Wisconsin HVAC License: How to Become an HVAC Contractor in Wisconsin
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HVACR technology is becoming increasingly complex. Learning how to design, install, repair, and maintain these systems takes time and effort, but this skilled trade is in demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 376,800 heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers nationwide, and Wisconsin employs 5,000 of them.
Employment is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029 throughout the country adding more than 15,000 of these skilled workers to the ranks. That growth rate is expected to be higher in Wisconsin — projected at 11%, according to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website.
That statistic is supported by how many contractors are trying to find skilled tradesmen. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 2020 AGC-Autodesk Workforce Survey, 60% of firms in the U.S. and 50% of firms in Wisconsin had unfilled hourly craft positions on June 30, 2020.
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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 being placed on energy efficiency and reducing pollution, systems need to be retrofitted, upgraded or replaced entirely to comply with these new standards. Licensing requirements for HVAC contractors vary from state to state and in some cases, from locality to locality. In Wisconsin, you will have to navigate local, state, and federal licensing requirements.
Licensing Requirements for HVAC Contractors in Wisconsin
Is a license required to work as an HVAC professional in Wisconsin? There is no statewide licensing credential required to be an HVAC technician in Wisconsin.
Rather, many local jurisdictions have their own certification requirements. However, there is an optional state-level HVAC Qualifier Certification that satisfies any local mandates. The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services — Trades Credentialing Division issues that certification to individuals who demonstrate competency in the field through experience and successfully passing an exam. DSPS also issues an HVAC Contractor Registration that is required for any HVAC business to operate legally. Anyone who works with refrigerants in air conditioning equipment must also have federal-level certification. Some of Wisconsin’s cities require local level licensing if an individual does not have the state credential, so you always want to check with the jurisdiction where you intend to work to make sure you’re following any local requirements.
Types of HVAC Licenses in Wisconsin
What are the different types of HVAC licenses in Wisconsin?
At the state level, there are two HVAC credentials in Wisconsin - one that is a qualification or skills credential, the other is a business credential - a contractor's license.
HVAC Qualifier - you must test to demonstrate your proficiency.
HVAC Contractor - you just need to apply and pay the fee to become a recognized business entity.
There are also local licenses available in some jurisdictions, so check where you are working to be sure you have the proper credentials.
Steps to Get an HVAC License in Wisconsin
Enroll in an HVAC diploma or certificate program or associates degree program at a community college, vocational/trade school, or university; or
Get a formal apprenticeship through a local union or trade organization or through a sponsoring employer as an entry-level worker supervised by a licensed contractor; or
Simply begin working in the field for an HVAC business following any city or county licensing requirements.
Acquire the four years of work experience or formal education or a combination of the two required to apply for the statewide credential.
Apply for the HVAC Qualifier Certification and pay application and exam.
Once approved through the Division of Professional Credential Processing, take and pass the licensing exam.
Pay the initial credential fee and receive your license. It is good for four years from the date of issuance and then must be renewed.
Consider starting your own HVAC Contracting business. If so, apply to be issued a registration as an HVAC Contractor from DSPS and pay the fee.
Benefits of Getting an HVAC License in Wisconsin
There are many benefits you’ll see from getting your Wisconsin HVAC Credential:
It is required by law in many Wisconsin cities, towns, or counties to be licensed to perform heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration work. The statewide credential satisfies that requirement everywhere throughout the state.
A trade license is proof of your experience and skill.
Only registered HVAC contractors can: operate a business and advertise HVAC 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 Wisconsin?
The annual mean wage for HVAC mechanics and installers in Wisconsin is $55,980, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And according to indeed.com, the average salaries for HVAC professionals in Wisconsin increase with experience and training.
HVAC Installer: The average salary for an HVAC installer is $23.42 per hour in Wisconsin and $6,094 overtime per year.
HVAC Technician: The average salary for an HVAC Technician is $24.80 per hour in Wisconsin and $6,562 overtime per year.
HVAC Mechanic: The average salary for an HVAC Mechanic is $26.50 per hour in Wisconsin and $8,750 overtime per year.
HVAC Supervisor: The average salary for an HVAC Supervisor is $85,362 per year in Wisconsin and $11,250 overtime per year.
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 Qualifier Credential or Register as an HVAC Contractor in Wisconsin?
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 any initial costs, but you will also likely receive a lower wage. 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.
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. If you decide to go after a formal apprenticeship through a union or local trade organization, you may encounter some fees, but you’ll also be paid a portion of a journeyman level wage and that salary will increase as you learn. Some employers offer an apprenticeship, too, and pay not only your salary but the costs associated with training like classes at community or technical college.
The Wisconsin HVAC Qualifier Application fee is $15, the exam fee is $25, and the initial credential fee is $60. Renewal is required every four years and costs $60. The HVAC Contractor Application fee is $15 and the initial credential fee is $160. Renewal is required every four years and costs $160.
How to Get an HVAC License in Wisconsin
Because HVAC systems are becoming increasingly complex, most aspiring HVAC professionals opt to get some post-secondary education. Alternately, 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 begin gaining the necessary work experience required for licensure.
WORK EXPERIENCE: Wisconsin requires anyone applying for HVAC Qualifier Certification to demonstrate four years of experience or education or a combination of the two.
Experience: At least 1,000 hours per year for at least 4 years of experience in supervising or performing the design, installation, servicing or maintenance of HVAC systems or equipment.
Education: At least 4 years of attendance in a school of mechanical engineering or in an accredited college, university, or technical, vocational or apprenticeship school in an HVAC-related program.
Experience and Education: Any combination of 4 years of experience and education listed above.
You will need to list your hours of experience on the application and have an employer verify them and also attach a copy of transcripts of your education. The Application fee is $15 and the exam fee is $25. Both must be paid when you submit your application. Mail all items to:
Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services Division of Professional Credential Processing P.O. Box 78780 Milwaukee, WI 53293-0780
TAKE LICENSING EXAM: If your eligibility is confirmed and your application is accepted, you will receive a letter from DSPS confirming your upcoming exam, including the time, date, and location. DSPS gives a detailed account of the application process on its website.
CONSIDER BECOMING AN HVAC CONTRACTOR: Contractors own and operate their own businesses and can hire other licensed employees to work for them. HVAC Contractors must be registered to legally operate a business. DSPS has HVAC Contractor License Information on its website. Again, you will need to complete the application and mail it to the Department along with a $15 application fee and a $160 credential fee.
How Long Does it Take to Get an HVAC License in Wisconsin?
It will take a minimum of four years to qualify to take the HVAC Qualifier license exam in Wisconsin. You need either four years of education or four years of work experience or four years of a combination of the two. An apprenticeship can take five years.
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Wisconsin HVAC Training Programs and Schools
There are many programs to get the training you need to become an HVAC professional in Wisconsin and they are located all over the state.
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).
There are several schools in Wisconsin that have been accredited by at least one of these organizations.
HVAC Excellence has accredited:
Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire
PARAH has accredited:
Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville
Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire
Moraine Park Technical College in Fond du Lac
Western Technical College in La Crosse
HVACClasses.org breaks down the credit-hour requirements and tuition costs for some of the different programs at each of the above schools.
Chippewa Valley Technical College offers an HVAC Technician Technical Diploma that is 33 credits and costs about $7,500. This program will prepare you to take the Environmental Protection Agency Certification Exam for the safe handling of refrigerants along with the Industry Competency Exam for HVAC/R technicians. There’s also an HVAC Associate Degree that is 66 credits and costs just under $14,000.
Blackhawk Technical College has a 55-credit Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Technology Technical Diploma. The estimated program cost is just over $10,000.
Moraine Park Technical College offers an HVAC Installation Technician program that’s 30 credits and can be completed in less than a year. It can also be applied toward the Associate in Applied Science degree. Tuition is $141 per credit for in-state students and $211.50 for out-of-state students.
Western Technical College’s Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Associate of Applied Science program is 64 credits.
Tuition: The cost of tuition depends on the school and program you choose.
Apprenticeship: You can also choose to pursue an apprenticeship. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development maintains a website 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.
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.
Wisconsin HVAC Licensing Exam Details
The examination for HVAC Qualifier credential is administered by DSPS. It is made up of 100 questions and has a time limit of four hours. It is open book and the passing score is 70%. There is a Trades Examination Information page as well that answers frequently asked questions. The exam fee is $25.
Who Issues HVAC Qualifier and Contractor Licenses in Wisconsin?
The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services — Trades Credentialing Division issues certification to individuals who demonstrate competency in the field through experience and successfully passing an exam. DSPS also issues an HVAC Contractor Registration that is required for any HVAC business to operate legally. Local governments where you intend to work may have other rules, so make sure you meet any additional licensing or permitting requirements.
Does My Wisconsin HVAC Contractor License Work in Any Other State?
Since there is no statewide licensing credential required to be an HVAC technician in Wisconsin, there is no reciprocity with any other state.
HVAC Specific Requirements: EPA Certification
Everywhere throughout the country, including Wisconsin, 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.
Core Exam: 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.
There is currently no continuing education requirement to renew your Wisconsin HVAC Qualifier or Contractor license. Licenses expire every four years. The HVAC Qualifier renewal costs $60 and the HVAC Contractor renewal costs $160. You can renew your credential online.
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