HVACR contractors looking for plentiful job opportunities, high salaries, available training, and an abundance of service calls should head for the Golden Coast or the Buckeye State, according to a list of top states to work in HVACR, compiled by Emerson Climate Technologies, a business segment of Emerson.

The Top 10

Emerson’s top 10 list draws on HVACR salary and employment data from the U.S. Department of Labor; trade school locations recognized by the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation; heating and cooling degree days calculated at DegreeDays.net; residential home values from the U.S. Census; and certified North American Technician Excellence (NATE) contractors by state. Emerson also draws upon its own data to look at wholesaler locations and commercial service volumes from its ProAct™ Service Center.

The Emerson Climate Technologies Top 10 States to Work in HVACR are:

1. California

2. Ohio

3. Florida

4. Texas

5. Illinois

6. New York

7. Pennsylvania

8. New Jersey

9. North Carolina

10. Georgia

Why They’re on the List

According to Emerson, California tops the list with more than 2,000 NATE-certified technicians, many cooling degree days to drive air conditioning and refrigeration demand, high employment (more than 16,000 HVACR techs, according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor), and some of the highest wages in the country.

Ohio ranks second with fewer sunny days, but offers many more opportunities for training, with the most accredited HVACR schools in the country. Ohio also ranks in the top 10 nationwide for the number of wholesaler locations.

While Florida offers many HVACR employment opportunities, its wages register much lower than California’s. The state boasts a high number of cooling degree days but was edged out by Ohio’s grander training environment.

Texas ranks similar to Florida in many areas as both are in the top 10 states for residential air conditioning sales. However, Texas does not boast as much commercial service volume, according to Emerson.

Illinois does not employ as many techs, although they are paid better than techs in Ohio, Florida, and Texas. Research reveals that the state does offer more wholesaler locations than Ohio and more commercial business than Texas.

The remaining top 10 states, in sequential order — New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Georgia — fall behind in employment, training schools, and cooling degree days, while offering high numbers of certified technicians, wholesaler locations, and valuable commercial service opportunities.

Amongst the remaining 40 states, which didn’t make the cut, was Tennessee, who ranks among the top 10 states for air conditioning sales, but falls behind in economic indicators like home values and wages. Oklahoma has the second most trade schools, but technician employment falls below higher-ranking states. What Indiana lacks in accredited schools (it has none), it made up for in NATE-certified technicians, ranking 10th in the country.

Contractors’ Reactions

Several contractors gave The NEWS their take on contracting in their respective states.

Matthew W. Smith, owner, Smith Heating & Air Conditioning Inc., Stockton, Calif. pointed to state regulations that affect the HVACR industry as a reason why California is a great place to be an HVAC contractor.

“In my opinion, the state of California has done an excellent job of recognizing the importance of total system performance,” he said. “The Title 24 regulations, which include duct-pressure testing and sealing, are critical in ensuring that HVAC systems are performing at design criteria and maintain the important efficiency standards to save our most valuable resources. These regulations have changed the entire HVAC industry throughout the state and have raised the standards for quality installation and service of these important systems.”

Scott Merritt, owner, Fire & Ice Heating & Air Conditioning Inc., Columbus, Ohio, said, “We have four full seasons. Some days your system will be calling for cooling during the day, and the same night it will be calling for heating. The spring and fall make it very routine for regular customers to know exactly when they should be getting preseason tune-ups. Due to it always being different seasons, often on the same day, homeowners that don’t carry a maintenance plan with an HVAC company often lose track of time and don’t realize that their system is old and needs repaired and/or replaced. Thus causing a lot of demand service.”

Mitch Byrne, of Northeast Cooling LLC, Chicago, said the Midwest’s fluctuating weather is a boon to business. “Illinois is a great state to work in the HVACR trade. Commercial refrigeration service is in high demand due to all the businesses related to food service and the restaurants in the Chicago area. We stay busy year-round thanks to Chicago’s extreme weather conditions,” he said.

