Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Mechanic
Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics install, maintain, repair and overhaul industrial, commercial and residential refrigeration and air conditioning systems and their component parts.
At installation sites, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics:
- work from blueprints or verbal instructions to mount or place system components
- assemble and install refrigeration or air conditioning systems and components
- install and calibrate related controls (including wiring)
- start up systems, test lines to detect leaks, and record the readings taken to ensure that the system is functioning satisfactorily
Maintenance work involves checking all parts of a system, lubricating moving parts and monitoring the refrigerant charge. When there is a malfunction, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics diagnose the problem and fix the unit by replacing or repairing controls, electric wiring or other parts.
Mechanics also repair heating equipment, troubleshoot gas-fired equipment and calibrate all gas-related controls.
For more information regarding tasks and activities, please review the Trade Regulation.
The working environment for refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics varies greatly from one job to another. They work in compressor rooms and on roof tops as well as in clean, comfortable computer rooms. They normally work 40 hours a week on a year-round basis.
There may be some risk of injury involved in working with electricity, gases under high pressure and hazardous gases.
The work is most rewarding for those who enjoy variety, problem solving, and working with little supervision.
To be successful in their trade, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics must have:
- mechanical ability and interest
- good coordination and manual dexterity
- strength, stamina and the use of proper lifting techniques required to handle heavy tools and parts weighing up to 25 kilograms;
- the ability to work well with co-workers and deal with customers
- the ability to drive a service truck to worksites.
Refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics usually work for companies that install and service air-conditioning and refrigeration systems. Some journeyman refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics are self-employed.
Journeyperson wage rates vary, but generally range from $30 to $45 an hour plus benefits.
Experienced refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics may advance to supervisory positions.
To work as a refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic in Alberta, a person must be a registered apprentice, an Alberta-certified journeyperson, or hold a valid recognized credential.
Individuals possessing a valid recognized credential in Alberta are eligible to receive a Blue Seal business credential after completing the necessary requirements.
The term of apprenticeship for a refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic is 4 years (four 12-month periods), including a minimum of 1500 hours of on-the-job training and 8 weeks of technical training each year.
- An applicant who previously completed courses of study or work experience related to the refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic trade or holds a related journeyperson certificate and has the employer's recommendation, may qualify for credit that could reduce the term of apprenticeship. Inquiries about credit for previously completed courses of study or work experience can be directed to an apprenticeship representative toll-free at 1-800-248-4823.
- A person who has previous training or work experience in the trade and wants to determine their level of skill and knowledge for entry or advanced standing in an apprenticeship program may complete the online Prior Learning Assessment Application. For more information, see the online Prior Learning Assessment Guide.
- A high school student can become an apprentice and gain credits toward apprenticeship training and a high school diploma at the same time under the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP).
To learn the skills required of a refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic in Alberta and be issued an Alberta Journeyman Certificate, a person must:
- satisfy the entrance requirements of an Alberta high school diploma that includes English 30-2, Math 30-3, Physics 20 or Chemistry 20, or equivalent, or pass the entrance exam (see Entrance Level Competencies, Exam Counselling Sheet, Entrance Exam Study Guide, and Entrance Exam Support Materials List)
- find a suitable employer who is willing to hire and train an apprentice
Most employers prefer to hire post-secondary graduates of technical programs or high school graduates who have good marks and an aptitude for science and mechanics, or journeymen in other trades.
- complete the online Apprenticeship Application and Contract
- pay the non-refundable application fee as part of the application process
- complete the required on-the-job training
- during on-the-job training, apprentice refrigeration and air condition mechanics earn at least 50 percent of the journeyperson wage rate in their place of employment in the first year, 60 percent in the second, 75 percent in the third, and 85 percent in the fourth year.
- complete all of the program requirements as identified in the course outline
- enroll in technical training
- select an educational institution that offers training for refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic apprentices, and a time to attend training
- determine requirements for enrolling at the selected institution, and forward completed enrolment form to the selected institution
- review books and materials required for training
- successfully complete all required exams
Apprentices may attempt the Interprovincial Exam in the final period of their apprenticeship training and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal.
When apprentices attend technical training, they are required to pay the applicable tuition fee and purchase course supplies.
Student loans, grants, scholarships and other financial assistance may be available. For more information see Financial Assistance, visit an Apprenticeship and Industry Training office or call toll-free to 1-800-248-4823.
A refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic who holds a valid trade certificate from Alberta or from another Canadian province or territory may apply to write the Interprovincial Exam and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal under the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program. The Red Seal is recognized throughout most of Canada.
For a Qualification Certificate based on a recognized credential or work experience in order to prepare for the exam(s) please refer to the Exam Counselling Sheets and review available resource materials.
Time spent on supervisory or foreman duties, counter work, heading the tool crib, or on training course is NOT counted as 'hands-on' work experience.
A person who holds a valid recognized credential does not require an Alberta equivalency document to work in the trade in Alberta.
However, some employers may require Alberta documentation as proof that the holder is allowed to work in the trade or that the holder's credential is recognized.
More information regarding the Equivalency Program can be found here.