We’ve heard several misconceptions and stereotypes related to the HVAC industry…so we challenged our Mission: HVAC educator, Chris Walters, to tell us about what he hears about the HVAC world, along with some ideas to combat these common misconceptions and stereotypes to help drive interest in the industry.

Here are 6 things he’s trying to change:

There’s no education required.

False: This statement dates back to the early days of A/C when on-the-job training was the most common way to enter the field. Back then, we only used one main refrigerant and there were no electronics. Systems were overbuilt and consumed lots of energy. Today’s systems are much more sophisticated – and so is the job we do. We are comfort specialists looking at the whole picture of comfort. Systems now not only control the temperature or air, but also filter it and add/remove moisture to help make the house a healthier place to live.

It’s a dirty job.

False: Although parts of HVAC work can be dirty, it all depends on what area of the trade you enter. If you are a manager of a supply house, dispatcher, quality control rep, salesman, manufacturer’s representative, control programmer, stationary engineer or any of the 60 plus other jobs that feed from this trade, you may be in business clothes, casual attire or uniformed. Overall, there is something for everyone within this industry – and only a small percentage of the work is dirty.

It’s a man’s world.

False: Anyone can do HVAC work, but unfortunately less than 2% of the trade are women. However, with awareness and perception changes, this will hopefully change soon. Some people think that the work requires heavy lifting, but only a small percentage of the work is about heavy lifting and there are always tools and equipment available to assist. If we follow OSHA guidelines for lifting and safe work practices, it keeps weight lifting to safe levels for all.

It’s all work in hot attics in homes.

False: Just like HVAC is not a dirty job, only a small overall percentage of HVAC work is in homes. It’s hard to really grasp how broad this field is. Think for a moment about every building, factory, business park, strip mall, repair shop, sports stadium, etc. – every one of these has air moving in them and it has to be conditioned by heating, cooling, drying, humidifying and filtering. And this is all HVAC! How about ice skating rinks, trains, planes, ships, RVs, hotels, computer rooms, ice makers, refrigeration, steam for refineries and factories, the cold water for the fish to swim in at the water park…Yep, this is all HVAC! If you work in a high-rise building, you breathe fresh air that is ducted in. If that building catches fire, it’s fresh air that will be delivered to the stairwells, keeping smoke out to let you exit safely. Even the fire dampers that close to contain a fire from spreading throughout the building are a part of the HVAC trade.

College-educated people make more money.

False:  The HVAC trade is an open door to let you make as much money as anyone. A technician can start out making $14-$18 an hour right out of training, but that number goes up quickly depending on the person and the company. If you are driven to succeed, you will strive to be the best and take on the high paying positions. It’s not uncommon for top technicians to make $75,000-$100,000 per year. For those even more entrepreneurial-inclined, the path to business ownership can happen in as little as 3 years. At that point, it is all up to you to build a business that truly has no income limits.

Air conditioning is about making things cold.

False: We don’t make anything cold…we relocate heat. It is common to think air conditioning is about making air cold, but that is far from true. Air conditioners relocate heat from one space to another. Take a window unit, for example. It takes heat from inside the room and moves it to the outside of the house. This leaves the air with less heat in it. The more heat we remove, the colder it feels. A refrigerator does the same thing…it relocates heat from inside the box and puts it into your house. The items in the refrigerator feel colder because some heat was removed. The freezer just removes more heat. It is these types of understandings that make great technicians who really get it and not just change parts until they get cold air.

How can we combat these misconceptions to help drive interest in the industry?

Once I decided to be a part of the solution and opened the training center, I embraced the future of A/C, not just the future of my business. All of the misconceptions exist because the correct information is not getting out. I am working with the state to promote accurate information. I participate in career days at local schools to showcase the field. Recently I started working with several women’s workforce groups to help ambassador programs for women’s awareness. I have included in my training curriculum all the misconceptions and make sure each student gets the right information.  Additionally, I use myself as proof that the HVAC trade can be very satisfying and has no limits.

See What Else is Happening in Mission: HVAC