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Licensing Guides

Rhode Island HVAC License: How to Become an HVAC Contractor in Rhode Island

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Table of Contents
  1. License Requirements for HVAC Professionals

  2. Rhode Island HVAC License Types and Requirements

  3. Registration Requirements for HVAC contractors

  4. EPA Certification for Rhode Island and Beyond

  5. National HVAC Certifications

  6. How Long Does it Take to Get an HVAC License?

  7. What Is the Mean Salary for an HVAC Professional?

  8. Rhode Island HVAC Training Programs and Trade Schools

  9. Does My Rhode Island HVAC License Work in Any Other States?

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 380,000 heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers nationwide, and 1,250 work in Rhode Island. The BLS predicts employment to grow 5% by 2030 nationwide, and that growth rate is expected to be even higher in Rhode Island — projected at 11%, according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website.

Licensing requirements for HVAC workers and technicians vary widely from state to state and, 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. 

You must acquire the EPA Certification from an approved organization. There are four types of EPA certifications for refrigerant, including:

  1. Type I: for servicing small appliances containing five pounds of refrigerant or less.

  2. Type II: for servicing high-pressure units that contain five pounds or more of refrigerant (including most small commercial and residential systems).

  3. Type III: for servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances.

  4. 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:

  • Ozone depletion

  • Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol

  • Section 608 regulations

  • Substitute refrigerants and oils

  • Refrigeration

  • The Three R’s (Recover, Recycle, Reclaim) 

  • Recovery techniques

  • Dehydration evacuation

  • Safety

  • Shipping

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.

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.

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 Is the Mean Salary for an HVAC Professional in Rhode Island?

The annual mean salary for HVAC mechanics and installers in Rhode Island is $61,790 ($29.71 per hour), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And according to Indeed.com, the average salaries for HVAC professionals in Rhode Island increase with experience and training.

  • HVAC Installer: The average base salary for an HVAC installer in Rhode Island is $70,740.

  • HVAC Supervisor: The average base salary for an HVAC supervisor in Rhode Island is $78,625.

Salary ranges can vary widely depending on the city and many other important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, and real-world experience.

Rhode Island HVAC Training Programs and Trade Schools

Accredited HVAC apprenticeship programs in Rhode Island can be found through:

Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training

Rhode Island Builders Association (RIBA)

Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA)

Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA)

Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCCA) 

Sheet Metal Workers International Association (SMWIA). 

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.

Additional Resources for Rhode Island HVAC Techs

You can stay up to date on all HVAC industry news several ways:

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