Rhode Island HVAC License: How to Become an HVAC Contractor in Rhode Island
Table of Contents
Other Requirements Unique to Rhode Island
Most states require training and licensure before you can legally design, install, repair, and maintain heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, including Rhode Island.
As today’s HVAC technology becomes increasingly complex, with more emphasis placed on energy efficiency and climate-control solutions, many HVACR systems in homes and businesses need retrofitting, upgrading, or replacement to remain compliant. Learning this type of work takes years, but once you complete the necessary technical training, your skills will be in high demand in the home services and construction industry.
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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are over 394,100 heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers nationwide, and 1,050 work in Rhode Island. The BLS predicts employment to grow 5% from 2021 to 2031 nationwide, and that growth rate is expected to be more than twice that in Rhode Island — projected at 13%, according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website. There's more good news. Contractors are hiring according to the Associated General Contractors of America 2022 AGC-Autodesk Workforce Survey which says 93% of firms in the U.S. reported unfilled hourly craft positions.
Licensing requirements for HVAC workers and technicians vary widely from state to state. In Rhode Island, all HVAC contractors and subcontractors must register with the State of Rhode Island Contractors' Registration and Licensing Board (RICRLB). In addition, mechanical contractors who work on mechanical systems can pursue multiple options for professional regulation. Read on to learn more about becoming an HVAC tech or HVAC contractor in the Ocean State.
License Requirements for HVAC Professionals in Rhode Island
Is a state license required to perform HVAC work in Rhode Island? Yes, the state requires heating and air conditioning mechanics, as well as refrigeration mechanics, to obtain state licensure from the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, Division of Professional Regulation. HVAC contractors performing basic HVAC work, however, only need to register with the CRLB.
Heating and air conditioning mechanics install, service, and repair heating and air conditioning systems in residences and commercial establishments. Refrigeration mechanics install and repair industrial and commercial refrigerating systems.
Rhode Island requires licensing for HVAC techs working as a sheet metal technician, refrigeration/air conditioning technician, or pipefitter at the apprentice or journeyman level, as well as the licensed master contractor level.
It’s also important to note that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under section 608 of the Clean Air Act, requires any technician who maintains, services, repairs, or disposes of equipment that could release refrigerants into the atmosphere to earn a Section 608 technician certification. HVAC apprentices don’t need to hold a certification as long as “they are closely and continually supervised by a certified technician,” according to the EPA.
Rhode Island HVAC License Types and Requirements
The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, Division of Professional Regulation is responsible for issuing HVAC licenses, and contractors must also register with the State of Rhode Island Contractors' Registration and Licensing Board.
HVAC technicians and HVAC contractors can pursue three types of contractor's licenses, as well as master-level contractor licensing, and each come with different requirements and levels of experience.
Sheet Metal Technician—This license permits an individual to install, maintain, and service sheet metal systems used in HVAC systems.
Apprentice: Must register with the state and enroll in a state-approved apprenticeship program, serving under the supervision of a licensed sheet metal technician. No application fee.
Journeyperson Class I: Must complete a four-year, state-approved apprenticeship and pass an exam. Application fee: $72.
Journeyperson Class II (Limited): Must complete 4,000 hours, including 288 classroom hours, in a state-approved apprenticeship and pass an exam. Application fee: $30.
Refrigeration/Air Conditioning Technician—This license permits an individual to install, maintain, and service heating and air conditioning systems, and refrigeration systems.
Apprentice: Must register with the state and enroll in a state-approved apprenticeship program, serving under the supervision of a licensed refrigeration/air conditioning technician. No fee.
Journeyperson Class I: Must complete 10,000 hours or five years, including 144 classroom hours, per year in a state-approved apprenticeship, and pass an exam. Fee: $72.
Journeyperson Class II (Limited): Must complete 4,000 hours on-the-job training, with 288 hours of classroom training, in a state-approved apprenticeship program, and pass an exam. Fee: $60.
Pipefitter—This license permits an individual to lay out, assemble, install, and maintain pipe systems, pipe supports, and related hydraulic and pneumatic equipment for steam, hot water, heating, cooling, lubricating, sprinkling, and industrial production and processing systems.
