Commercial vs. Residential HVAC Businesses

July 28, 2021
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HVAC can be a rewarding career path.  An HVAC career can earn you a good living while helping customers solve problems both in residential HVAC or commercial HVAC work.

The question is, should you focus on residential HVAC work or commercial HVAC work? Well, it depends both on your experience level, and the type of work you enjoy doing.

The Work

Residential HVAC work usually involves smaller jobs.  Most of the work comes when someone’s AC or heating system stops working and involves troubleshooting and repair.  If problems can’t be fixed, they may require replacement units, and once the job is complete, you may never see the customer again. In most cases, you’ll be working alone or possibly with another technician.

If you’re just starting out in the HVAC business, residential jobs are easier to get.  Ideally, you can get hired right out of school with training, and depending on the company, there may be opportunities for commissions for selling customers additional services or units.

On the other hand, commercial HVAC jobs take on far bigger projects and even more complex HVAC systems.  Projects will likely take longer and may include working with a team of technicians.  Besides installation, you may be called on to do maintenance or upgrade systems over time.

Commercial jobs will want more experienced technicians.  You’ll likely need to put in some time to gain the experience you need. Even though many of the principles of how HVAC systems work will be similar, projects will be more complex with more at stake.

The Customers

With residential HVAC work, you’ll likely have more face-to-face interaction with customers.  When you fix their unit or solve their heating or cooling problems, you’ll get some satisfaction for a job well done and may get a sincere thanks from the homeowner. In a single day, you might meet several different customers, visit different locations, and have variety in your work.

Commercial HVAC customers are almost always businesses.  You’ll likely spend longer periods at one job site, have less interaction with customers, and may spend more time working outside.

The Pay

Residential HVAC jobs are usually quick, especially when it comes to tune-ups and basic repairs. If you are self-employed, the more jobs you can do, the better your hourly pay will be.  If you are working for someone else, expect to get paid less than the more seasoned techs working on commercial HVAC projects, or larger residential jobs that require more experience.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration technicians have a median annual wage of $50,590 as of 2020.  Experienced technicians can make substantially more. Of course, how much you can earn will also vary depending on location, demand, and competition.

Check average salary and hourly wages for HVAC technicians by state.

Getting Started

Most HVAC technicians start out working for someone else servicing residential homes.  As they become more experienced, they may earn more and start working on the commercial side. Gaining knowledge of both sides of the business will help if you plan to go out on your own someday.

In the HVAC industry, most business owners started as techs.  With time and experience, techs may decide to buy into a business or start their own. Residential jobs will be easier to get when you’re new to the business, as there are more available.  Your experience servicing residential units can help you land new customers.

For commercial jobs, most businesses are going to want to work with an experienced company that has a history of successful commercial or industrial work.  You may need to focus more on residential HVAC work to build your business before you can jump into commercial HVAC jobs.

The Choice

Remember, there are no rules about whether you can take on residential HVAC work, commercial HVAC jobs, or both.  Some people jump right into commercial heating and cooling while others continue their training and become self-employed.

Everyone’s journey will be slightly different, but you can always carve your path on the road to success.

Growing Your Residential and Commercial HVAC Business

Whether you’re in the residential or commercial HVAC business, or you do both, the one thing you will definitely need is an efficient way to manage your schedule, workload, and business.  FieldPulse is easy-to-use business software designed exclusively for field service companies such as HVAC.

With FieldPulse, you can manage customer information, scheduling and dispatching, job management, estimates, invoices, and payments. It allows you and your technicians to spend less time on paperwork and more time generating revenue.

Contact FieldPulse today to schedule a demo.

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