West Virginia HVAC License: How to Become an HVAC Contractor in West Virginia
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Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning technicians need to know a lot about a lot of different things to do their job. Safety, system design and installation, theory of heating and cooling, ductwork and metal fabrication, electrics, and plumbing are all a part of this trade.
There are over 394,100 heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and West Virginia employs 1,320 of them. Employment is projected to grow 5% from 2021 to 2031 throughout the country, adding more than 20,000 of these skilled workers to the ranks.
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Contractors are struggling to find skilled tradesmen like plumbers, electricians and HVAC professionals. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 2020 AGC-Autodesk Workforce Survey, 60% of firms in the U.S. had unfilled hourly craft positions,.
A large part of what HVAC contractors and technicians do is replace and repair existing systems. As more emphasis is placed on energy efficiency and reducing pollution, systems need to be retrofitted, upgraded or replaced entirely to remain compliant with these new standards. Licensing requirements for HVAC contractors vary from state to state and in some cases, from locality to locality. West Virginia licensure is uniform statewide beginning at the apprentice level.
Licensing Requirements for HVAC Professionals in West Virginia
Is a license required to work as an HVAC Technician or Contractor in West Virginia? Yes, and it is mandated from the very beginning.
In the state of West Virginia, to legally perform heating, air conditioning and refrigeration work of any kind you must be licensed. The state licenses every level of this workforce including apprentices, technicians, and contractors. The West Virginia Division of Labor is responsible for the licensing and regulation of plumbers, HVAC technicians, and contractors. The State Legislature passed a bill effective June 15, 2021 that ultimately makes these duties the responsibility of the West Virginia Contractor Licensing Board. However, the Division of Labor will continue to perform administrative and enforcement duties for the Contractor Licensing Board for 24 months beyond that date, and then they will become the Board's responsibility.
Types of HVAC Licenses in West Virginia
What are the different types of HVAC licenses in West Virginia?
There are four HVAC licenses issued in West Virginia:
HVAC Technician in Training
HVAC Residential Technician
Each license has specific requirements.
LICENSE REQUIREMENTS: Anyone performing HVAC work in the State of West Virginia is required to have an HVAC Technician Certification, regardless of the dollar amount of the job or the individual’s affiliation with a licensed contractor.
HVAC Technician in Training — Must work under the direct supervision of a licensed HVAC Technician.
HVAC Technician — Must acquire at least 2,000 hours of experience, training and/or work and pass a state-mandated certification exam to qualify for a license.
HVAC Residential Technician — Must pass a state mandated certification exam to qualify for a license.
HVAC Contractor — HVAC work that is $5,000 or more on a residential project or $25,000 or more on a commercial project (material & labor for entire project, not just the HVAC work) requires the entity to obtain a Contractor License with a classification that covers HVAC work. To receive an HVAC Contractor license you must either be a licensed HVAC Technician yourself or hire a licensed HVAC Technician to serve as the qualifier (the person who meets both the experience and exam requirement for the Technician License). If you have employees (other than yourself, partners, members or officers) you must have workers' compensation and unemployment coverage. All companies engaged in construction, mining, or the transportation of minerals within the state of West Virginia must register a wage bond with the Division of Labor. A wage bond is a guarantee issued to the West Virginia Division of Labor to protect the wages and benefits of employees. The bond is maintained by the Division’s Wage & Hour Section, which is also responsible for the investigation of employee wage complaints. After an investigation, any wages (or fringe benefits) that remain unsatisfied after the employer has been afforded due process will be paid to the employees from the proceeds of the bond. The bond can also be used to satisfy a legal judgment relating to earned wages and/or fringe benefits for work performed in West Virginia.
Steps to Get an HVAC License in West Virginia
Not mandated by law, but typically you must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or GED equivalent.
Enroll in an apprentice program or college diploma or certificate program or find entry-level work with an HVAC company.
Apply for an HVAC Technician in Training license with the West Virginia Division of Labor to document work experience.
Work under the direct supervision of a licensed Technician for at least a year (2,000 hours). There is no specific experience requirement for the Residential Technician License, but you still must master the information necessary to pass the statewide exam.
Apply for, take, and pass license exam for HVAC Technician or HVAC Residential Technician license.
Apply for license after meeting all requirements and pay licensing fee.
You may work indefinitely as a licensed technician; OR
If you want to own your own business and become a contractor yourself, you must take and pass the contractor licensing exam.
Obtain a business registration tax number and provide proof of Workers’ Compensation, Unemployment Compensation, and a wage bond with your completed contractor license application.
All licenses must be renewed annually.
Benefits of Getting an HVAC License in West Virginia
There are many benefits to getting your West Virginia HVAC license:
Most important, it is required by law in West Virginia to be licensed through the state to perform heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration work at every level beginning as an apprentice.
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, pass inspections, and 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 Mean Wage for an HVAC Professional in West Virginia?
