Red and blue manifold gauges on an HVAC system for small spaces

What Is the A/C & Refrigeration Trade?

Individuals in the A/C and refrigeration trade keep buildings, offices, stores and homes cool and comfortable. Heating and air conditioning systems control the temperature, humidity and overall air quality. By providing a climate-controlled environment, refrigeration systems make it possible to store and transport food, medicine and other perishable items.

In America, most homes and buildings use some form or system for air conditioning or refrigeration. Additionally, the popularity of air conditioning systems worldwide continues to grow with the development of new technology and products.

Interested in pursuing HVAC technical training? Read more to learn what to expect as an individual in the A/C and refrigeration industry.

  1. What does an individual in the HVAC trade do?

  2. In the air conditioning and refrigeration trade, technicians may install, maintain and repair industrial, commercial and residential HVAC systems and component parts. To install HVAC systems, technicians mount or place system components based on drawings or verbal instructions. Then, the technicians assemble and install the refrigeration or air conditioning system. HVAC technicians calibrate controls on the unit, which includes wiring, and test that the system works properly.

    Residential or commercial HVAC system maintenance includes checking system parts, lubricating moving parts and monitoring the refrigerant charge. Additionally, to repair a HVAC system, a technician diagnoses the problem and fixes the unit by replacing or repairing controls, electric wiring or other parts. HVAC technicians may also repair heating equipment and troubleshoot gas-fired equipment.

  3. Where does an HVAC tradesperson work?

  4. Refrigeration and air conditioning technicians usually work for companies that install and service A/C or HVAC systems. Some refrigeration and air conditioning technicians are self-employed.

    As an air conditioning and refrigeration tradesperson, expect to work in homes, schools, stores, hospitals, office buildings, or factories. Technicians often work in hot and cold environments depending on the type of unit, building or repair. Working in small spaces, outdoors, on rooftops and during irregular hours is common in the A/C and refrigeration industry.

  5. How long is HVAC school?

  6. Depending on your enrollment, an A/C and refrigeration program generally takes between six months and two years to complete. When considering HVAC programs and certification, look for trade schools that are licensed by the state.  You might also want to see if the school is accredited.

    Learn more about enrolling in trade school at Apex Technical School.

  7. What HVAC tools does a tradesperson use?

  8.  

    In the A/C and refrigeration industry, technicians use a variety of tools to install, maintain or repair residential and commercial cooling systems or units. For general HVAC work, expect to use these tools: an electric drill, a tape measure, pliers, wrenches, screwdrivers, ladders, and electrical testers. Some common air conditioning tools for installing or repairing units: a tubing cutter, refrigeration gauges, and a vacuum pump.

  9. How do I gain HVAC skills in New York?

  10. New York offers opportunities for skilled A/C and refrigeration technicians. A large population and a temperate climate has need for heating and cooling system installation, repair and maintenance. If you’re interested in gaining entry-level skills for the HVAC industry, enroll in a trade school, like Apex Technical School.

     

    At Apex, students in the air conditioning and refrigeration program develop skills to work on:

    • Major home appliances
    • Basic domestic and commercial refrigeration systems and air conditioning
    • Advanced commercial refrigeration systems and air conditioning

Learn more about the HVAC trade and training program by visiting the Apex Technical School’s website.

 

*Apex Technical School and its instructors are licensed by the State of New York, New York State Education Department. Grad rates, debt and other consumer disclosures at apexschool.com.

Disclaimer: Apex Technical School provides training for entry-level jobs. Not everything you may read about the industry is covered in our training programs.

An individual in the HVAC industry repairing a refrigerator with various tools

Air Conditioning History and HVAC Industry Growth

Man’s attempts to stay cool and comfortable during extreme summer heat are well documented. Historical evidence shows attempts by several individuals to control indoor temperatures. For example, the Ancient Romans utilized the aqueduct system to circulate cool water through the walls of their homes. The emperor Elagabalus built a mountain of snow in the garden next to his villa to keep cool during the summer.