Apprentice: Must register with the state and enroll in a state-approved apprenticeship program, serving under the supervision of a licensed pipefitter technician. No fee.
Journeyperson Class I (Unlimited): Must complete five years or 10,000 hours of on-the-job training and 144 hours of classroom training per year in a state-approved apprenticeship program, and pass an exam. Fee: $72.
Journeyperson Class II (Limited License): Must complete 4,000 hours of on-the-job training and 288 hours of classroom education in a state-approved apprenticeship program, and pass an exam. Fee: $60.
Sheet Metal Master Contractor—Being a self-employed sheet metal master contractor in Rhode Island means you can offer your services to the public, hire sheet metal techs, and run your own business.
Sheet Metal Master Contractor Class I: Must have held Sheet Metal Journeyperson I license for one year, and pass a contractor exam. Fee: $240.
Sheet Metal Master Contractor Class II: Must have held Sheet Metal Journeyperson II license for three years, and pass an exam. Fee: $240.
Pipefitter Master Contractor—Being an independent pipefitter master contractor in Rhode Island means you can offer your services to the public, hire pipefitting techs, and run your own business.
Pipefitter Master Contractor Class I: Must have held a Pipefitter Journeyperson I or Pipefitter Master II license for one year, and pass a contractor exam. Fee: $240.
Pipefitter Master Contractor Class II: Must have held a Pipefitter Journeyperson II license for three years, and pass an exam. Fee: $96.
Refrigeration Master Contractor—Being an independent refrigeration master contractor in Rhode Island means you can offer your services to the public, hire refrigeration technicians, and run your own business.
Refrigeration Master Contractor Class I: Must have held a Refrigeration Journeyperson I license for one year or a Refrigeration Master II license for one year. Fee: $240.
Refrigeration Master Contractor Class II: Must have held a Refrigeration Journeyperson Class II license for three years, and pass an exam. Fee: $96.
Contractor Master—Being an independent master contractor means you have additional education and work experience in your field.
Pipefitting: Must have a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree and four years of experience in pipefitting, or a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree and four years of experience in pipefitting, and pass an exam. Fee: $240.
Refrigeration: Must have a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and four years of experience in refrigeration/AC, or a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and four years of experience in refrigeration/AC, and pass an exam. Fee: $240.
Sheet Metal: Must have a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and four years of experience working in sheet metal, or a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and four years of experience in sheet metal, and pass an exam. Fee: $240.
Master Mechanical Contractor—Must have worked for 10 years as a Rhode Island Licensed Pipefitter Master I and 10 years as a Rhode Island Licensed Refrigeration Master I. No exam required. Fee: $480.
Registration Requirements for HVAC contractors in Rhode Island
To register with the Rhode Island CRLB, an HVAC contractor must submit an application, sign a statement acknowledging the requirements for registration, have knowledge of the general laws/regulations that govern the HVAC profession (e.g., state building codes), carry valid liability insurance, complete preliminary and/or continuing education courses, and pay a $75 registration fee.
To become licensed, a person must follow the same registration rules above and, if applicable, pass a contractor's examination and complete preliminary and/or continuing education hours.
All registrations and licenses must be renewed every two years. To apply for registration or licensing, new applicants must use Rhode Island's online platform and provide proof of the following:
Completion of five hours of pre-education courses
$500,000 certificate of liability insurance, indicating the Rhode Island Contractors' Registration and Licensing Board as certificate holder.
If you have employees, you must also provide proof of workers’ compensation insurance, unless you are otherwise exempt.
$150 registration fee paid via credit card, debit card, or e-check using the Viewpoint Cloud platform. If you choose to mail a check, it must be made payable to RICRLB and mailed to:RICRLB560 Jefferson BoulevardWarwick, RI 02886
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EPA Certification for Rhode Island and Beyond
Across the U.S., including Rhode Island, federal-level EPA regulations under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act require certification for technicians who maintain, service, repair, or dispose of equipment that could release refrigerants into the atmosphere. Any professional who conducts refrigerant line-pressure tests or handles or adds refrigerant to existing air-conditioning systems needs to hold the certification.
In most cases, your employer will require you to obtain the certification as part of your training program.
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.
