Alan Morrell, Special to the Democrat and Chronicle
Published 5:09 a.m. ET Sept. 7, 2020


About the job:

HVAC technicians install and service all kinds of heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment. That includes furnaces, air conditioners, water heaters, thermostats and more. There has been a big push in recent years toward more energy-efficient equipment. The work includes maintenance aspects, such as flushing drains, and technical aspects like tune-ups.

Many companies, such as Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning, split their workforce between residential and commercial/industrial customers. Most of the equipment is inside for residential and outside for commercial/industrial (which is also larger and more expensive), said Kevin Traut, administrative director for the Isaac Training and Education Center (or ITEC).

“They don’t cross,” he said of the workforce employees. “If you’re good at driving a car, we’re not going to ask you to drive a big rig.” Isaac also does work with refrigeration.

Qualities needed:

Working on heating and air-conditioning systems requires the ability to visualize how components work together. (Photo: Getty Images)

HVAC techs have to pass a mechanical-aptitude test and be able to visualize how components work together, Traut said. Especially with residential work, techs must interact well with customers. Those who don’t like to do so might be better suited for the commercial/industrial end of things.

“The toughest part of the job is going into people’s homes and fulfilling a schedule,” Traut said. “You’re not going to be home for dinner a lot of times. We have set schedules as much as possible, but you have to stay until the job is done.”

Education/training needed:

A high school diploma or equivalent is necessary. All field employees of Isaac go through ITEC, which is built on a community college format and involves 30 classroom hours and time in a “laboratory” setting. The ITEC facility — on McLaughlin Road, off Ridgeway Avenue — started as Isaac University, to fulfill the need to educate people in the trades. “If we can’t find ‘em, we’ll make ‘em,” Traut said of HVAC technicians.

Isaac partners with Monroe Community College for training purposes. Places like the Monroe Board of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES, also provide education and training.

Traut added that there are federal requirements for people who work with refrigeration gases.

What the job pays:

According to the New York State Department of Labor, the median salary for heating/air conditioning/refrigeration mechanics and installers in the Finger Lakes Region is $47,350.

The job picture:

The state Department of Labor labeled HVAC mechanics and installers as one of the most in-demand jobs today. “If you get trained for HVAC, you’ll have a job,” Traut said. “We’re desperately looking to fill positions.”

Part of the reason, he said, is due to the rapid development of more energy-efficient systems. About 15 years ago, Traut said, most equipment was about 80 percent efficient. Nowadays, the figure has jumped to roughly 98 percent. With the new equipment, many customers are switching over, which means more jobs for techs.

Also, particularly because of COVID-19 concerns, air filtration and air purification systems are becoming more in-demand. “That’s been a game changer for the industry,” Traut said.


“After 25 years in this industry, I feel like I’ve gone from the horse and buggy to a space shuttle,” Traut said. “HVAC is the definition of civilization. If you don’t have heat, what do you do, live in a cave? If you don’t have air conditioning, there are a lot of places where you can’t live. Without refrigeration, you can’t store food.”

Where to learn more:

Traut suggested the company’s website, as well as Another website is

Other job opportunities:

How to become an auto mechanic

How to become a bank teller

How to become a pharmacy technician

How to become an electrician

How to become an EMT

Alan Morrell is a Rochester-based freelance writer.

Read or Share this story:

Tuesday September 22, 2020