HVAC

A Brief History of HVAC for Students in HVAC Technician Training

April 12, 2024

A pair of HVAC technicians troubleshooting an appliance after HVAC technician training

Just as the saying goes, to know where something is going, you have to know where it’s been. For students just starting their HVAC technician training, exploring and understanding the history of HVAC systems is crucial. It provides valuable context for their studies and sets the pace for future endeavours. 

HVAC technology has seen substantial advancements, transforming how we manage indoor heating, cooling, and ventilation. These innovations improve our living and working conditions and prepare us to meet the demands of future climate challenges. Because of this, it is important to look back at where it all began. Let’s explore a brief history of HVAC.

HVAC Technician Training Explores Its Ancient Origins

Our forebears were already developing basic HVAC systems before the first HVAC technician training program was even created. The ancient Romans represent a significant example of early recorded instances of designing heating and cooling systems.

In a system that has now been termed and acknowledged as a “hypocaust,” the Romans used to circulate hot air underneath their floors using a specific technique. The air was channeled through raised pillars, warming the room and delivering essential indoor comfort for its occupants.

The Romans were not alone, the Egyptians also used an interesting technique to cool indoor spaces. The use of wet reed mats to provide indoor cooling, which was then considered a unique evaporating cooling technique, harnessed the natural cooling effect of water evaporation.

An HVAC technician working on a project after completing HVAC technician training
The origin of HVAC systems is a key lesson taught in HVAC school.

How the Industrial Revolution Influenced Early HVAC Development

The advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century sparked many significant advancements in heating and ventilation technology, especially steam heating. As industrial innovation and technology continued to pick up steam, so did steam heating systems. 

These steam heating systems depended on boilers to heat water and channel steam through pipes leading to radiators. These radiators then dispersed the heat across strategically placed openings to warm the rooms. Concurrently, mechanical ventilation systems became prevalent in Western homes, significantly advancing residential climate control. 

When Willis Carrier invented the first mechanical air conditioning unit in 1902, a new dawn in indoor climate control/conditioning beckoned. The entry of refrigerants, such as freon, in the 1930s would later boost the operational quality and efficiency of air conditioning systems, changing the game.

An HVAC technician examining a modern system after completing his HVAC technician training
HVAC college explores the role of the Industrial Revolution in the development of HVAC systems.

The Effect of Contemporary Technological Advancements

Over the past two centuries, HVAC technology has advanced quickly due to progress in engineering, materials science, and environmental consciousness. Innovations began with the introduction of freon-like refrigerants and were followed by advancements in digital controls, the integration of renewable energy sources, and improvements in energy efficiency. Such advancements include inventions like programmable thermostats for energy efficiency and the integration of smart HVAC controls for remote monitoring and automation. 

The HVAC industry’s focus has shifted entirely towards energy efficiency and sustainability. Smart HVAC controls and eco-friendly refrigerants are becoming more common, with innovative solutions continually emerging.

Students in our HVAC college learn all about these innovative solutions, with their coursework now focusing on things like renewable energy systems and energy-efficient HVAC technologies. 

Students from our training program applaud the quality of education and support they get. Jason Boyer is one of those students and a now-practicing technician. In his words, “I choose NATS because it is a hands-on school; they teach you what you need to know and you apply the knowledge in the lab, and there’s a lot of skilled technicians with the experience and know-how there.”

This emphasis on cutting-edge technology and sustainable practices ensures that our graduates, like Jason, are prepared to excel in their careers and lead the industry toward a greener future. At NATS, we pride ourselves on providing education that is both relevant and transformative, equipping students with the skills and knowledge to thrive in a rapidly evolving HVAC landscape.

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HVAC

Pursuing an HVAC Career? 5 Causes of a Leaking Air Conditioner

May 18, 2021

As summer approaches, an air conditioner becomes one of the most essential home appliances. In order to keep cool in hot temperatures, people rely on their AC unit to deliver cold air right into their homes. But what happens when this appliance starts to leak? It’s not uncommon for an air conditioner to develop such a problem over time–especially if it hasn’t been properly maintained or is being used constantly. Air conditioner leakage can occur for a variety of reasons, but the good news is that a leak can almost always be fixed. 