 

1800s: Cooling Devices and Innovations

 

Throughout history, individuals used hand-held fans to create a breeze and stay cool. A Chinese inventor built the first room-sized, but hand-powered, rotary fan. Another innovation in cooling indoor spaces included building homes with windows facing away from the sun. Builders also installed ‘wind towers’ onto large buildings to catch and circulate the breeze. And to be comfortable in the sweltering heat of Washington, D.C., President Garfield used an awkward device to blow air through cotton sheets doused in ice water.

 

1900s: Developments in Electricity and Motors

The development of electricity and motorized power led to air conditioning and the HVAC industry as we currently know it. Using alternating current motors, Nikola Telsa invented oscillating fans. In 1902, Willis Carrier invented the first air conditioning system. Originally intended to control humidity in a printing plant, Carrier’s mechanical unit sent air through water-cooled coils to produce cold air. In 1922, Carrier invented the centrifugal chiller, adding a central compressor and reducing the size of his industrial refrigeration system.

 

In 1925, the Rivoli Theater introduced air conditioning to the public. The air-conditioned theater started the summer blockbuster tradition, as people went to see movies to escape the heat. Starting in the 1930s, air conditioning spread to department stores, rail cars and offices. In 1945, Robert Sherman invented a portable, in-window air conditioner that cooled, heated, humidified, dehumidified and filtered the air. Eventually, residential homes and buildings started adding air conditioning and HVAC units. According to the Carrier Corporation, 10 percent of homes had air conditioning in 1965.

Today: HVAC Market and Products

Many different types of units exist in the HVAC market. Price, functionality and purpose tend to determine the type of AC or HVAC unit installed. The type of building being cooled also factors in to what type of AC or HVAC unit is used. Learn about the most common types of air conditioning systems below.

Domestic Air Conditioners

  • Room Air Conditioners: Room air conditioners mount in windows or through walls to cool a room while the compressor is located outside. Room air conditioners are sized to cool just one room, so many may be required for a whole house.

 

  • Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioners: Mini-split systems use an outside compressor/condenser and indoor air handling units. To be cooled, each room or zone uses its own air handler. Each indoor unit connects to the outdoor unit via a conduit carrying the power and refrigerant lines. Indoor units typically mount on the wall or ceiling.

 

  • Central Air Conditioners: Central air conditioners cool an entire house. In each system, a large compressor unit located outside drives the process; an indoor coil filled with refrigerant cools air that is then distributed throughout the house via ducts.

 

Commercial & Industrial Air Conditioners

 

  • Split System Air Conditioners: Small commercial buildings use single split air conditioning systems. They provide heating and cooling to individual rooms, making them ideal solutions for small offices, server rooms, shops, and cafés.

 

  • Multi-split System Air Conditioners: Multi-splits work the same way as single splits but connect indoor units to one outdoor unit. Places like restaurants, offices, doctor’s surgeries and shops frequently use multi-split systems.

 

  • VRF or VRV Air Conditioning: VRF stands for variable refrigerant flow, while VRV stands for variable refrigerant volume. Medium to large applications, including hotels, retail spaces, larger officesand mixed-use buildings use VRF/VRV air conditioning. Efficiency, reliability and controllability make these systems capable of meeting larger buildings’ complete heating and cooling requirements.

 

Future: Advancements in the HVAC Industry

In America, most homes and buildings have some form of air conditioning. Advancements in technology make air conditioning and HVAC units widely used. Consider HVAC and industrial refrigeration skills and repair if you are interested in pursuing a trade career.

 

The following topics cover the basics of the HVAC and refrigeration industry:

 

  • Major Home Appliances
  • Basic Refrigeration
  • Domestic Refrigeration
  • Commercial Refrigeration
  • Commercial Air Conditioning
  • Advanced Commercial Refrigeration

 

To understand more about the HVAC industry, learn about the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration program at Apex.

