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HVAC & Refrigeration Servicing
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Sophisticated refrigeration and climate control systems require technologically skilled technicians.

Commercial and industrial climate control systems - such as freezers and coolers in a supermarket or the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) in a large office building - are technologically advanced machines that require constant calibration and maintenance. Not only is it essential that this equipment keep working, but the high cost of energy requires that they operate as efficiently as possible.

The professionals who service these large refrigeration and climate control systems are HVAC and refrigeration technicians who are specialized members of the pipe fitters trade.

HVAC and refrigeration service technicians repair and maintain the refrigeration systems in supermarkets, restaurants and convenience stores, as well as the industrial heating ventilation and air conditioning systems in office buildings, manufacturing facilities and any other large structure. They also install and maintain the special climate systems for computer rooms, where a constant cool temperature is necessary to keep sophisticated machines running smoothly.

The systems they work on can be quite large, such as the 600,000-ton centrifugal system that keeps Newark-Liberty International Airport at a comfortable temperature.

Most of an HVAC and refrigeration technician's work is spent repairing and maintaining systems. The systems they work on are becoming more sophisticated. Advanced electrical circuits and state-of-the-art software programs control the systems of pipes, valves, furnaces and mechanical compressors that circulate the liquids and gases used for cooling and heating. For this reason, a growing portion of a technician's time is spent on computers, which control the latest climate control systems. (Note: HVAC and refrigeration technicians do not install or repair the ducts that circulate the air coming from heating and air conditioning equipment; this work is under the sheet metal trade.)

Electric circuitry and physics also are a routine part of a technician's job. HVAC and refrigeration technicians are experts on how an interior climate is affected by external forces. They understand the dynamics of airflow and how it can be used to help climate systems work more efficiently to conserve energy costs. For instance, vents that open and close according to the outside temperature can reduce the workload on air conditioners. Using their skilled precision in calibrating the equipment that operate these vent systems, HVAC and refrigeration technicians can help an office building, retail store or manufacturer save thousands of dollars per month on its electric bill.

Ever-evolving technology constantly challenges HVAC and refrigeration technicians to hone their knowledge and skills, but it ensures that they will always be in high demand.

Salary & Benefits
Aside from choosing a career that best suits a student's skills and provides true job satisfaction, an important factor for a young person to consider is compensation - both salary and benefits.
Journeyman Technician $25.92 per hour
Union technicians also are guaranteed the following benefits:
   • Health benefits for the worker and his/her family
• Pension
• Annuity Fund (similar to a 401K)
• Disability Insurance
• Paid Vacation

Working Conditions
Approximately 60 percent of a technician's work is performed outdoors. Technicians often must work in tight spaces and must not be afraid of heights. Heavy lifting of compressors and other equipment is sometimes required. Proper safety precautions must be taken when working with gas or combustible liquids. Service work in the crucial sectors (food storage/critical temperatures) requires working at times during all hours of the day and night. Service sector work is also performed alone most of the time.

Career Outlook
Employment of technicians is expected to increase as much as 35 percent over this decade, which is a faster rate than most other occupations, according to the federal government's Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH).

Much of the growth in this profession will occur due to the renewed concern for energy conservation, which will prompt better energy management and replacement of older systems and the installation of newer, more efficient systems. Moreover, demand for maintenance and service work should increase as businesses strive to keep systems operating at peak efficiency. Regulations prohibiting the discharge of CFC and HCFC refrigerants took effect in 1993, and regulations banning CFC production became effective in 2000. Consequently, these regulations should continue to result in demand for technicians to replace many existing systems, or modify them to use new environmentally safe refrigerants.

Apprenticeship
The HVAC and Refrigeration Apprenticeship is a five-year training program that includes on-the-job training supplemented by intensive classroom instruction. Each year, the apprentice undergoes 1,700 to 2,000 hours of on-the-job training and a minimum of 160 hours related classroom instruction.

Upon being accepted into the training program, apprentices are assigned to one of 180 different contractors around the state. Working under the supervision of journeymen technicians, the apprentice begins with the most basic tasks and progresses to more advanced assignments as his/her skills improve.

All apprentices attend classes at the 16,500 square-foot Edward R. Gehm Training Center in Hazlet, NJ, where two eight-hour days per month they learn the fundamentals of the craft. The training center provides the latest in training methods and tools, including computer simulations.

In their first year, apprentices learn the math skills necessary to understand important formulas, the physics of temperature flow and atmospheric pressure, the fundamentals of working with electricity, the basic aspects of refrigeration cycles and equipment, and the fundamentals of soldering and brazing copper tubing.

In their second year, apprentices learn how to safely work with refrigerant chemicals and how to interpret diagrams for electrical wiring and motors. Second year apprentices also become familiar with refrigeration condensers, compressors and other equipment.

Third year apprentices learn about control systems - from the theory of these systems to the practical understanding of how they work. They learn how to troubleshoot electrical problems and receive advanced training on commercial refrigeration units. They also learn how to effectively interact with customers.

Fourth year apprentices learn the basics of natural gas and oil heating, heat pump fundamentals, hydronics (heating and cooling systems that use circulating water or steam), and how to work with advanced mechanical systems (such as transformers, compressors and relays). An introduction to rigging is also included in the fourth year curriculum.

In their final year, apprentices learn how to work with air conditioning systems, pneumatics and heavy systems such as centrifugals and absorption systems. They also learn how to set and maintain automated climate control systems.

Apprentices earn a wage and receive benefits immediately. The hourly wage increases each year. The hourly wage schedule for apprentices, not including benefits, is: first three months, $13.46; remainder of first year, $14.81; second year, $16.15; third year, $17.50; fourth year, $20.19; and fifth year, $22.88.

Requirements for Apprenticeship
   • At least 18 years old
• High school diploma or GED
• Three Letters of Reference
• Valid Drivers License
Applicants must submit to a drug screening.

Applications are accepted at specified dates at Local 274 (Ridgefield), Local 9 (Englishtown), Local 475 (Warren) and Local 322 (Winslow Township).

Profile
   Applicants to HVAC & Refrigeration Servicing should demonstrate:
• Problem solving skills
• Good communication
• Polite and presentable to customers
• Mathematical and mechanical ability
• Physical fitness and dexterity
• Computer literacy
• Willingness to work indoor and outdoors

Contact

For more information about the HVAC & Refrigeration profession and application dates and times, please contact:
  Training Coordinator
Edward R. Gehm Training Center
7 Crown Plaza
Hazlet, NJ 07730
(732) 264-1174
www.uanj.org