When you’re trying to decide on a career path, there are many trades that offer numerous job opportunities. The electrical and HVAC industries are two stable and growing fields that offer great career options. Electricians and HVAC technicians both make good money, but there are subtle differences between the two fields that might make one a better fit than the other for certain people. This article covers everything about HVAC vs electrical contractor so you can choose which field is right for you.
Is HVAC Better Than Electrical?
The HVAC and electrical fields are both respectable trades that require special training. Neither one is overall better than the other, but training requirements, working conditions and salary differences may affect your decision to choose one trade over the other. In general, electricians require more training than HVAC workers, but they typically make better money with traditional work hours. HVAC work, however, is safer than the electrical trade.
Is HVAC Part of Electrical?
The HVAC and electrical industries are closely intertwined because heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems have many electrical connections. An HVAC technician will need some electrical knowledge to work on units correctly. However, an HVAC worker’s knowledge of the electrical trade is limited to the connections needed for a system to run. He or she is not qualified to work on other electrical components.
Similarly, an electrician can work on the electrical part of an HVAC system. However, his or her knowledge of the connections will not be as extensive as that of an HVAC technician. There is some overlap between the two fields, but they are still two distinct trades.
Which Is Harder, HVAC or Electrical?
Although both trades require education and training, neither the HVAC nor the electrical industry is hard to get into. The electrical field is often less physically demanding, but you need extensive knowledge to work on electrical connections safely and minimize risk.
If you choose to work in the HVAC field, you must be able to match units of the proper size with buildings of the corresponding square footage. You must also be able to make connections properly, but the work is usually less mentally taxing than that of an electrician. However, you may need to work in small spaces and will need to set heavy units in place, so the work is physically draining whereas electrical work usually takes less of a toll on your body.
Is HVAC or Electrical a Better Trade To Go Into?
When you are comparing HVAC vs electrical to decide which trade to go into, you’ll find that one trade is not necessarily better than the other. Both require extensive training, but the HVAC industry is safer and has more opportunities for overtime pay while the electrical trade offers a better work/life balance. The best trade for you will depend on your personal goals.
Is HVAC or Electrical Easier?
Neither the HVAC nor the electrical field is easy. You must know what you’re doing to be successful in either career path. However, each industry is easier than the other in a certain aspect. The HVAC field is less technical than the electrical trade. It does require more physical labor, so the electrical trade is easier in terms of manual labor and the toll on your body.
What Is the Salary for HVAC VS Electrician?
The average yearly salary for Americans in 2021 was $51,480. The expected salary for both HVAC technicians and electricians is average, with electricians earning approximately $54,000 annually and HVAC workers marking $45,000 per year. However, it is important to note that these figures reflect the expected base pay and do not include overtime pay.
Electricians may need to go on call occasionally, but there is rarely a necessity for overtime work in this field. As an HVAC technician, however, you will be expected to work overtime hours by going on-call. You will earn a significant amount of overtime pay in the summer and winter when temperatures are extreme. The money will not be as good in the spring and fall when temperatures are mild.
As an electrician, you can expect pay to be stable year-round. You will earn the same pay regardless of temperature and working conditions, so you won’t have to work as much to make the same amount of money.
Do You Need Insurance To Be an HVAC Technician or Electrician?
Each state has its own requirements when it comes to insurance for HVAC technicians and electricians. Before you pursue a career in either trade, make sure you understand the specific requirements in your state.
If you work for a company under the license of a master HVAC technician or master electrician, you likely will not be required to have your own insurance because your employer provides it. If you want to work independently, insurance may or may not be required, but it is always a good idea to have it. Electrical and HVAC systems are complex and expensive, and there is risk involved whenever you work on either system. Insurance protects you if equipment malfunctions or your work causes damage to the property.
What Career Opportunities Are Available?
There are commercial and residential career opportunities for both the HVAC and electrical trades. The type of work you choose will dictate your level of career satisfaction.
You can become an electrician with a company servicing both residential and commercial buildings. You could also work in the electrical department of large entities and corporations. Your experience will qualify you to teach upcoming electrical students. Some specific job titles you could hold include:
- Electrical foreman
- Electrical assistant
- Installation technician
As an HVAC technician, you can earn good money installing and servicing units for a private company. If you want a better work/life balance, you could apply for a maintenance position with a specific company. You could also work with construction companies to install HVAC systems in new buildings.
What Are the Physical Requirements for HVAC VS Electrical?
There are few physical requirements for electricians. They may have to climb stairs to access systems, but they do not often have to work outside in harsh weather conditions or squeeze into cramped spaces. The work is far more mentally demanding than physically draining.
