How to Become an HVAC Technician in Illinois

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians are in high demand across the country. For those wondering how to become an HVAC tech in Illinois, it may be easier than you think. 

By completing a trade school or apprenticeship program, you could be working as an HVAC tech in as little as 6 months. Since IL HVAC techs do not require licensure, you can instead improve your resume by applying for certain HVAC certificates that are recognized nationwide. 

This article will cover all you need to know about HVAC training and education, HVAC certificates, and the role of an HVAC tech in Illinois.

Do You need an HVAC License in Illinois?

HVAC techs in Illinois do not require licensure. HVAC-R (refrigeration) techs who plan to work specifically with refrigerants, however, need to get a special Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certificate to do so.

Some cities may have regulations around HVAC work, so always check with your municipality’s licensing and regulations board before beginning your HVAC career in a new jurisdiction.

If you plan to work as an HVAC contractor with your own HVAC company, you will have to get a general business license from the state. 

Becoming an HVAC Tech in Illinois

If you’ve decided to pursue a career as an HVAC tech, your first step is to get the education necessary to work in the field. HVAC techs can do this in two ways: through a trade school or an apprenticeship. While this experience isn’t required to become an HVAC tech, companies are unlikely to hire a tech with no educational or professional training.

To complete a trade or apprenticeship program, will need to have your high school diploma or the equivalent. After completing your program, you will be able to apply for HVAC tech positions at any Illinois company with confidence.

IL Trade School for HVAC Techs 

Trade school will teach you the necessary skills to become an HVAC tech. While there are some practical components, trade school focuses on classroom education and theory. These programs can last anywhere from 6 months to 2 years and are usually paid for out of pocket. 

IL Apprenticeships for HVAC Techs 

Apprenticeships, on the other hand, focus much more on the practical aspect. You will have a few classroom hours weekly combined with work experience while being supervised by an experienced HVAC tech. This experience is paid, meaning you earn while you learn. 

Apprenticeships are usually 4 years long. After completing an apprenticeship, many apprentices find work with the same employer they trained with.

Types of HVAC Certificates in Illinois

Since Illinois itself doesn’t offer HVAC certifications or licenses, you can apply for certificates through different nationally-recognized organizations. 

The EPA, for example, offers various HVAC tech certificates that could make your resume stand out from the competition. For those planning on working with refrigeration (HVAC-R), you are required to get the EPA Technician certificate. This includes Type I, Type II, Type III, and Universal certificates. 

Apart from the EPA, you can also aim to receive a certificate from the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) training academy. NATE certificates are more comprehensive than EPA certificates, and it is the largest nonprofit certification program for HVAC-R techs in the U.S.

Finally, you can look into certifications given by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), which are also popular for HVAC techs in Illinois. 

EPA HVAC-R Certificates in IL

The Clean Air Act determined that all HVAC-R techs must have their EPA Technician Certification. There are 4 certification types you can choose from:

  • Type I: For servicing small appliances
  • Type II: For servicing high-pressure appliances
  • Type III: For servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances
  • Universal: For servicing all types of equipment

To receive this certificate, you’ll need to participate in one of the EPA-approved programs for your certification type. After completing the program, you’ll take the official exam. Once you pass, you will receive your certification. This certification never expires. 

NATE HVAC-R Certificates in IL

NATE offers 5 levels of tests, certificates, and certifications for HVAC techs in Illinois.

  • Ready-to-Work Tests are for new HVAC-R techs with little or no training. This is a certificate – not an official NATE certification – so it does not require renewal. These tests cost $50.
  • HVAC Support Tests are for techs who have been working in the field for 6-12 months. This is also a certificate, not an official NATE certification, so it does not require renewal.
  • Low-GWP Refrigerants Certificates help HVAC-R techs learn about new low-Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerants and how to handle them.
  • Nate Certifications are for HVAC-R techs with 2+ years’ experience. There are two ways to receive this certification:
    • You will need to pass the Nate Core exam as well as a specialty exam OR
    • You can receive this certification by passing 5 exams on the CHP-5 Pathway: HVAC Fundamentals, Electrical and Controls, Comfort and Airflow, Installation, and Service
  • Senior Level Efficiency Exams are for those with 5+ years’ experience.

ASHRAE HVAC-R Certificates in IL

ASHRAE offers a Certified HVAC Designer (CHD) certificate in Illinois. A tech with this certificate knows how to validate and design equipment, equipment sizing, load calculations, duct and piping layout, and more. Through this certificate, you can accurately learn how to develop HVAC plans for permitting and construction.

To take this test, you must first apply online. The test costs $595 for non-members and $395 for ASHRAE members.

HVAC Tech Duties in Illinois

HVAC technicians in Illinois can work with many machines and systems. Generally, they maintain, install, or repair air conditioning and heating units in residential and commercial buildings. They can also work with large-scale refrigeration systems.

These techs can:

  • Remove old systems
  • Train apprentices
  • Order equipment
  • Meet all local HVAC codes and regulations

HVAC Tech Salary in IL

HVAC tech salaries vary greatly in Illinois. The factors that affect salary are:

  • Education and training
  • Years of experience
  • Additional certification(s)
  • The city you are working in

On average, HVAC-R techs in Illinois can make upwards of $56,000 per year, plus another $8,000 in overtime. 

Some of the best paying cities in Illinois for HVAC techs are:

  • Schaumburg
  • Downers Grove
  • Skokie
  • Chicago
  • Elgin

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