in the field. Specifically, the OCILB requires an applicant to either have been:
Working as an HVACR technician for at least five years immediately prior to the date the application is filed. You must provide proof of that work under a licensed contractor on projects that required a permit during those five years. You must attach at least one permit for each of the last five years and provide the license number of the contractor you worked under. Permits are public record and can be obtained from the local building department. Attach W-2s as well and be specific in explaining the nature of duties.
Or currently be a registered engineer in Ohio with three years of business experience in the construction industry in the trade for which the engineer is applying to take the examination.
PASS BACKGROUND CHECK: After providing proof of your experience, your application will be reviewed by the Board to determine eligibility to sit for the examination. You will be notified by mail of the results of the Board review results. IMPORTANT: Once you have been approved (valid for one year) by the Board, you are required to obtain a BCI and FBI background check before sitting for the examination. For general information about the background checks, you can visit this link. Certain convictions prohibit licensure by the Ohio Department of Commerce. For a list of disqualifying offenses, click on this link.
TAKE LICENSING EXAM: Testing is conducted by an independent testing company called PSI Services, LLC. Approved candidates will be provided with a PSI Candidate Information Bulletin. The Bulletin will contain detailed instructions on how to schedule your exam(s). All licensure exams are computer-based testing by appointment at sites throughout Ohio and the U.S. You will receive a notice of whether you have passed or failed at the completion of the exam. Each section of the exam—the business and law exam and the trade exam—costs $69. So, the two sections cost a combined $138.
APPLY FOR LICENSE: Those who pass both sections of the exam can apply to receive a state license by sending a completed and notarized application, a copy of the examination results, a $25 check made payable to “Treasurer, State of Ohio”, and proof of at least $500,000 contractor liability insurance—meaning a “Certificate of Liability Insurance.” Your liability insurance AND license must be assigned to a “contracting company.” Everything should be mailed together to:
Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board 6606 Tussing Road PO Box 4009 Reynoldsburg, OH 43068-9009
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How Long Does it Take to Get an HVAC Contractors License in Ohio?
It will take a minimum of five years to qualify to take the Commercial Contractors HVAC License Exam in Ohio. However, you will be working accumulating the necessary journeyman level experience and earning money the whole time.
Ohio HVAC Training Programs and Schools
Because HVAC technology is becoming more and more complex, getting some kind of formal training can be very helpful. There are many programs to get the training you need to become an HVAC professional in Ohio and they are located all over the state. In fact, most HVAC technicians hold some kind of post-secondary degree or certificate.
There are currently two main organizations which approve HVAC programs and schools nationwide: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).
Ohio is home to one school with both types of accreditation and seven more PAHRA-accredited programs.
The University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima is accredited by both organizations. It offers an associate of applied science (AAS) in HVAC technology degree and a slightly shorter diploma program that prepares graduates to become heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration technicians.
The other schools accredited by PAHRA in Ohio are:
Cuyahoga Valley Career Center in Brecksville, OH (Public Secondary)
Great Oaks Institute of Technology in Cincinnati, OH (Public Post-Secondary)
Miami Valley Career Center in Clayton, OH (Public Secondary, Public Post-Secondary)
North High School in Akron, OH (Public Secondary)
RETS College in Centerville, OH (Private Post-Secondary)
RG Drage Career Center in Massillon, OH (Public Secondary)
Pike County Career Tech Center in Piketon, OH (Public Secondary)
HVACClasses.org breaks down the credit hour requirements and tuition costs for all of the different programs at each of the above schools.
Here are four great lists of the best HVAC schools in Ohio:
Niche: 2021 Best Colleges with HVAC and Refrigeration Engineering Technician Degrees in Ohio
You’ll see that many of the same colleges or programs appear on all these lists.
Tuition: The Cost of Tuition depends on the program you choose. The AAS program at The University of Northwestern Ohio mentioned above costs $23,800 and the diploma program there costs $17,640. In contrast, in-state students can expect to pay about $4,800 per year at a community college, or perhaps as little as $500-$2,000 for an apprenticeship. Apprentice Ohio is a government website that connects you with some of those apprenticeship opportunities. There’s a list of opportunities just for HVAC openings.
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.
Ohio HVAC Licensing Exam Details
The examination is administered by PSI testing services. To prepare, PSI suggests:
Start with a current copy of the Candidate Information Bulletin and use the examination content outline as the basis of your study.
Read/study materials that cover all the topics in the content outline.
Take notes on what you study. Putting information in writing helps you commit it to memory and it is also an excellent business practice. Discuss new terms or concepts as frequently as you can with colleagues. This will test your understanding and reinforce ideas.
Your studies will be most effective if you study frequently, for periods of about 45 to 60 minutes. Concentration tends to wander when you study for longer periods of time.
The Business and Law exam is made up of 50 multiple choice questions and has a time limit of two hours. It covers the following:
Estimating and Bidding
Insurance and Bonding
OSHA Record Keeping and Safety
The HVAC Contractor Exam is made up of 100 multiple choice questions and has a time limit of four hours. It covers the following:
General Knowledge and Requirements
Warm Air Heating and Air Distribution
Ventilation and Exhaust Systems
Equipment and Appliances
Testing and Inspection
To pass, you need to score a 70% or better on each exam. They are both open-book tests. The Bulletin will also specify which reference materials you may use and what items are not allowed in the testing center.
Who Issues HVAC Contractor Licenses in Ohio?
The Department of Commerce Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board issues the licenses.
Does My Ohio HVAC Contractor License Work in Any Other State?
Yes! Ohio has reciprocity agreements in HVAC with five states: Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, West Virginia, and South Carolina. The reciprocity agreements allow contractors licensed in certain states to obtain a license in another state without having to take the state trade exam. Sometimes, the business and law is also waived. However, most of the time it is not.
HVAC Specific Requirements: EPA Certification
Everywhere throughout the country, including Ohio, 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, 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.
Take 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)
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.
Renewal/Continuing Education in Ohio
To keep your state-issued license current, Ohio requires you to renew it on a yearly or a three-year basis. It will cost $60 for one year or $180 for the three-year renewal. The benefit of the three-year plan is that you don’t have to fill out the renewal request on the OCILB website every year. Each year, you must complete eight hours of continuing education. Half of those hours may be completed at your own pace online. The other half must be completed in an in-person classroom training. An instructor-led video conference setting qualifies as an in-person training. The continuing education classes must be Board approved. Go to the OCILB eLicense website to search for approved providers.
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