If you’re considering a career as an HVAC technician, knowing the most common culprits behind a leak can help you to quickly identify the source of a client’s problem: quickly restoring the flow of cool air within their homes! 

Read on to discover six common causes of air conditioner leakage. 

1. During Your HVAC Career, Be Aware That a Broken Pump May Cause a Leak

Within an air conditioner unit, the condensation pump is a device that serves to drain water in order to prevent a leak. However, this pump can actually cause a leak if it isn’t working properly. Most pumps are equipped with a float switch, which will turn on when the water gets to a certain level. If this switch has become stuck due to a buildup of debris or scum, it might not work. This lack of functioning can in turn result in dripping water from the unit. If you come across such a situation in your HVAC career, you can try cleaning the switch with bleach. If it still doesn’t turn on, chances are the pump needs replacing. 

If you’re pursuing an HVAC career, check the pump to determine whether it’s causing a leak

2. Drain Pan Issues Can Cause Leakage

Located beneath the indoor air handler, the drain pan functions as a trap for condensation created by the air conditioner. It connects to a drain pipe, which transfers the condensate outside to prevent moisture buildup around the unit. If the drain pan is rusting, cracked, or overflowing, this is likely to lead to a leak problem. Check the drain pan for leaks by turning off the AC unit and inspecting the pan for signs of rust, cracks, or debris buildup. If the drain pan is the culprit, this component of the air conditioner can easily be replaced.

3. If the Evaporator Coils Are Frozen, Leaking Will Follow

Evaporator coils can be found inside the door of the air conditioner unit. Refrigerant flows through these coils to deliver cool air through the vents. But if the evaporator coils freeze, ice will form and create a leak. These coils may freeze due to restricted air flow, a buildup of dirt or debris, blocked vents, or a lack of refrigerant. When you become an HVAC technician, you can identify frozen evaporator coils by checking whether there is ice or frost within the unit. From there, you can determine the source of the problem by checking the refrigerant levels, filter, vents, and other components to ensure that air is moving properly through the coils.

Frozen evaporator coils can lead to leakage from the AC unit

4. An Air Leak is One of the Most Common Problems

When an air leak occurs, air escapes around the vents of the air conditioner rather than through the designated path. This air flow can cause condensation to appear where it shouldn’t, leading to dripping from the AC unit. Air leaks can happen over time if a unit isn’t properly maintained. The good news is they can typically be fixed, simply with caulk, by sealing up the sides of the vent where air is escaping.

5. Look Out for a Blocked Condensation Drain Line

The condensation drain line attaches to the drain pan to transfer condensation outside–preventing leakage from occurring indoors. Over time, the drain line can accumulate debris or be exposed to algae or fungi growth. If the drip pan is overflowing but intact, it’s likely that the source of the leak is a clogged condensation drain line. Luckily, a blockage can typically be fixed by clearing the drain line using vinegar or another solution. 

These are just some of the sources of leakage in a home’s AC unit. During your HVAC career, you can refer to these common underlying issues as possible causes when it comes to developing a solution for a client’s leaking air conditioner. 

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HVAC & The Environment: What You Should Know If You’re Pursuing an HVAC Career

March 10, 2021

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems have an essential function. They keep our homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter, in addition to regulating the quality and movement of the air that we’re breathing indoors. While HVAC systems aren’t the home appliances with the most severe environmental impact, there are still a few ways that HVAC systems can contribute negatively to the environment. HVAC systems may use refrigerants that can damage the ozone layer, and they also use electricity, the consumption of which burns fossil fuels and contributes to ozone depletion. 

While HVAC systems can cause environmental harm, there are many solutions offered today which have the potential to reduce the impact HVAC systems can have on the environment. Some of these solutions can be implemented by HVAC technicians themselves. If you’re interested in becoming an HVAC technician, here’s what you need to know about the environmental impact of these systems and the solutions available today. 