Lifting heavy units and working outside are two job requirements for HVAC technicians. If you work on commercial units, you may have to work on hot rooftops under the blazing sun in the summer, and if you work on residential systems, you’ll often have to work in cramped spaces. Bending, kneeling and crawling may be necessary to access connections, so you must be able to perform these actions. HVAC work has much more of a physical toll on your body.
However, HVAC work is not particularly dangerous except for when you’re securing electrical connections. Faulty wiring generally causes systems to malfunction and does not pose a significant risk to your health. You are more likely to be exposed to chemicals that could affect your long-term health.
Electrical work is inherently dangerous. Certain mistakes could cause significant injury, so although there is less of a chance of being exposed to hazardous substances, the electrical trade is riskier than the HVAC industry.
What Are the Working Hours for an Electrician VS HVAC Technician?
While overtime may occasionally be available for electricians, they typically work a typical 40-hour week. These are often traditional business hours with evenings and weekends off. The work week stays the same throughout the year.
For HVAC technicians, the length of the work week changes depending upon the season. You may have long weeks with 12-hour workdays during the summer. Work demands will lessen during the spring and summer, so you’ll likely have evenings and weekends free during those seasons.
What Are the Training Requirements?
Whether you want to enter the HVAC or electrical trade, you must complete a certified training program. There are many schools with flexible class hours that could provide you with the training you need.
Most HVAC courses can be completed within a year. Throughout the course, you’ll learn about:
- Installation techniques
- Unit sizes
- Electrical connections
These courses include many hours of hands-on training. You’ll learn from people who have years of experience in the HVAC industry. Many of these training programs will match you with a job upon completion.
Training for electricians is similar to that of the courses available for HVAC technicians. Most courses can be completed within a year, and they include classes on all of the concepts electricians must know to have successful careers. There are many programs available with both daytime and evening classes to match your needs for flexible scheduling.
However, electricians may also choose to complete an apprenticeship in lieu of a training program. This option allows you to make money as you learn and gain real-world experience working on electrical systems. The only downfall to this option is that electrical apprenticeships are often hard to find. You may not find a spot open in your local community, so you may not have a choice but to complete a training program if you want to become an electrician.
What Are the Licensure Requirements for HVAC Workers and Electricians?
Like insurance regulations, licensure requirements for electricians and HVAC technicians vary widely among states. Many states require you to hold a license to work in either trade, so make sure you understand the regulations for the state you want to work in.
You can often work under the license of a more experienced HVAC technician or electrician if you work for a company. This is a good way to earn the experience needed to obtain your own license in the future. You may need to obtain an apprentice and journeyman license in either trade before you are qualified to sit for the master exam.
Related: Directory of Electrical Contractor License Requirements by State
To obtain any type of HVAC or electrical license, you must pass a state-mandated exam administered by an accredited testing facility. You must show proof of completing an approved training course or apprenticeship, and you must pay a fee. The cost of the exam varies from state to state.
Related: HVAC License Requirements: State-by-State Directory
It is important to note that you must pass the federally mandated EPA exam if you choose to become an HVAC technician. EPA certification is required regardless of state-level regulations regarding licensure. There is no comparable federally mandated certification for electricians.
What Can You Expect as an HVAC Technician or Electrician?
Whether you decide the electrical or HVAC industry is the best trade for you, you can have a rewarding career. Knowing what to expect from daily life can help you decide between becoming an electrician vs HVAC technician.
As an electrician, you can expect to work traditional business hours with a few overtime opportunities. You will earn a stable salary throughout the year and have a great work/life balance. You’ll rarely have to work in tight or cramped spaces to fix electrical problems, and you probably won’t get dirty on the job.
However, working with electrical connections is much riskier than most types of HVAC work. You need to pay close attention to your job at all times to avoid making a dangerous mistake that could cause a severe industry. The work is mentally draining, and the required training is extensive.
On the other hand, you can make more money by working a lot of overtime hours as an HVAC technician during extreme temperatures. This overtime, however, means that you won’t have a good work/life balance during the summer and winter. The work is physically draining, and you may get dirty when you work in small spaces such as attics and crawlspaces.
HVAC work is generally safer than that of electricians. It is faster to become an HVAC technician than an electrician, and the work is not as mentally taxing.
The electrical and HVAC fields are both great trades that can enrich your life. Although neither field is better than the other, they each are more suitable for different lifestyles. Choose the trade that best fits your goals for the future so that you can have a long, rewarding career.