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Heating, venting, and air conditioning systems are an essential component in virtually every modern building.
HVAC engineers deal with various aspects of these systems.
They design climate control systems and work in close contact with construction engineers.
HVAC engineers can be categorized as mechanical engineers.
HVAC engineering experts usually have expertise in electrical, or plumbing jobs that are connected with climate control.
To perform in the field legally and successfully, HVAC engineers should be familiar with state, local, federal codes, and regulations.
HVAC engineers should understand the principles of airflow in different structures.
They should also be able to conduct calculations of heat load and loss.
Various structures have different specifications for climate control systems.
So HVAC engineers have plenty to consider when creating a system that would fit schools, hospitals, computer rooms, etc.
Scope of Work of HVAC Engineer
Based on what the building is constructed for (items or living beings), the HVAC engineers design an appropriate climate control system.
The designing process includes the arrangement of all the system details and the use of blueprints or other schemes.
HVAC engineers determine what equipment will be necessary.
They also provide a value estimate for construction.
HVAC engineers prepare and supervise the process of system installation.
They have to ensure that all safety regulations are followed and that the process goes according to the codes.
These experts often have meetings with inspection organizations and clients.
At the end of every stage of installation, they have to test the system performance.
Besides creating the new systems, HVAC engineers also inspect the existing ones and offer recommendations to improve performance.
Prospects of the HVAC Engineer Career
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of 2017 (BLS), positive prospects are expected in the field of mechanical engineering.
The area includes HVAC engineers as well.
The BLS reports that the job opportunities for HVAC engineers are expected to increase by 9% from 2016 to 2026.
Nationwide, this is higher than what was predicted for other occupations for the same time (7%).
The growing demand for HVAC engineers has several reasons behind it.
The BLS specifies that the development in alternative energy sources will increase the demand for HVAC engineers.
Well-trained and skillful engineers will be able to be employed in new construction and renovation projects as well as retrofitting.
The reason is growing investments in green energy solutions.
With the development of technology, HVAC engineers will need deeper knowledge in technology to complete the job.
Essential Skills for HVAC Engineers
The minimum required education for HVAC engineer includes a bachelor’s degree in mechanical or HVAC engineering.
People who wish to become a licensed Professional Engineer should choose an institution certified by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
For better employment opportunities, some engineers chose the graduate-level education.
Some essential skills of the sought-after HVAC engineers are prevailing in other subareas.
According to the BLS, the following skills play a significant role:
- Creative potential.
- Efficient communicating skills.
- Aptitude for mathematics.
- Mechanically apt.
- Ability to solve problems.
The experts accomplished in sophisticated technology have better employment opportunities, according to BLS.
Another fundamental skill is the ability to understand the power optimization.
As reported by HVAC engineers on Payscale, the project managing experts make more.
The HVAC engineers with proficient designing skills and knowledgeable in computer software also have higher wages.
What HVAC Engineers Make
The primary aspects that determine the salaries of HVAC engineers include education, experience, and skills.
Geographical location can also influence income.
As the engineers reported on Payscale, the annual income of an HVAC engineer varies from $49,989 to $93,968.
Receiving bonuses and revenue shares is also possible.
There is a difference between median wages and average wages.
The median wages mean that half of the employees in the area make more than median wages, while the other half, less.
According to Payscale, the median wage of HVAC engineers sums up to $64,034.
The BLS though, reports the wages of all mechanical engineers.
This number amounted to $85,880 median wages.
As stated, having engineering experience can greatly influence income.
The Payscale data shows that HVAC engineers of the entry-level make 6% less than the experienced experts.
The beginner wages vary from $48,276 to $74,785. The median wages in this instance is $60,273.
The BLS records don’t associate wages with experience as they report all mechanical engineers.
Thus, 25% of HVAC engineers earned annually $108,580, with 10% earning $133,900.
This data is dated 2017.
The location can also influence the income of HVAC engineer due to the different level of living costs.
The highest salaries are offered in the following cities according to the BLS:
- Alaska – Anchorage – $146,770.
- California – San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara – $125,940.
- California – San Francisco, Redwood City, South San Francisco, and Metropolitan Division – $121,150.
- Alabama – Tuscaloosa – $119,410.
- Massachusetts – Taunton, Middleborough, Norton and NECTA Division – $119,110.
All mechanical engineers make more annually in the following states, as reported by the BLS:
- In Maryland, the wages are $104,250.
- Texas offers $106,020.
- New Mexico annual income is $108,990.
- In D.C. average salaries are $110,910.
- The highest wages are in Alaska – $132,100.
Economy and climate are among other reasons that can impact job opportunities and wages.
For instance, as stated by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), price index in D.C. in 2018 was 161.
I.e., the citizens of D.C. paid $161 for what was $100 average nationwide.
At the same time, the Arkansas price index is 88.5.
That means, in Arkansas residents paid $88.5 on average for what was $100 nationwide.
HVAC engineers residing in different regions should consider it.
How to Become an HVAC Engineer?
The information below includes only one option of becoming an HVAC engineer.
It describes the process of obtaining a license in mechanical engineering.
With PE qualification, a mechanical engineer is eligible to work on state-supported HVAC projects.
It may also increase the revenue options and allow to obtain a leadership position.
Additional years of practical experience will also be a plus.
Here’s one of the ways to become an HVAC engineer:
- High school diploma or similar document – 4 years.
For those who wish to become an HVAC engineer, math and science courses are recommended.
They can also take out-of-class ventures in a workshop class, volunteer or work with local HVAC organizations.
Enrollment into a 4-year ABET-certified institution in the mechanical engineering area can be highly competitive.
Therefore, students should try to pursue a good GPA.
- Associate or bachelor’s degree in engineering (2-4 years).
HVAC engineers-to-be are expected to obtain a degree in mechanical or HVAC engineering or similar program.
The program lasts from two to four years.
Both associates and bachelor’s degree programs include such courses as:
- Airflow and balancing;
- Pumps and piping systems;
- Energy calculations;
- Air handling equipment;
- Electrical load computation;
- Psychometric analysis.
- Entry-level experience (4 years).
With high competition in the mechanical engineering area, it is recommended for the graduates to obtain a practical program to practice their skills.
The HVAC engineers can apply for HVAC apprenticeship programs.
They may vary depending on a state.
The program allows accumulating practical hours as a licensed apprentice to prepare for their qualifying examination.
- Graduate degree or certification in engineering (optional – 1-2 years).
The HVAC engineers can pursue other extended degrees or certification.
A certificate can be a good option for those who earned an undergraduate degree in HVAC tech.
For example, HVAC engineers with previous experience can pursue an in-depth certification program from UC Berkeley Extension.
The course includes HVAC system load calculations, HVAC control, and energy management systems, HVAC duct work, etc.
Another option for HVAC engineers is taking a degree program in mechanical engineering such as online master of science.
License and Certificates
HVAC engineers can choose to get a PE license (professional engineer).
For obtaining it, the engineers are required to have relevant experience in the area, at least four years.
It includes the exam that is held twice a year which comprises 80 questions.
This license isn’t mandatory but can bring extended professional opportunities.
The HVAC engineers can also pursue specialty certifications additionally to PE license.
For example, building energy assessment.
Multiple associations that provide such certifications are the Association for Facilities Engineering, the Green Building Certification Institute, etc.
Well-trained HVAC engineers with PE license can take management positions with higher income.
Work in education institutions or research facilities can also be an advantage.
The license requirements can differ from state to state.
HVAC engineers should get acquainted with the local requirements to be able to practice and follow the law.