Those in an HVAC Career Should Know That HVAC Systems Can Emit Harmful Refrigerants

Air conditioning systems rely on cooling agents, or refrigerants, to drive cold air into homes, but these cooling agents have a known negative environmental impact. Hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are all refrigerants that have been reported to contribute to ozone depletion and global warming, as these compounds are greenhouse gases. In Canada, Federal Halocarbon Regulations, 2003, bans the release of halocarbons from air conditioning systems in quantities over 0.1 kg of halocarbon per 01. kg of air, but these refrigerants are still being released into the atmosphere in lower quantities. Freon (R-22), a commonly used HCFC, has been banned in Canada for use in newly manufactured HVAC systems, and Puron (R-410A), a less-harmful HFC, is now more commonly used. However, this refrigerant still contributes to direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions.

HVAC systems emit refrigerants which contribute to ozone depletion

While it is difficult to control the emission of refrigerants into the atmosphere due to the range of HVAC systems in use today, advancements in technology have the potential to reduce their environmental impact. If you want to become a HVAC technician, you’ll probably become familiar with R-32 as a possible solution. R-32, or difluoromethane, is an HFC refrigerant known to have a lower impact on greenhouse gas emission than R-410A, and is being explored by HVAC engineers as an option to reduce the environmental impact of HVAC systems. It has been found that R-32 can even be used to make these systems more energy efficient, as it has better thermodynamic properties. In the future, developments in the use of alternative refrigerants such as R-32 have the potential to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as a result of HVAC systems.

HVAC Systems Use Energy

It’s important to be aware that HVAC systems consume high amounts of energy. Depending on the type of system and the season, an air conditioning system can consume around 3000 to 5000 watts of electricity every hour. Electricity consumption results in the burning of fossil fuels and the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a major cause of ozone layer depletion. One way to determine how much energy an air conditioning system is using is by checking its SEER rating. Older air conditioners have lower SEER ratings and tend to consume more energy.

As a way to reduce the amount of fossil fuels released, HVAC products that harness renewable energy sources are also becoming a more popular option. Renewable energy sources such as solar and geothermal energy can reduce the environmental impact of HVAC systems by using sources of power that don’t burn fossil fuels. Solar energy harnesses energy from sunlight rather than from fossil fuels to power HVAC systems, while geothermal heat pumps convert natural energy stored underground for use. 

Regular maintenance can reduce the environmental impact of HVAC systems

Small-Scale Solutions to Reduce the Environmental Impact of HVAC Systems 

The environmental impact of HVAC systems can be reduced on a small scale, and as a professional in an HVAC career, this is an area where your services are especially useful to clients looking to reduce their own personal energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The efficiency of an HVAC system depends on the equipment being used. If a system’s equipment is outdated, chances are it’s using more energy or emitting a greater quantity of harmful refrigerants. Advising environmentally-conscious clients to replace old HVAC systems with an updated, energy efficient system can reduce the negative impact of older units. 

Additionally, HVAC systems should be regularly maintained in order to prevent excess emissions. Air filters should be replaced regularly, ducts and pipes should be inspected for leaks, and valves and steam traps should be examined for efficiency. 

If you want to be equipped with the ability to make HVAC systems less harmful for the environment, a program at the North American Trade Schools (NATS) could be right for you. Jason, a graduate of the North American Trade Schools HVAC technician program, says he chose NATS because of its reputation as a “hands-on school.” He notes, “They teach you what you need to know and then you apply your knowledge.” Practical, experiential training enables HVAC technicians to apply their newly learned skills in the field in innovative ways. That includes approaches that may help to reduce the environmental impact of HVAC systems. 

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Interview Tips for Those Wanting to Become an HVAC Technician

October 06, 2020

hvac trainingFor future HVAC technicians just completing their training, there are many exciting career opportunities available. Graduates can look for jobs as HVAC Installers, Technicians, Maintenance Assistants, or Maintenance Technicians. In Ontario, job opportunities in HVAC are good. Part of the reason for this is that population growth is driving the need for more buildings, especially in certain urban areas. 

When interviewing for your first job in HVAC, it’s important to know what employers are looking for and how to present yourself in order to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward. Read on for a few tips on how to ace your interview and land the job.  

Know How to Highlight Your HVAC Training in the Interview

When interviewing for an HVAC career, it’s important to research the company you’re applying to, so that you know a bit more about what they could be expecting from you. Try to determine the types of services they provide (whether they’re primarily residential or commercial), what kinds of locations they cater to, and what kinds of equipment they typically utilize. This kind of information will help you to highlight the skills you have that will be most impressive to the employer. 