 

*Apex Technical School and its instructors are licensed by the State of New York, New York State Education Department. Grad rates, debt and other consumer disclosures at apexschool.com.

Disclaimer: Apex Technical School provides training for entry-level jobs. Not everything you may read about the industry is covered in our training programs.

Refrigeration trends include smart refrigerators, which help you make your grocery list on a smart phone when you run out of items.

3 of the Latest Refrigeration Trends

The HVAC market, which includes domestic and commercial air conditioning and refrigeration systems, is constantly evolving to better produce more efficient and safer home appliances. Refrigerators are no exception. Cooling technology has come a long way since the ice box. Here are some noteworthy refrigeration trends gaining speed in the industry and today’s households.

Smart refrigerators act as a family hub

Homeowners looking to make their homes a little smarter are turning to connected appliances or devices that can communicate with one another. Top home appliance brands including Samsung and Frigidaire have released refrigerators with seemingly futuristic capabilities with the intention of bringing families together.

Smart refrigeration features include built-in screens that allow you to watch TV, digital sticky notes and family calendars, and the ability to stream music during cooking or entertaining. Some smart refrigerator models utilize interior cameras to track food inventory with images that can be referenced during shopping trips.
 
According to Consumer Reports, the smart home evolution is center stage. Christine Edwards, senior analyst at Gap Intelligence says, “Deep learning technology is expected to be the next iteration and focus for smart home appliances as they continue to evolve to our lifestyles, physical home space, adaptive environments and user dynamics.”
 
Smart refrigeration features include built-in screens that allow you to watch TV, digital sticky notes and family calendars, and the ability to stream music during cooking or entertaining. Some smart refrigerator models utilize interior cameras to track food inventory with images that can be referenced during shopping trips.
 
According to Consumer Reports, the smart home evolution is center stage. Christine Edwards, senior analyst at Gap Intelligence says, “Deep learning technology is expected to be the next iteration and focus for smart home appliances as they continue to evolve to our lifestyles, physical home space, adaptive environments and user dynamics.”

Environmentally safer refrigerants

When it comes to choosing major appliances, many homeowners and business owners say environmentally friendly options are important to them. The Linde Group, a leading world supplier of industrial, process and specialty gases, notes the rise of R600a, also known as Care10, in a range of popular refrigeration appliances.

 
This natural refrigerant is popular “due to its low environmental impact and excellent thermodynamic performance, and it is now the refrigerant gas of choice in domestic and small commercial refrigerators.” The good news for earth-conscious shoppers looking for domestic or commercial refrigerators? Care10 is a nontoxic refrigerant rated with zero ozone depletion potential and very low global warming potential.

Greater need for ease of use and energy efficiency

Today’s homeowners are not only concerned with Wi-Fi-connected features and safe cooling systems, but also appliance efficiency. What does this boil down to? Energy bills. Fewer people are willing to pay the high sticker cost for a refrigerator if that machine consistently increases electric bills.

 

To help combat energy inefficiency, manufacturers have designed new models with glass windows built into the refrigerator door. When a user walks within proximity of the fridge’s sensor, the interior lights up and allows the user to see what’s inside without opening the door and releasing the cold air. Thus, energy costs stay low.
 
Additional features such as air-tight crispers, LED lighting, and in-door storage can also help lower energy costs and improve use. Technology that focuses on better user experience leads to home appliances that function for the way we live and consume energy.
 
Where will refrigeration trends go next? Keep up with Toolbox Chatter for the latest news in refrigeration and high-velocity HVAC technology.
 
 
Disclaimer: Apex Technical School provides training for entry-level jobs. Not everything you may read about the industry is covered in our training programs.

HVAC working fixing an air conditioning unit

The History of the HVAC Industry

While the HVAC trade as we know it today is defined as mechanical systems that help heat, ventilate, and cool (air conditioning) buildings, the modern HVAC system stems from centuries of innovation. Find out how humans first started heating and cooling their buildings, and how HVAC has evolved into an advanced mechanical trade.

