Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics (NOC 7313)

Minimum education: Diploma, Certificate or Apprenticeship Training

  • Average salary
    72.3%
  • Occupation size
    61.0%
  • Job stability
    22.0%
  • Demand growth
    24.0%
  • Below Average
  • Excellent

Profile last updated: August 31, 2016

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01 Overview

Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics install, maintain, repair and overhaul residential central air conditioning systems, commercial and industrial refrigeration and air conditioning systems and combined heating, ventilation and cooling systems. Transport refrigeration mechanics are included in this group.

People in this occupation:

  • work for refrigeration and air conditioning installation contractors, various industrial enterprises, food wholesalers, engineering firms and retail and servicing establishments
  • may be self-employed
  • need to have a good understanding of mechanical and electrical systems and should be familiar with several types of machinery, from electronics to fluid pumps
  • need to be independent, skilled at troubleshooting problems and have the ability to lift heavy objects
  • communication skills are important, particularly when working with customers

02 Earnings

Provincial median salary

$66,739

Source: Estimated median employment income based on 2015 Job Bank median hourly wage rate (median annual salary = hourly wage rate x 40 (hours per week) x 52.14 (weeks per year))

Provincial hourly rate

  • $14.00/hr
    Low
  • $32.00/hr
    Median
  • $40.46/hr
    High

03 Duties

Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics perform some or all of the following duties:

  • read and interpret blueprints, drawings or other specifications
  • measure and lay out reference points for installation
  • assemble and install refrigeration or air conditioning components such as motors, controls, gauges, valves, circulating pumps, condensers, humidifiers, evaporators and compressors using hand and power tools
  • measure and cut piping, and connect piping using welding and brazing equipment
  • install, troubleshoot and overhaul entire heating, ventilation, air handling, refrigeration and air conditioning systems
  • start up system and test for leaks using testing devices
  • recharge system with refrigerant, check and test regulators, calibrate system and perform routine maintenance or servicing
  • repair and replace parts and components for entire refrigeration, air conditioning, ventilation or heat pump systems
  • may install, maintain and repair equipment in refrigerated trucks used to transport food or medical supplies
  • may prepare work estimates for clients, as well as completing work orders, inspection sheets and other paperwork

04 Work environment

The majority of refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics work 40 hours per week. However, overtime and on-call work is commonly required to complete a project or to repair malfunctioning critical equipment (e.g., freezers containing perishable items) immediately.

Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics often work indoors. They may work in buildings under construction or in warehouses, office towers, hospitals, schools or stores. Outside work may also be required, so workers may be exposed to various weather conditions.

Work in awkward or cramped positions and at heights is common. Hazards may include injuries from handling heavy equipment or from electrical shock. Safety procedures are followed, particularly when handling potentially harmful refrigerants.

05 Workforce and employment statistics

Workforce characteristics

2,700 workers are employed
61 % of workers are working mostly full time

Employment by gender

Labour force by age group

Source: 2011 National Household Survey

06 Job requirements

Education, training and qualifications

Completion of secondary school and a valid driver's licence is usually required to work in this field. In British Columbia, all refrigeration mechanics must:

  • have a certificate of qualification issued by the Industry Training Authority as well as a Class B gas fitter licence
  • complete a five-year apprenticeship program (or a combination of more than five years work experience in the trade and some college or industry courses)
  • find a sponsor employer who is willing to participate in the apprenticeship program

This occupation is eligible for Interprovincial Standard Endorsement (Red Seal) qualification through the Industry Training Authority. This allows refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics to work in any province or territory. Once individuals pass the final examination of their accredited training program, they will achieve certification and will automatically receive Red Seal qualification.

Workers with 10,830 hours of documented, directly related work experience can challenge the Interprovincial Red Seal examination.

For more information, please see the Industry Training Authority website at www.itabc.ca.

Workers already licensed or certified in another province or territory in a provincially regulated occupation will have their credentials recognized in B.C. For more detailed information, contact the provincial regulator. A list of provincial regulators can be found at www.tilma.ca/pdf/BCRegulatoryAuthorities.pdf

For program information on public post-secondary education in B.C., please see the Education Planner website at www.educationplanner.ca.

