HVAC vs. Refrigeration – Which is Best for You?
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When we talk about “refrigeration,” we’re talking about commercial refrigeration. Home refrigeration falls under appliance repair, which is a different trade altogether. Some residential HVAC technicians may do appliance repair, but many don’t.
In HVAC, you tend to work on equipment that controls human comfort, though there are a few industrial applications. Comfort HVAC refers to the controlling of heat, cooling, ventilation, indoor air quality, and even odors and sounds as they relate to the HVAC equipment. On the HVAC side, we can often make instantaneous repairs that yield immediate satisfaction.
In refrigeration, you often make repairs and wait to make sure that the processes work as they should (defrost, pulling down to box temperature, etc.). A general rule of thumb is that patient people tend to do better in refrigeration because those jobs take time and require a lot of waiting. You may make more money in the refrigeration trade due to labor and education shortages, but you need the skills to do refrigeration; the core skills are the same across HVAC and refrigeration, but you need knowledge of refrigeration equipment and precision.
Many schools give a basic overview (if any) of market refrigeration, so you may have to teach yourself a lot of the skills required or learn on the job. Product losses can also be costly in the refrigeration field, so there’s a sense of urgency, controls knowledge, and technical adeptness required of refrigeration techs that typically isn’t needed of HVAC techs. On top of controls knowledge, refrigeration techs also need knowledge of rigging, as they work with heavy components.
Refrigeration techs often have to work very irregular on-call schedules, including waking up in the middle of the night to get a rack running. There is also often more travel and quite a bit of stress associated with refrigeration work. However, refrigeration is like commercial HVAC in that you won’t have nearly as much customer communication as residential HVAC.