The annual mean wage for HVAC mechanics and installers in West Virginia is $44,920 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to Indeed.com, those salaries increase with experience and training:
HVAC Installer: The average salary for an HVAC installer is $22.13 per hour in West Virginia and $6,750 overtime per year.
HVAC Technician: The average salary for an HVAC Technician is $23.20 per hour in West Virginia and $6,750 overtime per year.
HVAC Mechanic: The average salary for an HVAC Mechanic is $21.30 per hour in West Virginia.
HVAC Supervisor: The average salary for an HVAC Supervisor is $63,582 per year in West Virginia.
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.
What Business Owners Need to Know
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Required forms that ensure every job is done right, driving consistency.
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How Much Does It Cost to Get an HVAC License in West Virginia?
How you get started in the field determines your upfront costs. If you simply learn on the job as an entry-level employee, you won’t have significant initial costs, but you will also likely receive a lower wage. You’ll only have to pay the fee for the HVAC Technician in Training license, which is $25 for the initial application and for each renewal. The cost to get started as an apprentice in West Virginia is fairly low. Apprenticeship programs are operated on a voluntary basis by employers, employer associations, or management and labor groups (unions) and have different tuition costs. All have some fees for books and tools, but much of the cost is absorbed by the provider, meaning the individual employer, employer association or union.
If you attend a vocational school or technical or community college for a certificate program or Associate of Applied Science degree, you’ll have to pay tuition, but you may qualify for financial aid. The HVAC college degree or certificate programs at West Virginia’s technical and community colleges all run about $7,000 to complete, but the private university tuition for an entire HVAC program is about $15,000. You might even decide to go on from the associate degree to a bachelor's or a master's in HVAC Engineering Technology, which will give you more management or director opportunities in your career.
Once you have met the work experience requirements through apprenticeship or entry-level work under the supervision of a licensed technician and have mastered the information you need to pass either technician examination, the testing fee is $51.95. The license application and renewal fee for HVAC Residential Technician is $60; for HVAC Technician, it’s $75. The contractor exam is also $51.95, and application and renewal fee is $90.
How to Get an HVAC License in West Virginia
Because HVAC systems are becoming increasingly complex, most aspiring HVAC professionals opt to get some post-secondary education. Alternatively, you could begin with an apprenticeship that will combine hands-on training with classroom instruction and usually takes four to five years. The bottom line is that you need to learn and gain the necessary work experience required for licensure. Becoming an HVAC professional in West Virginia is pretty straightforward — learn, test, get licensed.
APPRENTICESHIP/WORK EXPERIENCE: There is no age requirement mandated by law, but typically you must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or GED equivalent, though some employers may not require this. To do any kind of HVAC work, you have to be licensed so you’ll need to learn the trade so you can pass the licensing exam. You can do this a few different ways. Enroll in an apprentice program or college diploma or certificate program or find entry-level work with an HVAC company. Be sure to apply for an HVAC Technician in Training license with the West Virginia Division of Labor to document your work experience. While a licensed Technician in Training you must work under the direct supervision of a licensed technician. There is no specific experience requirement for the Residential Technician License, but you need to pass the WV HVAC Residential Technician exam. To qualify to apply for the HVAC Technician license, you need at least a year (2,000 hours) of documented work experience under the supervision of a licensed technician working for a licensed contractor.
TAKE LICENSING EXAM: Next, you’ll need to apply for, take, and pass the exam for the HVAC Technician or HVAC Residential Technician license. The Division of Labor has contracted with PSI Exams to administer all of the exams, and each costs $47.50. More details on the exams below.
APPLY FOR LICENSE: Once you’ve met the experience and exam requirements, you can apply for the appropriate license. You’ll use the same application that you had to fill out for your technician in training license. You can mail the application or bring it to:
Division of Labor
1900 Kanawha Blvd. East
State Capitol Complex - Building 3, Room 200
Charleston, WV 25305
Each level of licensing requires you to pay an initial fee and then that same amount every year when you renew your license. Once you’re licensed you may legally perform HVAC work for any licensed HVAC contractor as long as you keep your license current through renewal.
CONSIDER BECOMING AN HVAC CONTRACTOR: You may work indefinitely as a licensed technician, OR if you choose to apply to be a contractor, you will need to pay the fee and meet several additional requirements that are explained in detail on this page of the website. One of those requirements is that you must take and pass the contractor licensing exam, including the West Virginia Business and Law exam.
You’ll also need to obtain a business registration tax number and provide proof of Workers’ Compensation, Unemployment Compensation, and a wage bond with your completed application. The affidavit in it must also be notarized.
All licenses must be renewed annually, which can be done through an online portal on the Division of Labor website.
How Long Does it Take to Get an HVAC License in West Virginia?