07 Subject Areas & Training Resources

Education Planner

www.educationplanner.ca

Trades/Apprenticeship Resources

Industry Training Authority

www.itabc.ca

Trades Training BC

www.tradestrainingbc.ca

ACE-IT

www.itabc.ca/youth/programs#ace-it

Discover Skills BC

www.discoverskillsbc.ca

08 Career paths

This is a medium-sized occupational group with an above average number of full-time workers year round. More facts:

Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics may begin their careers as shop hands or in entry-level positions, or they may begin as apprentices.

With experience, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics can advance to supervisory positions or start their own businesses.

09Employment outlook

N/A - Data not available or not provided due to data quality issues

Provincial Outlook:

Unemployment rate

  • 7.3%
    2015
  • 7.4%
    2020
  • 6.3%
    2025

Job openings

  • 80
    2015
  • 130
    2020
  • 90
    2025

10 Insights from industry

The majority of job openings will come from the need to replace those who retire.

The Construction industry, the largest employer of refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics, has been experiencing a very strong demand for workers in both residential and non-residential sectors. Government funding for capital projects could also be an important source of construction work. Industry sources report that there is an over-abundance of people trying to enter the industry with only pre-apprenticeship training or no prior experience at all.

Renewed concern for energy conservation should result in the development of new energy-saving heating and air conditioning systems. An emphasis on better energy management and environmentally safe refrigerants will likely lead to older systems in existing homes and buildings being replaced with more efficient systems. These activities will create a demand for refrigeration and air conditioning services.

The increasing use of technology in refrigeration and air conditioning, such as sophisticated control systems, as well as new forms of refrigerants, requires mechanics to be up to date with the latest systems and developments. Workers with current technological knowledge will have more work opportunities.

11 In their own words

My Career Path

1.  How did you get started in this job?

My dad worked in industrial controls and I went to work for an HVAC/R (heating ventilation air conditioning & refrigeration) wholesaler. That job got my foot in the door and let me get a job as a refrigeration apprentice. I completed my apprenticeship, got my ticket and I've had steady work ever since. The Canadian refrigeration ticket is recognized around the world. I've known of nine guys in Victoria alone who have taken jobs in the Cayman Islands, Australia and the U.S. Canadian refrigeration mechanics are very sought after. Check out HVAC.jobs.com. There are lots of openings.

2.  If you knew then what you know now about the job, would you have done anything differently?

No, I've always got work with good pay and I haven't had to do a resume in 22 years.

3.  What would you say to someone starting out in this career today?

I strongly recommend taking the pre-apprenticeship program. You used to have to be born or married into this industry because apprentices needed so much hand-holding. Now the pre-apprenticeship program gives you something to offer your first employer. Anyone starting out will also need good high school math skills. Unless you have solid trigonometry and algebra, you'll struggle with the pre-apprenticeship. The work is also feast or famine, so you have to be ready to work hard when the work is available.

4.  Where do you see yourself going with this job in the future?

I plan to stay with Tirling Refrigeration for a long while. Everyone loves working here because we all work as a team. We all understand that good work means better referrals and a better company. Getting people on the same page is hard but it's what makes everything work.

5.  What are some of the main forces of change in the industry right now? How will those changes affect you?

Americans are buying up many Canadian HVAC companies and pulling talent into the U.S. I also see prices being pushed down as start-up companies give low job quotes, but eventually they go bankrupt. There is a need for better business training for trades people who start their own companies.

A typical workday

8:00 am Tirling Refrigeration Shop, Victoria, B.C.- Pick up work orders for the day and organize jobs.
9:00 am Arrive at a restaurant and repair an ice machine that has broken down.
10:30 am Inspect a walk-in cooler at a hotel and determine that it has a faulty TX valve. I replace the valve, make a note of the part needed and time required to do the repair and put this with the work order.
12:00 pm Grab lunch on the road between jobs.
1:00 pm Inspect a gas heating unit that has failed and determine that it is a faulty ventor motor. I pick up a replacement and install it.
3:00 pm Drop by a commercial building to look at a heat pump that needs to be repaired tomorrow. Figure out what parts will be needed.
4:00 pm Return to the shop and turn in all completed paper work, including packing slips for parts used and hours to be billed for each job.

12 Additional resources