What Licenses Do HVAC Pros Need In Florida?

If you work as a ventilation professional in Florida, you know that having a current HVAC license can be helpful for winning new business, getting professional insurance, and operating throughout your service area. Before you get started offering HVAC services in Florida, it’s a good idea to know what licenses are available and how to get the certification that you need.

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What HVAC Licenses Are Available In Florida?

The state of Florida recognizes six HVAC licenses, though not all of these are currently offered for new contractors. These licenses are split two ways, between certification and state registry, and between class A and class B licenses. Across the state, class A licenses authorize you to work on heating and cooling units of any size or power. Class B licenses, however, are restricted to units weighing less than 25 tons and delivering less than 500,000 BTUs of heating throughput. Class C licenses and registration have both been discontinued by the state and are no longer offered, though contractors with these licenses may continue to use them if they were obtained prior to October 1, 1988.

Florida also makes a distinction between state registry and certification. Contractors with a state certification, both class A and B, may work anywhere in the state without limit. Contractors whose only license is a local registry, which is usually granted at the county level, may typically only work inside the area that’s granted the registered status. These credentials are not generally recognized by other counties in the state, which can limit your ability to work outside your regular service area.

HVAC Jobs In Florida

HVAC professionals in Florida have a lot of work to keep them busy. Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects HVAC job openings to increase by 4% in the 2020s, with much of this growth occurring in places like Florida, where high demand is driven by a growing population. HVAC contractors work with businesses, building contractors, and private homeowners to install and maintain heating and cooling systems. HVAC technicians install electrical wiring, replace and repair defective and worn mechanical components, and consult with industry leaders about new technology affecting the products they can offer customers.

As a licensed HVAC contractor in Florida, you can specialize in new construction or established structures, residential or commercial buildings, or a productive mix of all of these. You might also offer your expertise as an adviser to construction firms and engineers to help them plan new construction, or you may consult with homeowners and give estimates for the work they’re likely to need. Some licensed HVAC professionals work exclusively in industry, where they design and implement ventilation systems for shop floors, factory complexes, and even large-scale agriculture projects.

Salary Range For HVAC Jobs In Florida

In 2020, licensed HVAC contractors in Florida earned a median salary of $50,590 a year. That averages out to around $24.32 an hour across all types of HVAC work, which is similar to other professional contractors’ earnings, such as roofers and plumbers. This figure is just the median point for HVAC professionals’ pay, with many contractors earning significantly more. Roughly 10% of HVAC professionals in Florida earned more than $80,820 in 2020. Pay for contractors is expected to increase for the foreseeable future, at least until 2030.

Do You Need An HVAC License?

In order to legally perform HVAC work in the state of Florida, it’s necessary to obtain some kind of local or state-level license. While registration is provided at the county level, certification to work anywhere in the state is offered through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Registration. Offering HVAC work without some kind of recognized license, either a statewide certification or a local registration, is illegal in the state of Florida.

An exception to this rule is available to employees and apprentices who are attached to HVAC professionals. Non-licensed employees are generally expected to work under supervision and may not provide HVAC services outside of their employment with a licensed contractor. Many unlicensed employees go on to earn a license themselves, which allows them to work more independently or to branch out and start their own contracting business themselves.

Advantages Of HVAC Licenses In Florida

Apart from the legal requirement to get an HVAC license in Florida, carrying an official certification is good for your contracting business in several ways. First, it can be a prerequisite for getting insurance, which is one of the must-haves of any kind of contracting work, especially for small businesses and sole proprietorships. If you need to raise money to start your company, or if you’re looking for financing to expand your service area, the bank might ask for proof of certification before approving you for a business loan. Each bank sets its own lending criteria, but the risk of financing an unlicensed contractor may be too much for most lenders to take on.