For all certifications, you must pass 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. The North American Technical Excellence (NATE) certification, ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) certification and other professional certifications can add to your marketability and increase your opportunity to make more money.
Benefits of Becoming an HVAC Professional in Rhode Island
There are many benefits to working in the HVAC field in Rhode Island:
Most importantly, it is required by law in Rhode Island to be licensed through the state to perform heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and refrigeration work.
You will earn as you learn with a potential for pay increases as you develop new skills.
The EPA and other certifications 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 Rhode Island?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the annual mean wage for HVAC mechanics and installers in Rhode Island as $63,490. 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 $27.66 per hour in Rhode Island and $6,750 overtime per year.
HVAC Technician: The average wage for an HVAC Technician is $30.23 per hour in Rhode Island and $6,750 overtime per year.
HVAC Mechanic: The average wage for an HVAC Mechanic is $30.22 per hour in Rhode Island.
HVAC Supervisor: The average base pay for an HVAC Supervisor is $84,226 per year in Rhode Island.
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.
How Long Does it Take to Get an HVAC License in Rhode Island?
Sheet Metal Technician apprenticeship programs in Rhode Island take four years to complete. Once you successfully complete an apprenticeship, you become eligible to apply for a Journeyperson Class I license. A Class II Journeyperson license requires an additional 4,000 hours of training or work experience. Either license requires the applicant to pass an exam.
Refrigeration/Air Conditioning and Pipefitter Technicians must complete a five-year apprenticeship program and pass an exam before applying for Journeyperson Class I licensing. The Journeyperson Class II license for both requires the applicant to pass an exam and complete an additional 4,000 hours of training and 288 hours of continuing education.
Upon completion of any apprenticeship program, sponsoring companies need to fill out the Apprenticeship Completion Form and submit it to the DLT within 45 days.
For master-level mechanical licensing, contractors must hold a journeyperson license for one to three years, and pass an exam. A contractor master and master mechanical contractor typically earn college degrees in mechanical engineering or business administration, and have more work experience in the HVAC industry.
What Business Owners Need to Know
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Location-specific service history, including recorded calls, accessible from the mobile app.
Required forms that ensure every job is done right, driving consistency.
The ability to build multi-option proposals with photos, on-site, in minutes.
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 Much Does It Cost to Become an HVAC Technician in Rhode Island?
How you get started will determine your upfront costs. If you figure out this is your intended path while you’re still in high school, you can begin free of charge as a student through the Career Technical Education System. If you begin after high school, it’s still very inexpensive to get started in the HVAC field in Rhode Island. The state does not charge an application fee for apprentices to register. You must complete an approved apprenticeship in Rhode Island to be eligible to receive a journeyman license. Apprentice programs are often paid for by your employer, but there are always costs associated with the classroom instruction that is required for any U.S. Department of Labor apprenticeship. For example the Refrigeration Apprenticeship offered by the Rhode Island Association of Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors costs $600 tuition per semester if your employer is not a member of RI PHCC and $475 is your employer is a member. 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 that is typically included in an apprentice program. For any of the HVAC related journeyman licenses the Class I fees are $72 and the Class II fees are $30 to $60. For most of the master contractor licenses the Class I fees are $240 and the Class II fees are $96 to $240. The Master Mechanical Contractor fee is $480.
Rhode Island HVAC Training Programs and Trade Schools
Accredited HVAC apprenticeship programs in Rhode Island can be found through:
Does My Rhode Island HVAC License Work in Any Other States?
No. Rhode Island doesn’t allow reciprocity agreements with nearby states, such as Massachusetts or Connecticut, or states in other regions of the country, such as Ohio, Oregon or Kansas. The state issues HVAC licenses for certain mechanical contractors to work in Rhode Island.
Other Requirements Unique to Rhode Island
To keep your state-issued license current, Rhode Island requires you to renew it before it expires every two years. The fees for renewal are listed here. Contractors must renew registrations every year. You can do that online through a secure portal.
Rhode Island does require 2 1/2 hours of continuing education to renew your contractor registration. You must receive that continuing education from an approved provider. You can see the current list of approved providers by clicking on the Renewal — Continuing Education link under Contractors on this page of the state's website.
Additional Resources for Rhode Island HVAC Techs
You can stay up to date on all HVAC industry news several ways: