(Information courtesy of “ACCA 2004 Technician Compensation & Benefits Survey.”)
For HVACR contractors, attracting and retaining quality technicians may be considered one of the greatest challenges in the industry today. Salary and benefits are often of primary importance to employees, and workers and prospective employees in an increasingly competitive market can be keenly aware of how their salaries and benefits stack up against those offered by companies in the same field - and those offered in other industries as well.

The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) surveyed contractors at the close of 2003 on how they compensate their technicians and the benefits their companies provide. The results of the survey were compiled in a report titled "ACCA 2004 Technician Compensation & Benefits Survey."

Across the United States, base compensation for technicians fell largely in the $35,000 to $44,999 range, which was the answer cited by approximately 43 percent of the contractors surveyed. (This figure excludes bonuses, overtime pay, and anything else not considered in base salary.)

Just less than three out of 10 contractors pay their technicians in the $25,000 to $34,999 range, and a little over 20 percent pay in the $45,000 to $54,999 range.

Geography played a fairly large role in the survey as far as salaries were concerned. Those companies operating in the Atlantic states (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) reported salaries mostly on the higher end of the scale (with 75 percent of their technicians paid $35,000 or above).

Those surveyed in the Central region (Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin) followed with just less than 68 percent offering the same salary range.

About 7 percent of the technicians employed in the Central region receive salaries of $55,000 or more, while 11 percent of techs were paid in that same range in the West (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah).

(*Answers under “other” included: dental insurance; eye/vision care; cafeteria plan; uniforms; tool allowance; moving expenses; flex-pay spending accounts; wellness plan; personal days; paid education/technical training; profit-sharing; telephone; funeral leave; paid time for perfect attendance; college savings.)

Health, Retirement Plans

Over 93 percent of participating companies provide paid holiday, health insurance, and vacation benefits to their technicians. Approximately eight out of 10 contractors offer some form of retirement plan (79 percent), while fewer than six in 10 provide life insurance (55 percent).

Regarding other benefits, 45 percent of respondents offer sick leave, 34 percent give short-term disability benefits, and 25 percent offer long-term disability.

A number of those surveyed also provide their technicians with a whole host of other related benefits, including vision insurance, dental care, uniforms, a tool allowance, paid education and technical training, moving expenses, and a cafeteria plan.

A few contractors provide for their technicians' families by providing college savings plans for future graduates into the field. More than 50 percent of participating companies make 10 percent employer contributions to their techs' 401(k) retirement plans. Approximately 1 out of 10 contribute 50 percent or more to the plans, while 13 percent of the contractors surveyed make no contribution at all to employees' retirement plans.

Many of the survey participants require a co-payment or contribution by their technicians towards the employer's cost of providing these benefits. Almost half of the respondents (49 percent) have their technicians contribute to the cost of health and dental insurance.

Regarding other benefits, 18 percent of respondents require a contribution towards short-term disability, 8 percent require a contribution towards long-term disability, 10 percent require a contribution towards a 401(k) retirement plan, 5 percent require a contribution for life insurance, and 4 percent require a contribution for family insurance.


About 85 percent of the participants in the survey indicated they pay bonuses to their techs, and of that number about a third pay up to $1,000 in additional compensation during the course of the year. Another one-third pay between $1,000 and $2,000, and a little less than the remaining third surveyed pay anywhere between $2,500 and $5,000.

Hiring, Longevity

The survey seemed to back up the maxim that HVAC experience counts, as 77 percent of the respondents based technicians' compensation on the amount of HVACR experience applicants displayed when seeking employment. A small percentage attributed hiring to certain traits, such as attitude and dependability, technical experience, and educational training.

(*Answers under “other” included: all of the above; union; attitude; dependability; piece rate with flat-rate pricing ; quantity and quality of work; market conditions; performance on job; productivity.)
None of the respondents believed that sales experience and abilities were factors in compensation and pay.

Finally, most of the contractors surveyed reward longevity with a company by awarding additional paid vacation days to techs that remain with a company past the first couple of years.

On average, technicians having 5 years of service or more with their employer receive 10 to 20 days paid vacation leave, and if the tech remains for 10 years or longer, an even higher percentage of respondents granted the tech more than 20 days off.

The full results of the survey, including information on bonuses, overtime, and the complete array of benefits offered, were sent via e-mail to all ACCA members who participated in the survey. Members who did not participate in the survey may purchase it for $45 online at www.acca.org. The analysis is not available to nonmembers. For more information, contact Hilary Atkins at hilary.atkins@acca.org or call 703-824-8855.

Publication date: 02/21/2005