Getting an HVAC contractors’ license is more than just a legal requirement in Florida; it can be a great selling tool. If you’re planning to work with building contractors, developers, local industrial clients, or other professional customers, you’ll probably be asked about your certification before another company will agree to work with you. Residential customers can be just as skittish about hiring unlicensed contractors. Offering potential customers your certification ID number and encouraging them to look your business up on the state website is a positive way to reassure homeowners that they can trust you with the complex job of installing or servicing their HVAC equipment.

How To Get An HVAC License In Florida

Getting an HVAC license in Florida can be a somewhat long process, but most contractors can get the necessary work done in a few months. Local rules vary somewhat for county-level registration, but statewide certification generally calls for a combination of education, work experience, and a written examination. Many candidates for licensing are able to work through this period as an employee of an already licensed HVAC professional, while others complete most of the requirements during their classroom training.

Background Requirements

Before you can apply for an HVAC license in Florida, you must be at least 18 years old and have either a high school diploma or a GED. You may be required to send proof of both your age and education before you can advance in the certification process. Candidates must also pass a criminal background check that may require a LiveScan fingerprint check. Prints and records are checked against both the FBI’s database and shared criminal databases nationwide, and felony convictions may disqualify a candidate regardless of the state where the conviction occurred. Misdemeanor offenses may not be counted against an applicant, though some may be taken on a case-by-case basis for licensing.

The state of Florida also performs a credit history check for applicants seeking an HVAC license. This is to ensure that the candidate is able to maintain a basic minimum level of financial responsibility. This credit check draws data from the FICO system, which compiles your reported credit issues from three credit reporting bureaus. Applicants whose credit score is under 660 may be denied permission to proceed in the licensing process, though this is not a permanent ban and applicants are free to reapply when their score has risen high enough to meet the state’s minimum requirements.

Training Prerequisites

After passing the initial intake checks and getting approval to apply for an HVAC license, candidates must submit their education and training experience to the state for review. Some requirements are strictly enforced for all candidates, while other terms can be satisfied in multiple ways. Requirements for all license applicants include verifiable work experience in the HVAC industry, usually working at an established company under a currently licensed professional. You will also probably have to submit proof of your satisfactory completion of an approved training program specifically for HVAC contractors. This can be either classroom instruction offered by a recognized Florida vocational training program or part of a formal apprenticeship with a licensed contractor. Some candidates are able to fold their work experience requirement together with an apprenticeship they’ve done, but requirements here can get complicated. Check with a coordinator before submitting your apprenticeship as work experience.

The state of Florida imposes further education and training requirements on aspiring HVAC licensees. In addition to the basic training and work experience, candidates must show some combination of education and work experience that satisfies the state’s minimum standards. These are:

  1. A bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university in a field related to HVAC and one year of full-time HVAC work; OR
  2. A minimum of four years’ work experience in an apprenticeship program, with a minimum of one year served as foreman; OR
  3. Three years of college with one year of work experience; OR
  4. Two years of college and two years of work, with at least one year as a foreman; OR
  5. One year of college, plus two years as an HVAC worker and one additional year as a foreman

Exam Requirements

Once you meet the required eligibility standards for state licensing, you’ll be invited to take the HVAC license exam. This test is held at secure locations throughout the state at scheduled times throughout the year. Before taking this test, you’ll likely be asked to store your personal items in a locker to prevent distractions and potential cheating on the exam. The test includes questions about HVAC-related technical subjects, as well as business and financial questions. You should be notified of your results by mail shortly after the exam.

Insurance Requirements For HVAC Contractor Licenses

After passing the HVAC license test, you’re free to start work as a licensed contractor working for an established Florida HVAC company, or you can start your own business. Be aware that all HVAC licensees in Florida are required to carry professional insurance with at least $100,000 in general liability coverage and $25,000 for property damage.

Getting Your HVAC License In Florida

Getting your license to work as an HVAC professional in Florida can take a lot of time and effort, but it’s more than worth it for the thousands of contractors who’ve earned it. For HVAC contractors, licensing is more than a legal requirement to work; it’s a reassuring sign to customers and future employers alike that you’ve passed a difficult and demanding process and can be counted on to deliver top-quality HVAC work.