The History of Heating

While the timeframe is disputed, humans mastered fire at their earliest existence, with clear evidence dating back to 125,000 years ago. It was, and remains, humanity’s primary source of heat, whether it be through lighting a fire in a cave or igniting a modern gas-powered heating system.

Evidence points to ancient Greece as responsible for first using the heat-power of fire to create a central heating system. They built flues (a duct or pipe) underneath buildings that spread the heat created by fire throughout the buildings. The Roman Empire advanced the Greeks’ heating system work by building furnaces, which magnified the heat created by fire, and transferring it through pipes underneath floors and inside walls.

As with the Roman Empire’s heavy influence on the history of plumbing, the Empire’s fall caused a delay in the innovation of the history of heating. During the medieval era, buildings were heated mainly by fireplaces, with some highly efficient heating systems powered by furnaces still in existence. Small modifications were made to make the primitive fireplace more efficient, according to Master.ca, including reducing the size and installing metal plates inside the hood to keep hot air in and cold air out.

In the 1700s, hot air was used to centrally heat buildings through pipes in the walls. However, radiators soon began to take over the heating trade, starting with steam radiators and evolving into hot water radiators. In the 1900s, homes began to receive heat in every room rather than only one or two heat-equipped rooms. Boilers that powered radiator heating systems made this possible around the world.

Now, we have heating systems that can also be powered by electricity, solar energy, or even local geothermal heat.

The History of Air Conditioning

As fire has remained the primary source of heating, water has been humanity’s primary source of cooling. When water evaporates, it has a cooling effect, which was discovered by ancient Egyptians. They hung wet reeds in windows, allowing the air that blew into the room to cause water evaporation and, thus, inside air cooling.

Other ancient societies developed cooling systems, including the ancient Romans whose aqueducts transferred cool water through walls. China saw the invention of the water-powered fan as early as the 2nd century.

Mechanical refrigeration, Energy.gov cites, began in the mid-1800s with the invention of an ice-making machine. Motivated by the idea that cool air could benefit sick patients, American Dr. John Gorrie invented a machine that powered a compressor by steam, wind, water, or horse and successfully made ice. His invention, which was an important development in the history of refrigeration, was never adopted publicly.

Willis Carrier is credited with inventing the first modern air conditioner in 1902. While searching for a way to control humidity, Carrier designed a cooling and heating machine, which could dehumidify and humidify air.

Cooling systems began to be widely embraced by the public in the 1920s when public movie theaters adopted the distribution of cold air through floor and ceiling vents. While these systems were widely implemented in public spaces, they were too large to be added to individual homes until the 1930s when General Electric optimized a “self-contained room cooler,” according to Energy.gov. This quickly led to the creation of the window air conditioning unit.

By the 1960s and 1970s, central cooling had been improved and downsized to be added to most homes, leading to a drastic rise in energy usage. Energy conservation and efficiency has since been an important part of the HVAC trade, affecting the way recent HVAC system history has developed.

The Modern HVAC Trade

While the history of heating and the history of refrigeration and air conditioning developed separately, the heating and cooling fields have merged as homes and buildings are often able to share one system for both purposes. And as humidity can lead to warmth, and dryness can lead to coolness, the field requires a good understanding of how water can affect temperature. Those in the modern HVAC industry can focus on some areas in the field including:

  • How electricity powers major appliances like refrigerators
  • Cooling systems powered by vapor compressions
  • Commercial air conditioning systems
  • Gas-fired heating systems
  • Electrically-powered heating systems

Heating and cooling has become a central part of modern society, allowing us to achieve optimal comfort in our buildings. You can learn more about how society has pursued building comfort in this article about the history of construction.
 

Disclaimer: Apex Technical School provides training for entry-level jobs. Not everything you may read about the industry is covered in our training programs.