Graduates of hands-on training programs like the North American Trade Schools’ HVAC technician training program can reference the marketable skills they know will impress their potential employer simply by doing a bit of research on the company they’re applying for. 

hvac technician training
Finding out about what kind of services the company offers can be helpful for an interview

Become Familiar with Possible Questions You Might Be Asked

While you might not be able to anticipate every question, it’s good to come prepared with a few possible interview questions. You’ll probably be asked simple but important questions like what motivates you, what about their company interests you, and other questions which allow them to get to know you as a person. They also might ask you some questions more relevant to the HVAC industry, such as inquiring why you’re interested in HVAC, what your driving record is like, and more. Prepare answers that show you’re ready for an HVAC career and have excelled in your HVAC training.

Prepare Questions to Ask Your Potential Employer

It’s also good to have in mind a list of questions that you would like to ask during the interview. These questions should be about the company specifically, demonstrating that you’ve taken the time to get to know them and showing them that you’re interested. Your questions could be about the company’s expectations for you as an employee, what a typical day on the job might look like, what about the company is especially unique, or any other company-related questions you might have.

A “Thank You” Never Hurts

Lastly, remember to thank the interviewer after you’ve finished, in addition to sending a follow-up thank you email. Make sure they know you’re interested in the job!

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HVAC

4 Testing Devices You May Use When You Become an HVAC Technician

September 17, 2019

HVAC college

HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, and as an HVAC technician you might be responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing any of these systems. An HVAC diploma provides you with hands-on training in order to get you going in your career, no matter what type of system of you focus on.

One aspect of working as an HVAC technician is knowing how to use the right tools for the job. There are multiple instruments that you may encounter and utilize in your training or in your career, including testing devices.

Continue reading to discover a few of the testing devices frequently used by HVAC technicians.

1. An Infrared Thermometer Can Help You Spot Problems from a Distance

An infrared thermometer (IR) uses infrared technology to measure an object’s temperature from a distance. Sometimes called laser thermometers, IRs calculate the infrared emission of an object to determine its temperature. IRs may be used to quickly locate overheating circuits and equipment without requiring direct manual intervention. By adding an IR to your HVAC technician toolbelt, you can find and repair potentially hazardous components.

An infrared thermometer allows you to locate overheating circuits
An infrared thermometer allows you to locate overheating circuits

2. A Digital Multimeter Provides Important Information About Electrical Components

A digital multimeter (DMM) is a diagnostic tool employed by technicians working with electrical components, including by students developing their electricity-related knowledge at HVAC college. The primary purpose of a DMM is to measure electrical values—namely amps (current), volts (voltage), and ohms (resistance). The advantage of a DMM is that it combines the efficacy of multiple single-task meters into one comprehensive device. In one single reading, the user can receive information that would otherwise require three to four separate machines and three to four separate readings.

3. Leak Detectors Can Help You Detect Leaks When You Become an HVAC Technician

Leaks are a problem that HVAC technicians are often called upon to address. Such leaks may be caused by abrasive substances, physical damage, equipment malfunction or a variety of other factors. What is just as important as the problem itself is the ability to detect it. If a gas leak, for example, goes undetected for a prolonged period, it might become a health and safety hazard.

A leak detector helps you detect if there’s gas leak
A leak detector helps you detect if there’s gas leak

A leak detector helps you see what is otherwise invisible. If a system is utilizing compressed air to generate energy, for example, and that system is leaking, it might result in decreased productivity because energy will be lost. After your HVAC technician training, you may find yourself called upon to help detect and fix leaks and in those cases a leak detector will prove invaluable.

4. A Vacuum Gauge Is a Useful Tool to Have for Refrigeration Systems

A vacuum gauge is an instrument that measures the pressure in a vacuum. They are one of the most important tools used in refrigeration. As an HVAC technician, a vacuum gauge allows you to test the pressure of liquids and gases in cooling systems, which is essential when working with different refrigerants. Vacuum gauges are also necessary when servicing or replacing a refrigeration system as they provide you with important information about the system.

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