“Working in the trade is an adventure every day. We may start off the day working in a maximum-security prison and then end up working on a cruise ship docked at a Navy pier. You never know what the day will bring when working the trade in Illinois, and that’s what keeps it interesting.”

Ray Grimm, president, A.W.E. Air Water Energy, Carol Stream, Ill., also boasted of the plentiful opportunities in the Land of Lincoln.

“Working in the Chicago area certainly has the benefit of both seasons. Once you realize there will be slow periods dependent on weather, you can better plan your advertising and vacation times. Probably the best part of the Midwest (Chicago area) is there are more affluent areas to market in where the economy has had its effect, but not near as drastic as the lower to middle class,” he said.

Those from the Southern region of the country stated the need for air conditioning as a reason why they like working in HVAC in their home state. “In the state of Texas, air conditioning is not a luxury item; it is life support,” said Rick Tullis, president, Capstone Mechanical, Waco, Texas. “Modern homes and buildings simply will not function unless there is a properly designed, installed, and maintained air conditioning system. This not only provides a solid customer base, but also a large incentive for innovation in products and services.

“Additionally, Texas is growing at a rate of 2 percent per year, which is about twice the national average. With around 25 million people in the state, that means we’re adding approximately 500,000 people per year. That equates to lots of new homes, schools, and businesses that all need air conditioning.”

Ken Bodwell, leadership team member at Innovative Service Solutions, Orlando, Fla., said he doesn’t believe there is a single factor that makes one state better than another, but did say each state offers unique advantages and disadvantages. “In Florida, we have year-round cooling, and therefore a year-round business climate. Florida is also a right-to-work state that requires contractor licensing, but I can’t say that makes us better than neighboring states.

“I think that the distribution network here is hungry and willing to work with and educate contractors, but, like any state, there are good and bad contractors. That also applies to distributors. I think the good distributors seek out the good contractors and vice-versa. I think we have a diverse, broad-spectrum labor force that allows a contractor to staff at multiple levels, provided they are willing to train,” Bodwell said.

W. Theodore Etzel III, CEO, Conditioned Air Corp., Naples, Fla., also bragged of the Sunshine State’s warm climate. “There are several benefits to being located in Florida as it relates to HVACR. The many months of heat and humidity make it necessary for both residential and commercial customers to have mechanical means of cooling and moisture removal.

“Florida has no state income tax, making it an attractive state to homestead in and, as a result, along with the weather, we see a continued influx of people from colder climates choosing to relocate here. Demand for HVACR will stay strong if for no other reason than the climate,” he said.

Florida gained yet another endorsement from Bon Cochell, owner, Gulf Coast Air Systems, Tampa, Fla. “It is said by some that wages are lower here in Florida and to an extent that is true, however the tax situation is a major benefit,” he said. “The state of Florida is financially solvent, which is a major consideration in present times. Property taxes are modest, as are the sales taxes, which makes for a great personal and business climate. The state offers numerous training opportunities, with people consistently moving in and bringing their money to the economy. The result: Friendly people from all over the world are making Florida one of the best places to practice the HVAC trade.”

Future Challenges

Emerson created the list after talking to contractors, HVACR students, and instructors about what motivates young people to pursue HVACR careers.

One of the key challenges identified is a shortage of qualified technicians. According to the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), an estimated additional 57,000 skilled workers are needed each year to work in the HVACR industry.

“I have talked to contractors from all 50 states during my career at Emerson and I have found a lot of pride in the work, whether they’re keeping up with the demand for residential air conditioning in the Southwest or working to keep food safe in Northeast population centers,” said Bob Labbett, vice president, marketing, Distribution Services, Emerson Climate Technologies. “This list is an interesting way to draw attention to the important issue facing our industry: recruiting talented people from across the country to take the place of an aging workforce.”

For more information, go to www.emersonclimateconversations.com.

Publication date: 3/4/2013