Because the HVAC Residential Technician License no longer has a minimum experience requirement, the time it takes to become licensed is entirely up to you. It will take as long as it takes you to master the information you’ll be tested on in the exam. HVAC work is complicated business, though, so most aspiring HVAC technicians complete some type of formal education like a degree or certificate program at a community or technical college or an apprenticeship. Many certificate programs take about a year or an associate degree usually takes two years. HVAC apprenticeships take four to five years. The HVAC Technician License does have a minimum experience requirement along with an exam. You must have 2,000 hours of work experience as an HVAC Technician Training to qualify.
West Virginia HVAC Training programs and schools
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).
At this time there are no programs in West Virginia that have been accredited by HVAC Excellence. There are two PAHRA-accredited programs in West Virginia.
Ben Franklin Vocational Center in Dunbar
Carver Career Center in Charleston.
The HVAC program at Ben Franklin is for high school students only and is two years long. Students usually enter the program as juniors. The school does offer an 11-month welding program for adults.
The HVAC Technician program at the Carver Career and Technical Education Center is for adults. You must be a high school graduate or have a GED. The program is 10 months long and costs $8,585.
West Virginia Northern Community College offers a Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating Technology, Associate of Applied Science degree that prepares students for work performing residential, commercial and industrial air conditioning, heating and refrigeration installation, maintenance, and service as well as national and state certifications. It is 60 credits, and tuition is about $7,000 for the four semester program.
James Rumsey Technical Institute in Martinsburg, West Virginia, has a full-time 11-month program in HVACR that is 30 hours per week and costs $7,637.
Here are a couple of great lists to the best HVAC schools in West Virginia:
Niche: 2023 Best Colleges with HVAC and Refrigeration Engineering Technician Degrees in West Virginia
Apprenticeship: There are different kinds of apprenticeships that will prepare you to service heating and cooling systems too. You can apply for a union training program like the ones offered through Plumbers and Steamfitters 565 out of Parkersburg or Local 83 out of Wheeling, or through your local Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee. Or you could simply apply for one of the apprentice positions listed on Zip Recruiter or Indeed to see if an employer will sponsor you instead.
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.
West Virginia HVAC Licensing Exam Details
To be certified as an HVAC Technician or an HVAC Contractor in West Virginia you must take an examination. They are all administered by PSI Exams. The Candidate Information Bulletin for each provides information about the examination and application process. Each allows you to use authorized references, meaning they are open-book. For each, the exam fee is $47.50.
The HVAC Technician exams both have a time limit of three hours. The HVAC Residential Technician exam has a total of 60 questions. The HVAC Technician exam is made up of 80 questions. They both cover:
Refrigerants and Oils
Air Distribution and Venting
Installation and Maintenance Practices
Certain contractor classifications including HVAC require that you pass a trade exam. The Candidate Information Bulletin for Contractor Examinations explains the process and content of both the trade and Business & Law exams. Each will cost $47.50, so together they will be $95.
The HVAC Contractor Exam has 80 questions, and you are allowed three hours to complete it. It includes testing on:
The Business & Law exam is required as well. It’s three hours long and covers basic business management skills necessary to run a construction business. It also addresses the legal requirements of establishing a business, including taxes, laws, and regulations governing construction. There are 50 questions covering the following subject areas:
Estimating and Bidding
There are six testing locations throughout the state and they are listed in the information bulletin.
Who Issues HVAC Licenses in West Virginia?
The West Virginia Division of Labor issues HVAC and Contractor licenses. The West Virginia State Legislature passed a bill effective June 15, 2021, that transfers these duties to the Contractor Licensing Board. However, the Division of Labor will continue to perform administrative and enforcement duties for the Contractor Licensing Board for two years, so they will become the Board's responsibility in June of 2023.
Does My West Virginia HVAC License Work in Any Other State?
West Virginia does have reciprocity agreements with three other states for HVAC licenses. If you are licensed in Alabama, Ohio, or Tennessee, you’re in luck! Here’s a list of the reciprocity agreements that the Contractor Licensing Board approved for West Virginia.
HVAC Specific Requirements: EPA Certification
Everywhere throughout the country, including West Virginia, 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. All apprenticeships will include this preparation and testing.
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 5 pounds of refrigerant or less.
Type II – for servicing high-pressure units that contain 5 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.
West Virginia law does not require continuing education of its HVAC technicians or contractors to renew their licenses. Licenses are good for one year. The expiration date is listed on your certification card. You will receive a renewal reminder about 45 days before it expires. The renewal cost is the same as the initial application fee.
Technician in Training — $25
Residential Technician — $60
Technician — $75
Contractor — $90
There is a late fee of $25 for any license that is expired past 15 days.
Other Requirements Unique to West Virginia
There is a helpful page of Frequently Asked Questions for both the Technician Licenses (FAQ) and the Contractor Licenses (FAQ). If you can’t find the answers you’re looking for, there’s also Licensing Contact Information on the website.
You can stay up to date on all HVAC industry news several ways: