There are several routes an HVAC technician can take when establishing a business. Should you focus more on the HVAC service and repair side of things or dedicate your time to HVAC installation? This article can help you determine if HVAC service vs installation is the right fit.
HVAC Service Vs Installation Careers: What To Know
The income for HVAC service technicians and installers is similar, and professionals can make a good living in both careers. Service businesses tend to have more consistent work available, but their work hours are more erratic. Installation companies enjoy sizable, profitable projects, but require more workers. The demand for installation is closely tied to the housing market and can come in waves, with some slow periods and other months when you have back-to-back jobs.
What Is HVAC Installation?
HVAC installation involves adding heating, ventilation, or air conditioning to a property. Technicians in this field primarily install HVAC systems in new homes or businesses. Many HVAC installers also perform replacements, removing old air conditioners to install new energy-efficient models.
Installers need experience with climate control systems, such as smart home devices. Depending on the state, additional certification may be needed. Residential and commercial HVAC systems may require permits for cutting drywall, installing ductwork, forming ducts, and properly insulating systems. These abilities are why many installers are also known as HVAC contractors.
What Is HVAC Service?
HVAC service businesses primarily focus on system repairs and preventative maintenance. Many HVAC repair techs also pursue education related to refrigeration. This provides the opportunity to fix and maintain different residential and commercial HVAC systems:
- Whole-home AC systems
- Ductless air-conditioning systems
- Residential heating systems
- Indoor air quality/HEPA filtration systems
- Restaurant refrigeration equipment (ice machines, walk-in freezers, etc.)
- Commercial refrigeration systems of a certain size
HVAC service entails several tasks, beginning with system inspection. The technician checks components, including the compressor, coils, and wiring. Pipes and refrigerant levels are checked as well.
During maintenance visits, system parts are cleaned, such as the blower and evaporator/condenser coils. The thermostat is calibrated. Damaged parts are replaced, usually on the same visit.
Specialized HVAC Professions
Some HVAC contractors pursue additional training. This can allow you to offer value-added services that competitors can’t. Here are a few specializations you should know about:
- HVAC engineer: Unlike many installers, engineers can design customized HVAC systems for homes and businesses. Engineers can determine the capacity required for the system and work with complex zoning layouts for commercial applications.
- Fabricator: Fabricators assemble HVAC systems for clients and create custom ductwork for jobs. They know how to read blueprints and meet specs.
- Pipefitter: These HVAC professionals work entirely with piping for hot water, heating, and cooling. This career is mainly for commercial applications or multi-family housing.
- Boiler tech: Boilers are a type of steam heating system that requires specialized knowledge to install, repair, and maintain. Sometimes, a plumbing license is required.
Main Differences of HVAC Service Vs Installation
One of the key differences between an HVAC installer vs service tech is the level of experience in diagnosing problems. Many HVAC installers can perform general maintenance and simple repairs, but only HVAC service professionals have the extensive training and expertise to analyze complex issues.
Service techs need to stay up to date with new systems for each brand they repair, from ductless mini-splits to geothermal heat pumps. Of course, if you manage an HVAC business, you can also hire experienced repair techs for your team.
No matter what you would like to specialize in, to get started as an HVAC technician, consult our State-by-State Directory of HVAC License Requirements for information on where to get trained and how to get licensed.
How To Decide Which Route To Take
It’s essential to consider several factors when choosing the next step in your career.
The demand for HVAC installers and service technicians varies significantly by state. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, states like Texas and California offer the highest level of employment for HVAC businesses. In contrast, South Dakota and Vermont have far lower employment levels.
Most homeowners and business owners have a heating or air-conditioning system. According to Grand View Research, the market for HVAC systems in the United States was $16.5 billion in 2021, with a projected growth of over 5% over the next decade. Statista reports that over 6.2 million air conditioners were sold in 2021.
Average Annual Salary or Income
According to Indeed.com, HVAC installers make an average of nearly $63,000 a year. AC service technicians make about $56,000 on average.
HVAC technicians are always needed, taking care of AC repairs in summer and heating emergencies in winter. Installation jobs generally follow a seasonal schedule, at least in states where temperatures drop during the winter.
The demand for HVAC installation typically follows the home construction market. With consumers purchasing or building homes, a strong economy is great for installers, but periods of low growth can be challenging.
HVAC installers are often business owners, which may mean spending more time on the job. On the other hand, service technicians usually need to be on call in case of emergencies and work when clients require. Installers can often set their own hours during construction projects.
Overall, the HVAC industry is one of the safest, with the BLS estimating just 1.9 injuries per 100 workers in 2020. Of course, installers often work on active construction sites, so they have an increased risk of work-related injuries. Fortunately, compared to the 771 fatal accidents of construction workers in 2020, there were only 22 fatalities in HVAC work. Specialized HVAC maintenance jobs, such as boiler maintenance, can carry slightly elevated risks.
HVAC service vs new construction jobs offer a similar level of difficulty, but in different ways. Service technicians have to find and resolve complex issues that require deep knowledge of components and new systems, while installers have to deal with size calculations, blueprints, and local building codes.
For some people, the choice between becoming an HVAC installer vs service tech comes down to how much they enjoy managing a team. If you prefer a simpler business where you work alone and don’t have any employees, HVAC service may be ideal.
It’s important to remember that you’re not required to choose between HVAC service vs installation. Many HVAC installation businesses provide maintenance and repair services, offering all-in-one system care for their clients, sometimes with subscription plans.