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California HVAC License: Everything You Need to Know

California is one of the best states in the country for HVAC technicians. It ranks highly in terms of job availability, travel opportunities, and salary. In this guide, you'll find all the information you need to earn your California HVAC license, including details about HVAC programs, average salary data, and application fees. Working in the HVAC industry in California can give you the knowledge and freedom to pursue a successful career.

Do You Need a License in California to Become an HVAC Technician?

A California HVAC license is required for professionals wanting to work in the state as HVAC contractors. The industry is regulated by the Contractors State License Board. The CSLB is charged with licensing HVAC technicians.

What are the Different Types of HVAC Licenses?

The HVAC trades are referred as C20 - Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Contractor. To secure your California HVAC license, you must possess at least four years of journeyman level experience or attend a HVAC educational program along with on-the-job training.

Two other HVAC certifications commonly pursued by technicians include:

  • EPA license

  • NATE certification

EPA License Work and Pay

All HVAC technicians and contractors are required to secure licenses from the Environmental Protection Agency demonstrating that they have been properly trained to handle refrigerants. Section 608 of the Clean Air Act sets forth the mandate that people who repair, service, dispose of, or maintain equipment that might release refrigerants that could deplete the ozone layer must have proper certification.

Technicians must pass a test approved by the EPA to earn their EPA license. There are four kinds of EPA certification:

  • Type I - Small appliance servicing

  • Type II - Disposing of or servicing high-pressure appliances

  • Type III - Disposing of or servicing low-pressure appliances

  • Type IV - Universal license, servicing equipment of all types

NATE Certification Work and Pay

Earning certification from North American Technical Excellence can mean finding better paying jobs or earning a salary increase from a current employer. NATE certification requires passing tests about the operation of certain HVAC equipment and other hands-on industry knowledge.

Benefits of Getting an HVAC License

The benefits of earning a California HVAC license include the ability to start your own business and earn better pay. Salaries for California HVAC technicians vary based on the companies and location. On average, salaries range from $39,420 to $70,023.

How Much Does It Cost to Get an HVAC License in California?

As an apprentice technician, you pay fees to contractors for the training they provide. You’ll also pay for your own tools. The license fee if $180.

The costs associated with school tuition vary. Affordable programs cost about $500 for tuition, while the most expensive schools charge $30,000. Please check with the school for specific pricing information.

How to Get an HVAC License in California

There are two paths to earning a California HVAC License. The state has a requirement that applicants for the C20 license have four years of relevant, verified experience prior to sitting for the necessary exams. So, the first path is to work under a licensed contractor, performing HVAC work until you have met the requirements. When you submit your application, your work experience must be verified by a past or current employer, foreman, supervisor, contractor, building inspector, architect, or colleague who is familiar with your work.

The second path is to attend a vocational or technical school in an HVAC program. If you earn educational credit through a qualified institution, your coursework may count toward California's four year experience requirement. The educational qualification cannot fulfill the requirement entirely, only 3 years.

California HVAC Educational Programs

Here is a list of schools with HVAC programs:

  • Antelope Valley College

  • Brownson Technical School

  • City College of San Francisco

  • Cypress College

  • Fresno City College

  • Long Beach City College

  • Mayfield College

  • Riverside City College

  • Sacramento City College

  • San Diego City College

Some typical courses include:

  • Work Safety

  • Electrical Technology Theory

  • Principles of Refrigeration

  • Principles of Heat Transfer

  • HVAC Laws and Regulations

  • HVAC Systems Design

  • Energy Management and Green Building

  • Gas and Electric Heating

California HVAC License Exams

After submitting your application to the California Contractors State License Board, you must fill out and submit a fingerprinting kit. You also will receive an assigned exam date, a minimum of three weeks in the future. Your assigned testing center will depend on your residential ZIP code Exams are regularly held at testing centers in San Bernardino, Oxnard, Norwalk, Oakland, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, and Fresno.

The California HVAC License exam for contractors is 3.5 hours and covers business, law, and HVAC trade information.

Applicants must pass all the sections of the exam to secure a license. You can get study materials free of charge from the California CSLB. After you submit your application and receive your Notification of Exam, you have 18 months to take and pass the tests. A score of 72% or better is required for passage. After you pass the exam and supply the required documentation, you will receive your license from the California CSLB.


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